Pizza farms have become a Midwestern ritual

Dave Malley, for CNNPublished 2nd July 2015
(CNN) — There are those who could eat pizza every day.
And there are those who do.
According to a recent U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) study, 25% of U.S. boys between the ages of 9 and 16 eat pizza every day.
Also, from that same USDA report, cheese consumption in the United States is up 41% since 1995 -- mostly due to our love for pizza.
And now there's a delicious excuse to eat more: the pizza farm.
In the heart of America's breadbasket -- particularly along the Mississippi River in Minnesota and Wisconsin -- small, family-run farms are turning their crops into pizzas.
Eating at a so-called pizza farm is fast becoming a summertime ritual.
"We're so trapped under snow for so long in this part of the country, when it melts we must take advantage of every warm moment," says Joy Summers, a food writer and editor of Eater Minneapolis.
One or two nights a week, diners show up with their own plates, blankets, lawn chairs and a fondness for eating al fresco.
In return, the farms serve pizzas bedecked with organic meats, veggies, cheeses and herbs -- all at a fair price with ingredients produced right there on the farm.
Best of all, these are farm-to-picnic-blanket operations.
That translates to a healthier, tastier, better-for-the-environment alternative to lots of the pizza out there.
In the Upper Midwest, any of these five stellar pizza farms will let you get your hands on some of America's freshest pizza:
A to Z Produce and Bakery (Stockholm, Wisconsin)
The prototype.
A to Z was the first farm in the region to peddle pizza -- since 1998 -- and their longevity attests to the excellence of their wares.
Eater Minneapolis editor Joy Summers describes the experience at A to Z like this: "A late night dinner on the farm with a blistered, yeasty crust topped with vegetables picked at their peak, sometimes augmented with a little happily raised pork -- it is magic."
Part of the pizza farm experience is eating super-fresh ingredients while enjoying a real farm, like Suncrest Gardens (pictured).
Courtesy Suncrest Gardens Farm
Wooly-capped hipsters, clear-eyed young professionals, pensioners out for a lark -- they all regularly make the 90-minute drive from Minneapolis-St. Paul for A to Z's pizza nights.
In fact, this farm is so popular, waits pushing two hours aren't unusual.
For pizza farm pros, that's part of the fun.
Stroll around the farm, make new friends, admire a cow, eat a pizza -- that's the pizza farm experience.
Pizza Night: Tuesdays: 4:30-8 p.m.
A to Z Produce and Bakery, N2956 Anker Lane, Stockholm, Wisconsin; +1 715 448 4802
Borner Farm Project (Prescott, Wisconsin)
The community farm.
By all accounts, the Borner Farm Project bakes excellent pizzas from their sustainably farm-grown ingredients.
But beware. The opportunity to eat one of them is brief: every other Friday during summer, and then, just for three hours a night.
The rest of the time, the Borner Farm Project is busy teaching community members of all ages how to grow their own vegetables ... and even build their own brick ovens.
Come for the pizza, leave with knowledge -- and a full stomach.
Pizza Night: Every other Friday night from May to October: 5-8 p.m.
Borner Farm Project, 1266 Walnut St., Prescott, Wisconsin; +1 651 235 4906
Two Pony Gardens (Long Lake, Minnesota)
The sophisticate.
Two Pony Gardens is a dahlia and tomato outfit located on the western fringes of Minneapolis.
True to its proximity, the farm offers an atmosphere that's more cozy than primitive, more shabby chic than just plain shabby.
Owner Lisa Ringer is a former landscape gardener who started her pizza nights as informal gatherings for friends, but these days they're open to the public.
That is, if you're lucky enough to get in.
Two Pony Gardens works on an RSVP system for their popular pizza get-togethers.
Call or email in advance to make sure there's room.
Pizza Night: Varies. The Two Pony Gardens' website has details.
Two Pony Gardens, 1700 Deer Hill Road, Long Lake, Minnesota; +1 763 473 0783
Suncrest Gardens Farm (Cochrane, Wisconsin)
Suncrest Gardens' Spring Fling pizza is a combination of arugula, asparagus, sliced radishes and pesto.
Courtesy Suncrest Gardens Farm
The family experience.
"I know the stress involved when taking young children out to eat," says mother of two and Suncrest Gardens owner, Heather Secrist.
"Our farm is a great place for kids to run, spill and holler as they eat and play throughout the evening. The parents are happy as well as the kids."
While the whippersnappers work up an appetite on a swing set or dig holes in the farm's sandbox, adults have other reasons to be happy at Suncrest.
There's live music every week, and an impressive assortment of locally brewed craft beer.
Oh, and the pizza.
From farm-made whole hog sausage to freshly picked sweet corn, there's something here for appetites of every age.
Pizza Nights: In May and September, Fridays: 4:30-8:30 p.m.
June-August: Thursdays and Fridays: 4:30-8:30 p.m.
Suncrest Gardens Farm, S2257 Yaeger Valley Road, Cochrane, Wisconsin; +1 608 626 2122.
Red Barn Farm (Northfield, Minnesota)
The farm that won't be stopped.
The Winter family is a tenacious bunch.
Local officials put the kibosh on their pizza nights not long after they started -- the Red Barn Farm hadn't been zoned to sell food.
So, the Winters worked to have the farm rezoned.
Then, after they leapfrogged that hurdle, their pizzas got too popular too fast.
Their operation had trouble keeping up with the demand, and on some nights, customers had to wait for as long as two-and-half hours to get their pizzas.
So, the Winters brought in an Italian-made brick oven that bakes a pizza in about three minutes.
These days, everyone's happy.
Pizza Nights: May-August, Wednesdays: 4-8:30 p.m.
September: Wednesdays: 4-8 p.m
October: Wednesdays: 4-8 p.m.
Plus, the third Sunday of each month between May and October.
Red Barn Farm, 10063 110th St. East, Northfield, Minnesota; +1 507 664 0304
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