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The farm that put Plainville on the map

William Ward's great granddaughter, Metta Ward, married a local man by the name of Harry Bitz, and they eventually inherited the farm from her parents. Their experiment with turkeys began as quirk of fate in November of 1923. Harry Bitz and his father-in-law, Will Ward (William's grandson), were selling potatoes at the old Northside Farmers' Market at the intersection of Pearl and Oswego streets in Syracuse. A north-country farmer found himself with some unsold inventory at the end of the day in the form of eight turkeys. Unwilling to transport the birds back over miles of snowy roads, he was keen to cut a deal. Harry and Will bought the turkeys, fattened them up and sold them at Christmas for a tidy profit. By the late 1930s, Harry and Metta Bitz were raising about 6,000 turkeys per year, but it was just part of the mix. They and many other farmers were raising cash crops like tobacco and small dairy herds, along with their turkeys.

It wasn't until their son, Bob returned from Cornell University in 1952 that the Bitz family began to focus their farm on turkeys. Bob was a big part of this new focus, adding modern concepts like specialized production and vertical integration, ultimately including feed on the front-end and restaurants on the back-end. In 1953, he married Janice Abbott (of Abbott Farms in Cold Springs), and they had three children, Cynthia, Mark and Bruce. After graduating from Baker High School in 1977, Mark went on to earn degrees from Purdue and Cornell Universities, taking time along the way to travel in Eastern Europe and teach in Poland, where he met his wife, Leokadia.

Like his father before him, Mark Bitz brought a new focus to the family farm in 1985, leading to its current unique selling proposition, natural and organic turkeys. When Bob turned his attention to the restaurants in 1989, he also turned over the presidency to Mark. Despite an adverse climate in terms of economics, politics and weather, Mark grew the business to 600,000 turkeys by 2006, more than 90 percent of all turkeys grown in New York State. Unfortunately, like so many of today's entrepreneurs in New York State, he decided that the best opportunity for the business was to either relocate or sell, choosing the latter in 2007.

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