A Slice of Country: Pizza Farms in Wisconsin | Midwest Living
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A Slice of Country: Pizza Farms in Wisconsin

A drive through the rolling hills of Wisconsin ends at farms offering more than just produce. Try their pizza hot off a wood-fired oven in a serene setting.

Suncrest Gardens Farm's Pesto Pizza

Suncrest owner Heather Secrist uses kale in her pesto for this tomatoey creation. "Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays for use throughout the year," she says. "Once frozen, place the cubes in a freezer bag to pull out as you need them."

Suncrest Gardens Farm's Pesto Pizza

Pizza party

We witness patrons' appreciation of Pam's brand of pizza as we read the menu and eavesdrop on conversations. Intriguing choices lurk among the requisite toppings. At the slate bar, we order the Muffaletta, a riff off the classic sandwich complete with Canadian bacon, olives and pepperoncini. We balance it with the Margherita--simply cheese, tomatoes and basil.

With our number and drinks in hand, we head out to a table in the courtyard. Jazz plays, and other diners sip wine and talk quietly at their tables. Some head over to the antiques store housed in the old granary or snap photos in front of the cornfield at the courtyard's edge. A massive central planter holds basil, rosemary and other pizza herbs. All other toppings Pam gets as fresh and local as possible.

The server arrives carrying gigantic melamine trays loaded with our pizzas, beautifully simple, cracker-thin works of art. We eat as much as we can, but this outdoor party is just kicking off because this experience leaves me eager for Pizza Farm Adventure: Part II. My friend Heidi is a willing copilot.

On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from mid-May through early October, customers gather in the Stone Barn for pizzas starting at $18. (715) 673-4478; nelsonstonebarn.com

The Stone Barn

On to Suncrest Gardens Farm

We take the same riverside route, plunging into that beautiful Wisconsin farm country a little farther along this time, at Alma, to make our way to Suncrest Gardens Farm. Again, the road winds, the gravel crunches, and the graying wood barn marking our destination makes its grand appearance.

Heidi and I belly up to the ordering side of the barn, capped off by the massive igloo-shape wood-fired pizza oven. After examining today's offerings, topped in ingredients mostly grown here, we order and take a number. Pizzas come in to-go boxes, which folks can open anywhere on the farm's manicured lawn. We flop down on a blanket, clearly lowbrow compared to nearby setups involving tables, candles and stemware.

Suncrest is a working farm, which makes waiting part of the experience. Teens snap photos of llamas, while couples feed crusts to chickens. Woodsmoke, bluegrass music and a rooster crow ratchet up the ambience. "Sure beats sitting in a smoky air-conditioned room," a patron says.

Suncrest Gardens Farm

Savoring the day

The farmer wielding the pizza paddle is Heather Secrist, who grew up near here. She left the Midwest, only to return by way of these 16 acres. Greener pastures I can't imagine. She began selling vegetables to locals in 2003, adding wood-fired pizza night a few years later to counteract the unpredictability of farming.

A bell clangs, and our number appears above the pick-up window. Within minutes, we dig into pie topped in squash, carrots, onion, basil; another in artichokes, kalamata olives and feta; both heaped with cheese.

As I close the box on the leftovers and pack up, I'm savoring the pizza almost as much as the blend of country drive, relaxing location and tasty local food. It shouldn’t be hard finding a partner for Pizza Farm Adventure: Part III.

Suncrest Gardens Farm is open Thursdays in May, Thursdays and Fridays June through August, and Fridays in September. Pizza from $18. (608) 626-2122; suncrestgardensfarm.com

Click to the next slide for links to pizza recipes from Stone Barn and Suncrest Gardens Farm.

(A version of this story appeared in Midwest Living® May/June 2011.)

Suncrest Gardens Farm

The Stone Barn's Alaskan pizza

Lox-style smoked salmon, capers, sweet onion and dill top a cream-cheese base. Bagels and lox inspired Pam Taylor to create this pizza. "Leftovers are good served cold for breakfast," she says.

The Stone Barn's The Alaskan

Suncrest Gardens Farm Garden Delight

Sun-ripened heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, carrots and summer squash top Garden Delight pizza from Suncrest Gardens Farm in Cochrane, Wisconsin. Try on Whole Wheat Pizza Dough or the crust of your choice.

Suncrest Gardens Farm Garden Delight

Whole Wheat Pizza Dough

The Stone Barn's The Modena

Topping The Stone Barn's Modena pizza: Marinated chicken, sweet onion, mushrooms, snap peas and feta on an oiled crust. "The flavors, accented by feta and balsamic vinegar, blend for a creamy, tangy taste," says The Stone Barn owner Pam Taylor. "The vegetables add a crisp, element."

The Stone Barn's The Modena

The Stone Barn's Pizza Dough

Suncrest Gardens Farm's Pesto Pizza

Suncrest owner Heather Secrist uses kale in her pesto for this tomatoey creation. "Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays for use throughout the year," she says. "Once frozen, place the cubes in a freezer bag to pull out as you need them."

Suncrest Gardens Farm's Pesto Pizza

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