Take a bite out of National Pizza Month this October by visiting a local farm.

By Susan B. Barnes
October 13, 2020
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Credit: Susan Barnes (Travlin' Girl)

When Heather Secrist, co-owner of Suncrest Garden Farms in Cochrane, Wisconsin (about an hour northwest of La Crosse and an hour southwest of Eau Claire) decided to start farming 15 years ago, she began as a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm to get to know the land, grow food, and make connections within the community. At the same time, she built a pizza oven to "slowly learn what it takes to make and bake pizzas."

The farm's pizzas grew in popularity through word of mouth, and "the only other place in our area that was doing it at the time was A to Z Produce & Bakery, considered the godfathers of the [pizza farm] concept, about an hour up the river," says Secrist.

"We didn't intend to become known as a pizza farm," she continues. "As the CSA and farmers' markets grew, the pizza season grew. People just sort of pegged us as a pizza farm, and that's what we essentially became famous for over time."

After 10 years, Secrist says she decided to change focus to the licensed kitchen on the farm, moving everything grown through the kitchen to make ready-to-eat food, like pizza, to capture the seasonal harvests.

"Everything we do, we try and do with quality," she explains. "We're all about flavor, and are so lucky to have an abundance of great Wisconsin cheese to choose from. We use a mozzarella-provolone blend, fresh mozzarella, feta, and Parmesan on our pizzas on a regular basis."

When asked about feta on pizzas, Secrist says with enthusiasm, "That tangy deliciousness elevates it. Especially if you throw some fresh heirloom tomatoes on there, it makes pizza sing in a whole new way."

Credit: Susan Barnes (Travlin' Girl)

Suncrest's pizza menu features classics, as well as combination pizzas that feature different meats raised on the farm; Secrist's husband manages that side of the business. She points to the Carnivore's Delight, featuring Suncrest's own farm-raised chicken, bacon, Italian sausage, and pulled pork, all topped with Wisconsin mozzarella cheese and slow roasted onions.

She also notes that the vegetarian wood-fired pizzas focus more on seasonal produce from the garden, or include items preserved at their peak ripeness by roasting and freezing them to use year-round. One such offering is the Pesto Pizza: a homemade seasonal walnut pesto sauce topped with Wisconsin mozzarella cheese, diced tomatoes, and slow roasted sweet onions.

"We also get a little creative to have fun with all the different foods we have here," says Secrist. For fall, the kitchen recently brought back its Rustic Root pizza: diced butternut squash, carrots, potatoes, and beets roasted in the wood-fire oven, seasoned with rosemary and garlic. The blend is then layered onto a homemade pesto sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese, sweet roasted peppers, onions, and feta.

"Those flavors in the fall are so delicious, they inspired us to use the pizza as a blank canvas to use different flavors that highlight seasonal eating," Secrist says.

She also explains that eating on the farm is a different experience, "It's not a quick food experience, but rather an evening experience out at the farm," says Secrist. "People often enjoy taking a walk, visiting animals out on pasture, or picking flowers in our u-pick garden."

Though Suncrest's scheduled Pizza Nights have come to an end for the season, Heather says that they may offer popup Pizza Nights if the weather is nice on Saturdays in October. She suggests checking the farm's Facebook page for updates. Additionally, the farm may host Winter Pizza Nights in February and March; check Facebook for those dates, too.

Credit: Susan Barnes (Travlin' Girl)

Pizza Farms Across the U.S.

If you don't live close to Suncrest Garden Farms to take part in their pizza Pizza Nights, there are plenty of other pizza farms across the U.S. Here, we take a look at a handful or so of others that are serving their pizzas through October, and even into November.

Southeast

Outside of Asheville, in Canton, North Carolina (Haywood County), The Ten Acre Garden's organic produce is featured in local restaurants and sold at the Historic Haywood Farmer's Market, and at its pizza nights, too. Offered Saturdays afternoons throughout October, weather permitting, pizzas featuring the farm's bounty are cooked in an outdoor brick oven, and locals and visitors are invited to feast on the goods; one recent offering was a fennel and blueberry pizza. A unique aspect of the farm's pizza night that really stands out is that it's donation-based. Bring a blanket, a bottle of wine, order up a pizza and relax with classic Smoky Mountain views all around you at The Ten Acre Gardens.

