I love when an idea starts gaining momentum. It's rarely easy. There are usually challenges and roadblocks along the way. The journey is the exciting part, though. It's that navigation and problem solving, coupled with tons of perseverance, that makes it all the more worthwhile.
In a lot of ways, getting Acres of Adventure to where we are now has been a labor of love. That journey started in 2011 when Greg and I had our first corn maze and pumpkin patch at our home farm. Little did we know that would be the start of where we are today, but a few years later, we started to truly realize the potential of our fall activities. Inviting people to the country and giving them the opportunity to talk to a farmer started conversations, real conversations. Conversations that made us feel like there really was a way to address misconceptions about agriculture, one person at a time.
In 2015, we had the opportunity to move our growing agritourism activities to Bucyrus to The Pickwick Place. In our minds, this was the golden ticket. If we hosted 2,000 people a fall on our farm off the beaten path in the far corner of the county, then surely, if we just moved to the edge of town, then we would be able to reach even more people and move the needle even more on the consumer perception of agriculture. In our minds, Bucyrus was the best of both worlds: it was right on the edge of town (more people!), there was parking (no more hay field!), yet there were also corn fields all around, a sure sign of agriculture. We were confused when people started asking where the farm was. Our guests missed driving to the countryside and pulling into the field to park. That was all part of the experience, and our new location right outside of town didn't cut it.
We gave ourselves two years in Bucyrus, and that's when Greg and I went back to the drawing board. We evaluated where we were and what we really wanted to accomplish. We realized that in six years time we had developed a pretty sound model for informal agricultural education. We were now on a mission to provide real, authentic learning experiences that allowed our guests to leave with a better appreciation of today's agriculture, not Old McDonald's farm of storybook lore. Once we agreed that's the direction we wanted to head, we realized that this project was bigger than him or me. We took the steps to transition from a LLC operating structure to a nonprofit organization. In February of 2017, we received our 501(c)3 designation from the IRS, and we've hit the ground running.
The first thing we did to structure our nonprofit was to set up our board of directors. I can't brag on this group enough. The shear brain force of this group is amazing! They get it. They understand that for farmers to keep farming and for consumers to really feel good about the food they're purchasing, something needs to change. The board has been instrumental in taking Greg's and my initial ideas and building them into something sustainable and realistic.
Our board spent the better part of 2017 just getting situated. When you start a new organization, there's one thing to do: roll your sleeves up and get to work. The board has established bylaws, they've crafted policies, and they've cast a vision for the future. A little more than one year into Acres of Adventure Inc., and we're going somewhere.
For me, March was when I first started to feel like we were moving. March brought a couple of exciting progress pieces to our project. First, the board of directors formalized a lease with Hartschuh Dairy Farm. The new Acres of Adventure home base will be located on property adjacent to Hartschuh Dairy. This will enable us to capitalize on the great learning that can happen on a real farm while also being able to incorporate tours of a modern dairy farm. Guests who visit Acres of Adventure will be able to take a wagon ride next door to the dairy farm, where they can watch three robotic milkers taking the first step in getting milk from the cow to the cup. Yes, you read that correctly: robots!
The second cool step that the board took in March was putting the first piece of our project out for bid. The board has set strategic phases that will allow Acres of Adventure to grow as funds and sponsorships grow. This will ensure that we're moving smartly and steadily toward our overall vision. The board will be evaluating the bids at their April meeting, and we'll officially be off on our first phase! While there are lots of pieces to this project, I'm personally most excited for phase two: the modern learning center. The learning center will be full of modern conveniences and learning spaces. STEM-based learning stations will connect visitors with the world around them and to understand food, agriculture, and the environment. Most importantly? The stations will be fun and engaging; guests will want to learn.
While the idea for this project probably started clear back that first time we had a stranger on our farm, Greg and I are proud of the direction its taken, and we're so appreciative of those that have stepped in to take us from where we are to where we want to go in the future. It only takes a spark, and we're humbled by the outpouring of support that is making this fire go. We are on a mission, and the momentum is building. Want to join us? Click here.
Be a part of something bigger than yourself,