While “farm-to-table” or “farm-to-fork” have been around for a while, another trendy way to close the gap between farm and food has emerged — pizza farms.
Across the Midwest — and right here in Iowa — farms are hopping on the plow-to-pizza trend, serving farm-fresh pies topped with local ingredients, often directly from the farm’s own fields.
Among them is Luna Valley Farm, a 10-minute drive from Decorah’s main street in northeast Iowa.
Visitors who follow a dirt road through the rolling bluffs of the Driftless region can find Luna Valley’s 300-acre organic farm tucked into the valley, where owners Tom and Maren Beard grow organic crops and care for sheep, cattle and pigs.
The Beards bought the farm five years ago and only recently began serving pizzas after drawing inspiration from three pizza farms they visited in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
“We love hosting people, having dinner parties, growing food and creating community gathering spaces,” Maren Beard said. “So it just seemed like a natural fit.”
Between bank loans and a Kickstarter in March 2017, the Beards raised enough money to renovate their barn to include a small commercial kitchen and a 4,200-pound Italian wood-fired oven.
Since then, the Beards have been hosting pizza nights on Fridays from May through October.
The menu changes seasonally and reflects whatever ingredients are available, either from their farm or nearby producers.
“Things that grow together in season often just go together on a pizza, or really in any kind of dish,” Maren Beard said. “Traditional Neapolitan pizza really focuses on place and what’s available in that place, so it’s a really good fit for our passion for local food to feature what’s local and available in any given season.”
Luna Valley Farm pizza begins with hand-stretched, cold-fermented dough made days ahead of pizza nights. The wood-fired oven is the only oven, so prepping ingredients — like cooking meat — is done ahead of time. On pizza nights, it takes a small team to keep up with demand, but inside the 850- to 900-degree oven, pizzas cook as quickly as 90 seconds.
Toppings are always changing, but there’s always a variety of flavors and options — something for everyone — including a gluten-free crust.
Also included on the menu are cheese and charcuterie plates, soups, stews, desserts, craft beer, cider, wines and sodas.
Diners can grab a seat at a picnic table or lay out their own blanket or chairs to enjoy their dinner with a view.
After dinner, guests are welcome to wander the farm’s field roads or, if staying past sunset, take in the view of the stunning night sky undisturbed by light pollution and cellular service.
“It’s nice to provide that relaxed space for people,” Beard said. “We want to create a space for people to come together and have conversations. ... In some places there’s been an erosion of community. People don’t talk to each other face to face and hang out. We want to offer a safe place for people to come together and have a conversation that maybe they wouldn’t have or meet someone they wouldn’t have otherwise.”
For those wishing to linger a little longer, the farm also offers overnight “glamping” stays in a tent furnished with dressers, generator-powered electricity and even a plush king-size bed. As you can imagine, these book fast, so plan ahead for an overnight stay.
So, why pizza farms? It’s a great way to bring in extra income, given all the variables in farming, including the weather, Beard said.
“It’s a lot of work but can also be good diversity for a small farm,” she said, adding that it’s also an opportunity to invite people to learn more about farming.
“Most farmers I know want people to know more about farming and understand more of what goes on farms,” she said. “By inviting people out and providing a good experience, there’s that deeper connection. ... And I think there are more eaters interested in knowing where their food is coming from and having more of a direct connection with it, so it’s really a perfect marriage. It can be really mutually beneficial.”
And, she added, it’s as close as you can get to farm-to-table: “The farm is the table.”
How to Get There
WHAT: Luna Valley Farm
WHERE: 3012 Middle Sattre Rd., Decorah
WHEN: Fridays, May to October, 4 to 8 p.m. (or “as long as the dough stretches”)
Want Seconds? Try these Locations
Geyers Oven Pizza
WHERE: 1259 Rohret Rd. SW, Oxford
WHEN: Second and fourth Thursday of every month, May to September, 5 to 8 p.m.
DETAILS: (319) 325-6609, geyersovenbreadandpizza.com
Stone Wall Pizza
WHERE: 3297 320th St., Wellman
WHEN: Fridays, May to October, 5 to 8 p.m.
DETAILS: (319) 530-3239, stonewallpizza.com