Another North Carolina pizza farm option is Wise Acres, a family-owned u-pick certified organic strawberry and pumpkin farm in Indian Trail, about 20 miles southeast of Charlotte. Available weekends through November 8, and by reservation only, the farm's pizzas are baked in a 900-degree wood-fire oven at the Wise Pie Pizza Kitchen. The menu features classics like cheese, Margherita, and pepperoni, and some fun takes like The Bee Farmer with tomato sauce, organic jalapeños, honey, and cheese. The mozzarella cheese on the pizzas is made for Wise Acres by Uno Alla Volta, a nearby Amish farm.

Northeast

Appleton Farms in Ipswich, Massachusetts (roughly 30 miles northeast of Boston), is one of the oldest continuously operating farms in the country, established in 1638 and maintained by nine generations of the Appleton family. The farm is hosting its popular Pizza Picnics Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays through November 22. Each weekend the menu includes three pizza options, cheese, seasonal veggie, and a meat-za, and two sweet-za options, cinnamon sugar and s'mores, all of which are baked in the farm's wood-fire oven. Local breweries are featured, too, with True North Ale Company and Great Marsh Brewing Company on tap.

The wood-fire oven is stoked up for pizza every weekend through October at Long Acre Farms in Macedon, New York, about 30 minutes east of Rochester. The pizza crusts are made in-house and are 100% sourdough, and most of the vegetables that top the pies come from the farm's garden. Stay and enjoy your pizza in the garden, or take it away with you to enjoy elsewhere. Pizzas are available Friday evenings, and all day Saturdays and Sundays.

Midwest

On Wednesdays through October, Red Barn Farm in Northfield, Minnesota offers its Pizza Nights. The farm's pizzas feature homemade vegan dough and veggies from its gardens, including basil, tomatoes, peppers, onions, squash, and other seasonal veg. Other ingredients are sourced from local farmers, Nerstrand Meats, or the local Just Food Co-op. One to try is the Sour Pig with olive oil, sausage, onions, and sauerkraut. Reservations are required to eat onsite, or pick up your pizza to enjoy at home.

Friday and Saturday nights through October are Pizza Nights at Luna Valley Farm in Decorah, Iowa, roughly an hour southeast of La Crosse, Wisconsin. Pre-orders are required, so take a look at their menu and choose from the seasonal selection, like Fig and Pig with olive oil, Italian sausage, sopressata ribbons, pepperoncini peppers, fresh mozzarella, and shaved parmesan, all finished off with a fig balsamic drizzle. Pizzas can be enjoyed on the farm, picnic-style, or for take out. Local beers and cider are available from PIVO BreweryPulpit Rock Brewing CompanyToppling Goliath Brewing Co. and Jefferson County Ciderworks; sodas and sparking water on the menu are from Spring Grove Soda Pop and Wisco Pop! Beverage Co.

In Springfield, Missouri, Millsap Farms is hosting its Pizza Club Thursday nights through October 29. Each week, seasonal and organic produce is harvested from the farm and featured on three of the four pizzas that are served buffet-style; one pizza is always cheese. Some of the pizzas may also feature other local meats, cheeses, sauces, and vegetables. Club members prepare the pizzas in the farm's New Mexico-style, Horno wood-fired earthen oven that heats up to about 800 degrees; it takes less than two minutes for the pizzas to bake. Reservations are requested to save your spot, and if you're not a member of the Pizza Club yet, don't fret: buy a ticket to a Pizza Night and the first dollar pays for your membership.

A couple more pizza farms that have ended their pizza nights for the year with plans to return in 2021 are Good Roots Farm and Gardens in Brookings, South Dakota, Hippie and the Farmer in Urbana, Ohio, and Heritage Prairie Farm in Elburn, Illinois, about 40 miles west of Chicago.

Now, who's ready for some pizza?

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