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Hartville farm hosts national agritourism conference

As agritourism industry grows, leaders from around the country gather for meeting in Stark County

The farm served as the backdrop for immersive work retreat for farm managers and owners from all over the country.

HARTVILLE, Ohio — Bill Bakan was putting on a show for a very special group of guests here at his Maize Valley Winery & Craft Brewery in Hartville.

He danced up a storm, motivating his audience to get involved in the show. “GO DUCKS GO!” they shouted, waiting for a very special competition.

The Indian Runner ducks did not disappoint these members of the North American Farmers’ Direct Marketing Association (NAFDMA). The group has been around for 30 years and has adapted from marketing fruit and vegetable farms to markets to agritourism.

These agritourism owners and managers came from all over the country and are on a work retreat. Bill Bakan is hosting the group of 100.

“They chose Maize Valley as a destination to learn what we’ve been able to do in the last 20 years,” he told 3News.

The diverse group shares ideas to strengthen each others business models. Alma Galloway comes from the Southeast, Hillsboro, North Carolina, to be exact.

“Being a part of NAFDMA has enabled me to learn from people’s successes, failures,” she said.

Michigan farmer Scott DeBuck agreed.

“When you come to places like this, you get ideas and you can take them back to your farm.”

John Bos came all the way from Modesto, California, to attend. This landscape is a lot different.

“What may work here may not work in California, but it’s just great to pick the brains of people in the industry,” he remarked.

An industry that mostly held its own in 2020 is looking to grow even more in the future.

“It’s growing, and with a conference like this, we’re able to accelerate it even faster because we see some of the top notch people,” Bakan said.

Growing faster than a melon shot out of an air cannon, which occurred on this day. A loud “WHOOSH!” and the fruit rockets a quarter mile away, to the cheers of all who watched.

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