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Regenerative Agriculture: Combining Sunflowers, Craft Beer, Wine & FUN in Northeast Ohio

Megan Wise | Published on 8/16/2022



You know Maize Valley, Farm, Market, Winery & Craft Brewery for their lavender fields, corn maze, pumpkin cannon and a whole host of agritourism based events and activities throughout the year. NEW in 2022 is the introduction of Regenerative Agricultural Practices to public accessible activities including Sunflower U-Cut events. U-Cut sunflower opportunities are not unusual in Northeast Ohio however this production method is.  

Regenerative agriculture is a conservation and rehabilitation approach to food and farming systems. It focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. 

 

Bill Bakan, family member and one of the co-owners at Maize Valley, recognized this and decided to try and adapt regenerative practices catching on in commercial commodity agriculture. "Our farm is practically at the headwaters for the Gulf of Mexico and you go less than a mile to our north and the water flows to Lake Erie. It's a pretty unique spot on the map. Water quality for the Gulf of Mexico literally starts right in Hartville, Ohio! People often hear lots of buzz words associated with climate change but it's really difficult to actually visualize what it is and what it means. I have created a field experience where you can walk on it, touch it, and smell it." says Bakan.
Bill Bakan 

After losing much of Maize Valley's 2022 lavender crop due to an unusually difficult winter, Bakan searched for a way to try and recoup some of the financial loss and take regenerative practices to the next level. He had a 4 acre field that had been in winter annual and perennial cover crops for two and half years with plans for planting pumpkins in the 2022 season. Instead one afternoon, Bakan decided to just go for it and planted about 3 acres of this field with single stem sunflowers.

The sunflowers were no-till planted directly into four to six foot standing winter rye. This is a practice called "green planting" and your planter has to be specially modified to do so. It just so happens that Maize Valley has been planting pumpkins with a modified planter since 2021. After planting you spray the field to terminate the standing rye and any other weeds and then you use a heavy roller to flatten the rye to the ground covering the soil. This type of practice allows them to use a significantly reduced rate of herbicide, counting on the flattened rye to help shade the ground and aid weed control by not allowing sunlight to the soil surface. This combined with the no-till planting helped a great 
deal with reducing weed pressure and water conservation, and left the existing soil macro and micro channels intact which helped with water infiltration and soil microbe development all which add up to healthier soil.

The unique aspect about this planting method is when you walk the field taking Instagram photos and cutting flowers you are walking on a carpet like mat which is naturally breaking down and is helping improve the health of the soil and the region's water quality. "I'm not certain", says Bakan, "but I may be the only person using this method on Cosmos, Zinnias and other U-Cut type flowers that is open to the public to experience. One of our driving forces here at Maize Valley is to use flowers, food, fun and of course alcohol, to help teach and share our passion for farming with our guests, people like to have fun and we sorta sneak some education in". "I earned a degree in High School Vocational Agricultural education in 1985 from Ohio State. I learned back then the more fun you can make learning the better it is retained. The general public is much the same." At Maize Valley, We Make Great Wine and Beer.....FUN! So come on out and Play!
The downside is while planting Bakan noticed the presence of slugs. Slugs can eat an entire crop before the seed even has a chance to germinate. A mild liquid nitrogen solution is sprayed to counter the slugs. The trick is this has to be done at about midnight to catch the slugs on the soil surface. Just your friendly neighborhood farmer Bill burning the midnight oil on slug patrol. It worked pretty well and the sunflowers can use the nitrogen anyway. Every planting method has its trade offs, pluses and minuses.


August 13th was Maize Valley's first Sunflower Festival, a second one is planned for August 20th where Maize Valley will be the host site for Heart and Home Marketplace Sunflower Harvest Market from 10:00am until 4:00pm.  https://heartandhomemarketplace.com/  These flower fields were also green planted but  use different sunflower varieties that produce multiple blooms per stem over an extended period of time compared to the single stem varieties.  There are Zinnias, Cosmos and a small quality of wildflowers all green planted as well.

 

In addition to the Heart and Home Marketplace, daily sunflower harvest opportunities are available at Maize Valley on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays from noon until 8:00pm. These harvest opportunities will continue as long as the flowers stay in bloom which should be until late August or early September.

 

Providing mother nature cooperates, and adequate labor can be secured, the green planted field described above is set to bloom in early September.  Maize Valley hopes to offer a Sunflower Sunset Sip & Smores Experience with craft beer & wine tastings, light appetizers, wagon rides, flower cutting, and an educational farmer discussion explaining the process with equipment in the field.  This is a yet to be determined event, details will follow on our social media pages as well as our website.


Maize Valley Farm, Market, Winery & Craft Brewery is a family farm based business located 3 miles East of Hartville, Ohio on St. Rt. 619 at 6193 Edison St NE, Hartville, OH 44632. The Vaughan family settled in Marlboro Township in the mid 1800's and has been farming ever since. 

Private media or educational tours for local elected officials interested in learning more are available by contacting Farmer, Bill Bakan at bill@maizevalley.com. General information on upcoming events and u-pick opportunities is available by visiting www.maizevalley.com,  Facebook  Maize Valley, Instagram @maize_valley_.











The Lake Township Chamber of Commerce is a 501(c)6 not-for-profit business organization established in 1988. The Lake Township Chamber of Commerce is a valuable resource for local businesses.

Our mission is to create a positive environment to promote the success and growth of businesses, while reflecting the values of the community. We strongly believe in this mission and in offering our members valid reasons for belonging.





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