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Stoney Acres Farm near Athens in Marathon County is 'not geared to agritourism,' nor is it 'set up as a playground,' but it has become an overcrowded pizza parlor on many Friday evenings from May to Nov.1 in recent years.

'We're not there to entertain people,' farm partner Kat Becker told attendees at a workshop on agritourism co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Agricultural Tourism Association at a preconvention session of Wisconsin Farmers Union.

On a farm of 80 acres, 70 of which are rented out, Becker and partner Tony Schultz paid off a 30-year land contract in 14 years by concentrating on organic production which enables produce sales to the equivalent of 170 full-time Community Supported Agriculture customers for 20 weeks per year, schools, grocery stores, wholesale outlets and at farmers markets.

Becker said most of the customers are in Wausau, Medford and the Athens area. Many of them are members of families of the first generation living off a farm. 'Most of our sales are within 35 miles.'

For 2016, which will be the business's 10th year, Becker is estimating gross sales approaching $250,000, including $130,000 for the direct market and wholesale outlets and $90,000 to $100,000 for the CSA enterprise, which was the farm's first sales venture.

Pizza phenomenon

The pizza nights generated sales of about $11,000 the first year, but that number jumped to $40,000 and then $65,000 (a net profit of $36,000), Becker said. She noted that the gross was $5,000 on one of the nights in 2015. The first pizza night in 2016 will be May 6 (4:30 to 8 pm).

Except for the cheese, all of the ingredients of the pizzas are grown on the farm, Becker pointed out. This included 20 pastured hogs whose meat was used for the pizzas in 2015.

Becker confessed that the pizza night has almost become too popular. This has resulted in long backups as people wait to be served, she explained.

Friendly neighbors

The crowds and the resultant parking along the nearby roadways have not caused any problem with the neighbors. 'Our neighbors like us,' Becker said. She noted two taverns are also located nearby.

There is no township zoning to restrict activities, but a commercially-certified kitchen is in place and a license pertaining to hazards of handling small scale volumes of food is obtained, she said.

The rotational grazing of both beef cattle and hogs helps to improve the quality of the land, Becker said. Stoney Acres Farm also raises 120 organic chickens, grows fruits, herbs, and flowers and makes maple syrup.

Regarding business practices, 'we're conservative and want to avoid debt,' Becker remarked. Without intending to grow in size, she said saving for retirement and paying for children's college costs are goals.

One goal yet to be met is the ability to pay the farm's equivalent of 2.5 full-time employees $15 per hour, Becker disclosed. More information is available at www.stoneyacresfarm.net. The phone number is 715-432-4683.

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