Venturing out to Minnesota’s farmland, you may expect to see fields of corn, big red barns and grazing livestock. But what about a wood-fired oven and dozens of picnickers chowing down on freshly baked pizzas? At a handful of farms, this is the scene on “pizza night,” when piping hot pies with freshly picked toppings have visitors flocking from miles around.
The premise is simple: The farm provides the pizza, and the diners provide everything else – plates, utensils, picnic blankets, drinks and side dishes. Annie D’Souza, community manager for Yelp in the Twin Cities, loves “pizza farms” so much, she even got engaged at one.
“It feels like another world, it’s just so removed from everything,” she says of the experience that she describes as “quintessentially Midwest.” As for the pies, they “hold up against restaurant pizza,” and the farm-fresh ingredients make them more unique than what you may find at your local pizzeria.
At Red Barn Farm in Northfield, an hour south of Minneapolis, the Winter family hosts pizza night every Wednesday and every third Sunday from May through October, or even later if weather permits. Guests can choose from specialty pizzas like the Greek – topped with feta cheese, olives and farm-grown tomatoes, onions, roasted garlic and basil – or the Sour Pig, with onions, sauerkraut and Italian sausage from nearby Nerstrand Meats. Local musicians are often on-hand to provide entertainment; they’re paid in pizza.
Less than 20 miles west of Minneapolis, Two Pony Gardens in Long Lake specializes in dahlias and tomatoes. But on select Saturdays into October, visitors can wander the gardens, see the chickens and mingle with the other guests while their pizzas cook in the outdoor oven. Choose from two creations -- classic margherita or a specialty pie with seasonal toppings like fresh morels, ramps and squash blossoms. Advance reservations are required, and diners are advised to keep an eye on their pies so Ethel, the resident chocolate lab, doesn’t sneak a bite.
DreamAcres Farm in Wykoff, about 30 miles south of Rochester, serves pizza every Friday night from 5-8 p.m., May-October. A vegetarian farm, DreamAcres makes its pies with tomato sauce from the garden, cheese from Tiger the cow, and house-made ingredients like pesto and vegetarian sausage. The theme changes every week – for example, “Model A Night” included rides in the classic Ford and pizzas named after car parts – and a live play, barn dance or other activity follows dinner.