The phrase “pizza farm” is a bit unnerving.
No, slices of pepperoni are not being cultivated in rural Minnesota and Wisconsin. Instead, farmers are building showy pizza ovens, making dough and hanging a “welcome” sign. Or, more likely, launching a click-bait Instagram account.
Popular across the Midwest, pizza farms share many traits. Many rely upon ingredients raised on the premises, or nearby. Diners supply their own dishes, napkins, utensils and other picnic needs. In most cases, visitors also provide the seating (and tables) and any other food or beverages.
Most farms follow the basic pack-it-in, pack-it-out format familiar to campers. In other words, everything that gets carried in must also be carried out (including the boxes the pizzas arrive in), so plan garbage and recycling needs accordingly. Shoes (and insect repellent) are a must, and in nearly all cases, pets are not allowed.
Most pizza farm settings are reliably gorgeous. Which means that when the weather cooperates, there are few finer ways to spend a summer’s day or evening.
That the pizza is usually delicious is a bonus. Tombstone Originals could be nudged out of their ovens, and no one would complain, or probably even notice, especially under blue skies and light breezes.
You road-tripped to a farm. You’re eating pizza. Life is good. No wonder that “pizza farm” can be synonymous with “happy place.”
Details: The gold standard by which all other pizza farms (heck, wood-fired pizzerias in general) should be measured. It’s hard to believe that owners Robbi Bannen and Ted Fisher — both skilled farmers and cooks — are approaching their 20th year of making hordes of people happy on their magazine-worthy farm. That’s because the experience feels so fresh, yet also runs like clockwork. It doesn’t get more farm-to-picnic-blanket than this, right down to the pigs raised for the sausage. The prodigious range of vegetables and herbs (a recent inventory included radicchio, fennel, Swiss chard, chicory, zucchini, sweet onions, garlic scapes and lemon basil) that are lavished across bready, slightly nutty-tasting crusts — coupled with generous amounts of locally produced cheese, and lively renditions of pesto and tomato sauce — make for a singular pizza experience. Here’s hoping for at least 20 more years.
Hours: 4:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays, through Oct. 31.
Address: N2956 Anker Lane, Stockholm, Wis., 1-715-448-4802, atozproduceandbakery.com
Distance from downtown Minneapolis: 70 miles.
Prices: Pizzas (roughly 16 inches) $26 to $28.
Beverages: Impressive wine and (Wisconsin-brewed) beer selection, sold by the bottle, along with fizzy and flavorful Wisco sodas, all at reasonable prices. No bring-your-own alcohol.
Extras: Crusty sourdough bread, made from wheat grown and milled at the farm, and baked in the brick ovens, is available for sale. Buy it.
Details: The town of Prescott has slowly inched its way up the hill to meet this lovely, compact, once-rural property. Expect to encounter a half-dozen varieties of pizza, most of them featuring tomatoes, peppers, herbs and other goodness cultivated in the nearby, envy-inducing gardens. Yes, there’s a basic cheese version, but how about a mix of goat cheese and Parmesan, dotted with roasted walnuts, splashed with balsamic vinegar and, when it’s pulled from the brick oven, finished with a flurry of spicy arugula? Or heaps of roasted garlic paired with crunchy broccoli, toasted pine nuts and dabs of pungent Gorgonzola? Even the basic-issue pepperoni is jazzed up, with pickled peppers from, yes, the garden.
Hours: 5 to 8 p.m. every other Friday (July 28, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 8, Sept. 22, Oct. 6, Oct. 20).
Address: 1266 Walnut St., Prescott, Wis., 651-235-4906, bornerfarmproject.com
Distance from downtown Minneapolis: 35 miles.
Price: Pizzas (roughly 11 inches) $13 to $17.
Beverages: Beer and by-the-glass wines ($3 to $6), soda ($3) and water (free). No bring-your-own alcohol.
Extras: The farmhouse kitchen isn’t entirely fixated on pizza. There’s a plucked-from-the-garden snack, perhaps wonderfully sweet snap peas with a mango-curry dipping sauce. Dessert could be a float, brimming with Wisconsin-made Sprecher’s root beer, or a trendy, in-a-jar versions of carrot cake or rhubarb crisp. A small shop is stocked with frozen take-home pizzas ($13 to $15), as well as a farmers market-like bounty of vegetables. There are a few picnic tables.
Details: The bare-bones but perfectly pleasant setting (daytimers, be sure to pack sunscreen) may lack the “wow” factor of its pizza farm brethren, but what this relative newcomer lacks in bucolic charm is more than made up for in the pizza crust department. It’s surprisingly thin and almost crackerlike, with the oven’s intense heat giving its bubbled and charred edges a pronounced crackle. Co-owners Bill Bartz and Emily Knudsen supplement a few standard combinations (the “Buster” piles on mushrooms, caramelized onions, sausage, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil and sage-infused olive oil) with a weekly special. I encountered a mix of pancetta, sweet cherry tomatoes, arugula, squeaky-fresh mozzarella and lively microgreens (from a nearby farm), and the combination was perfect.
Hours: 4 to 8 p.m. Thursdays, through September. Also 1 to 7 p.m. Sundays, through October.
