Baldwinsville Robert W. Bitz, whose family owned and operated Plainville Turkey Farms for five generations, was one of three recipients of the Onondaga Historical Association's medal at an awards breakfast June 21 at the Genesee Grande Hotel in Syracuse.
The medal is periodically awarded "in recognition of a distinguished contribution to the cause of preserving an interpreting Onondaga County history."
Also receiving the medal were King and King Architects of Syracuse and the Pompey Historical Society. About 200 people attended the event. Greg Tripoli, executive director of the OHA, presented the awards.
Since his retirement, Bitz, who still resides on the farm his family has had since the 1830s in the town of Lysander, has spent much of his time writing local history books. These include "Four Hundred Years of Agricultural Change in the Empire State" and "A History of Agriculture in Onondaga County."
Always the history buff, Bitz established a museum at Plainville Turkey Farms in the 1990s called "The Pioneer Learning Center." Thousands of both adults and school children learned about pioneer agriculture methods at his museum. It was filled with vintage farm implements. It also included an authentic log cabin to educate the public on life in pioneer times.
Bitz became the fifth generation to operate the family farm on Plainville road in the 1950s. Working with his father, Harry, and later his son, Mark, he expanded the business. Plainville turkeys became known far and wide for their quality. At one time the business also included highly popular family-style restaurants in Cicero and Camillus.
Robert Bitz was a graduate of the College of Agriculture at Cornell University. In 1977, the Bitz farm received the Century Farm Award from the New York State Agricultural Society. At that time the farm had been in the same family for more than 100 years.
Bitz said he plans to write more historical books. He spends much time at the OHA doing research as well as at other repositories. He has also been involved in improvements made in recent years at the Witter Agricultural Museum at the New York State Fairgrounds.
The medal was first awarded in 1945 and is an historical medallion originally struck in commemoration of Onondaga County's 1894 centennial.