Slow Food Gone Fast: Midwestern Farms Embrace Pizza


[Photograph: Hawkins Family Farm]

Walk a few blocks in most big cities and it's easy enough to find a slice joint or full-fledged pizzeria, which keeps most of us plodding along our familiar, blinkered pizza routines without wondering might be waiting a little off the beaten path.

Yesterday, an article on USA Today turned the spotlight on the Midwest, where a number of farmsteads have found a new way to encourage visitors. Across Wisconsin and Indiana, farmers are opening their doors to the public for summer pizza nights. Suncrest Gardens Farm, J.L. Hawkins Family Farm, Nelson Stone Barn, and Love Tree Farmstead are all leaders in this somewhat improbable but quickly growing trend, reminiscent of the origin story of the national chain, American Flatbread.

Home-grown and homemade pesto and tomato sauces, a rainbow of vegetables, local cave-aged artisanal cheeses, handmade sausages and pepperoni, crusts flavored with honey collected on the farms and made with locally grown wheat, all baked in wood-fired brick ovens—it's no wonder people are lured by the promise of such a pizza, driving long distances into rural valleys along winding gravel roads.

People linger, listening to the drifting sounds of music and children playing in the yards, sitting around outdoor fires, ambling from goat pen to chicken coop. The sites for these nights range from the unabashedly rustic working farm to more polished pastoral settings. The dinners provide a unique way for the farm owners to present their products to a wider audience, letting visitors experience their handcrafted and family-raised products first hand.

As more and more people want to know where their food's from, the process it went through to reach their plate, these sorts of farm-held events are a next all-American step in making that farm-to-table consumer awareness more populist and entertaining. This "fast version of slow food," as one farm owner calls it, is fresh, seasonal, local...and 100% pizza.

Visit USA Today for more farm pizza nights and this burgeoning Midwestern trend.