Address: 41142 160 St., Waseca, Minn., 1-507-384-2692, pleasantgrovepizzafarm.com
Distance from downtown Minneapolis: 64 miles.
Prices: Pizzas (roughly 16 inches) $20 to $25. Gluten-free available.
Beverages: Bring your own (alcohol OK). Soda and water ($1 to $3) available.
Extras: Kids enjoy the “pizza fries,” a basic cheese pizza ($20) cut into thin strips. There’s a bandshell-like stage for live music, and a few shaded picnic tables. Rain? The party can move indoors.
Details: Another impressive operation that runs like a well-schooled restaurant. The chalkboard menu boasts eight pizza varieties (consider the sausage-onion version that has the tangy made-on-the-premises sauerkraut in a supporting role, or the flavor-packed array of kalamata olives, whole roasted garlic cloves and salty feta cheese) and an ever-changing pizza of the week that reflects whatever is available at the moment, garden-wise. The kid-friendly surroundings include up-close-and-personal encounters with horses and chickens, and when the farm’s roomy and shaded front lawn fills up with fun-loving picnickers, the place looks and feels like a gigantic family reunion, minus any and all familial baggage.
Hours: 4 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays (4 to 8 p.m. in September, 4 to 7:30 p.m. in October), plus 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sundays Aug. 20, Sept. 17 and Oct. 15.
Address: 10063 110th St. E., Northfield, Minn., 1-507-664-0304, redbarnfarmof northfield.com
Distance from downtown Minneapolis: 48 miles.
Prices: Pizzas (roughly 16 inches) $20 to $25 (no credit cards). A 10-inch gluten-free version is $10.
Beverages: Bring your own (beer and wine are OK).
Extras: There are marvelous bittersweet chocolate brownies and tart lemon bars for dessert (two for $1), and the farm’s chickens produce beautiful eggs, sold at $3 a dozen. A sunny patio sports plenty of picnic tables, and there’s regularly scheduled live music.
Details: Driving down a narrow, winding gravel drive to this enchanting wooded getaway is an utterly transporting experience. It’s hard to believe that this rural respite is just a quick drive from downtown Wayzata. The simple menu offers just two skillfully composed pizzas; one vaguely follows the margherita format, while the other celebrates what’s coming out of the ground. Last week it was garlic freshly harvested from an urban garden, paired with black currants from the farm next door, a totally beguiling combination, especially when finished with prosciutto and basil. The crusts are first-rate: sturdy, slightly chewy, beautifully blistered, and when they’re pulled from the oven, their edges are lovingly burnished with a quick sweep of olive oil. What’s not to love? The only bummer is that it’s a twice-a-month experience.
Hours: Two consecutive days per month, through October; see the farm’s website.
Address: 1700 Deer Hill Road, Long Lake, 763-473-0783, twoponygardens.com
Distance from downtown Minneapolis: 18 miles.
Prices: Visiting requires pre-purchasing tickets (via eventbrite.com) for all-you-can-eat pizza; $45 adults, $11.54 kids, free to ages 3 and under.
Beverages: Bring your own.
Extras: Some chairs and tables are provided. The event is often paired with an activity, from puppet shows to tomato tastings. A self-guided tour of the spectacular gardens and wooded trails is a must, and kids of all ages will enjoy getting acquainted with the geese, chickens and horses.
Four more pizza farm destinations
DreamAcres Farm: Vegetarian pizzas (topped with ingredients harvested from the farm’s all-organic fields) are served in a picturesque, off-the-grid setting. Pizza is available 5 to 8 p.m. on select Fridays (Aug. 4, Aug. 11, Aug. 25, Sept. 1, Sept. 8, Sept. 15 and Sept. 29). 17289 County Road 8, Wykoff, Minn., 1-507-352-4255, dreamacresfarm.org. Located 110 miles from downtown Minneapolis.
Pizza by the Pond: A visit to Mary and Dave Falk’s beautiful LoveTree Farm is a multisensory experience. The farm’s cheeses — which rank as some of the Midwest’s great artisan products — play an integral role on the pizza, and the dough is fermented in the farm’s cheese caves. Pizza is available 2 to 7 p.m. on many Sundays; check the farm’s Facebook page to verify dates. 12413 County Road Z, Grantsburg, Wis., 1-715-488-2966, lovetreefarmstead.com. Located 75 miles from downtown Minneapolis.
Stone Barn: Although not a working farm, the property is memorably set within the gigantic, 121-year-old stone foundations of what had been a barn. Dog-friendly, too. Pizza is available 4 to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and noon to 8 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 1. S685 County Road KK, Nelson, Wis., 1-715-673-4478, thenelsonstonebarn.com. Located 85 miles from downtown Minneapolis.
Suncrest Gardens Farm: Heather Secrist’s idyllic 16-acre property is a fascinating model of sustainable practices. She’s also a gifted pizzamaker. Dessert? S’mores, of course, and Secrist’s son Ashlan makes all-natural snow cones. Pizza is available 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, through August. Also 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, through September. S2257 Yaeger Valley Road, Cochrane, Wis., 1-608-626-2122, suncrestgardensfarm.com. Located 105 miles from downtown Minneapolis.