It’s Friday night and you’re in the mood for pizza. Sure, you could call in a delivery order or head to a neighborhood joint for some pie. But if you’re in the Midwest, why not head to a pizza farm?
What is a Pizza Farm?
If you haven’t heard of this locavore trend, it’s pretty simple. Select farms across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and other Midwest states invite customers to their homesteads for a night of good food in the great outdoors. (While you’re at it, check out the best local farm tour in every state).
To learn more about pizza farms, Taste of Home traveled to Stoney Acres farm just outside of Wausau, Wisconsin. We chatted with owner Tony Schultz about life on a farm, the local food movement and the secret to amazing pizza.
Founded in 1948 by Schultz’s grandfather, Stoney Acres farm has been in the family for nearly 70 years. It started out as a dairy farm, but in 2006, Schultz bought the farm from his parents and started to grow organic produce. He was inspired by the Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) he saw in nearby Madison, Wisconsin, and felt that Wausau could support a similar program.
Stoney Acres began to host farm events, and in 2010 Schultz built a hearth. By 2012, pizza nights were open to the public.
Growing the Ingredients
The main appeal of a pizza farm is that all of the ingredients are super local. At Stoney Acres, Schultz grows wheat, tomatoes and almost all of the toppings. “The only thing we’re not doing is cheese,” Schultz says. “But I get that from my neighbor. It’s from the nearest creamery, so it’s hyper-local.”
When making a pizza, the first step is the dough—if you’re feeling inspired, here’s our go-to recipe. Schultz raises a Dakota Hard Red wheat, grinds it into flour (typically the morning-of a pizza night) and then forms the dough. Next, he makes the sauce. “Right now we’re gathering a lot of San Marzanos out of the field because we’re at the beginning of September and at the peak of their season,” Schultz says. “That’s the main part of my sauce, but I also harvest Heirlooms…and so any leftover heirlooms…they get chopped up and blended into the sauce as well.” (Are you using the right type of tomato for your recipe? Find out here.)
Schultz’s cheese comes from a handful of local Wisconsin farms. His main blend of Jack and Mozzarella cheese comes from a creamery in Little Chicago, Wisconsin, which is 15 minutes away from the farm. And, depending on availability, Schultz will get Parmesan, Glacier Blue and other artisan cheeses from creameries around the state.
As far as toppings go, Schultz grows mushrooms, peppers, eggplants, greens—all sorts of veggies. He also raises pigs that get turned into sausage, bacon and pepperoni.
No matter the pie, every single ingredient that goes into or onto the pizza is farm-raised, and Schultz believes that’s what makes all the difference. “That’s a big part of what makes pizza on the farm not just this sort of novel idea, but what makes it really good pizza,” Schultz says. “The ingredients are super-fresh. We harvest in the morning, we prep it in the afternoon and we put it on a pizza at 4 o’clock.”
Making the Pie
At Stoney Acres, the menu is always a little different. Schultz has four types of pizza on the menu—cheese, pepperoni, sausage and veggie—plus a few rotating specials. But the exact ingredients on the pie depend on the season. “At the beginning of the year it’s more lighter greens,” Schultz says. “And now we’re working into the thick, Solanaceae crop, so beautiful peppers, tomatoes, caramelized onions, roasted eggplant, etc.”
The rotating specials depend on availability and Schultz’s creativity. He plans the pies around “whatever’s coming out of the field” and whatever he’s inspired by. His favorite ingredient to use is one that you’ve likely never even heard of: Marathon Red Clover. The clover grows naturally in Marathon county where Stoney Acres is located, and Schultz thinks it’s the perfect garnish.
In addition to the specialized ingredients, Schultz’s rotating specials have fun names. The “Betty Draper”—inspired by the Mad Men character—is a pie made with bacon, roasted eggplant and caramelized onions, then garnished with microgreens and local Parmesan. The “It’s all Clover Now Baby Blue” pie features sausage, kale, pesto, blue cheese and a garnish of Marathon Clover. The name is a riff off the popular Bob Dylan song—and Schultz jokes that any patron who can make the connection gets $1 off his pie.
Finding a Pizza Farm
To find a pizza farm near you, start by attending a local farmers market. (Psst! Here are 60 delicious recipes to make with your farm-fresh finds.) That’s the best place to find CSA farmers in your area. You can also do a quick Google search for pizza farms in your state. Though it may be a bit of a drive, we promise that the fresh-from-the-oven flavor is worth it.
At Stoney Farms, pizza nights run on Friday and Saturday, April through November. You can learn more here.