Farm to launch pizza night
While a plain cheese pizza is great, and one with pepperoni or sausage is a hit with most crowds, why not give vegetables a try?
Putting some greens on a pizza is a great way to add healthy options to a food you love. A quick scroll down the Facebook page of Whitefeather Organics shows all kinds of great produce harvested this season throughout its 40 acres at 2239 Sky View Road in Custer about 12 miles east of Stevens Point. Mushrooms, peppers, garlic, onions, microgreens and more all can help make up a tasty pie.
But rather than grab a frozen pizza from the store or ingredients to make a pizza at your house, Tony Whitefeather wants you to join your family or friends, grab a seat at a table outdoors with a view of the farm, and wait for a piping hot pie to arrive.
That pizza will come from a new outdoor pizza oven built by Whitefeather and his staff that will make its debut at Harvest Fest, which will run from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and is open to the public. Along with pizza, attendees will be able to enjoy live music, take tours of the farm and check out the cider press.
Whitefeather Organics is part of a strong organic farming presence throughout Wisconsin. According to the recently released 2015 Organic Survey by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wisconsin his home to about 9 percent of the nation's organic farms. Overall, the state ranks second nationally for organic production, just behind California. Not only that, by offering pizza and tours Whitefeather is joining a movement by local farms to find new ways to be successful. Stoney Acres Farm in Athens, which offers regular pizza nights, has become one of the most well-known organic farms in Wisconsin. Owners Kat Becker and Tony Schultz sell vegetables, tap maple syrup and see hundreds of orders per night at their pizza events, which run from May through October.
Whitefeather said he plans to use the oven for at least one more event this fall, then will have a bigger schedule next year.
"Building a pizza oven was not necessarily something that we always had in mind," Tony Whitefeather said. "I think it does fit in the one thing that Laura (Tony's wife) and I always wanted and that is a way that the rural and urban communities can meet and find a connection."
The oven provides the possibility for yet another revenue stream for the farm, which started in 2006 and now has four employees. The farm has grown its CSA program — that is, community-supported agriculture program, which allows people to purchase shares and receive weekly deliveries of produce — from 12 households to around 200, sells at farmers markets in Stevens Point and Wausau and provides vegetables to a variety of local restaurants and stores. The farm also offers eggs along with turkeys, chickens and pigs during the year that are pasture raised with organic feed.
Whitefeather said planning for the project has gone on for some time. He's visited various businesses with similar ovens. Jason Wendt, who has worked for the farm for the last five years, was brought into the project, and in March traveled to northern Italy to visit pizzerias to get ideas on oven designs and pizzas.
The pizza oven at Whitefeather is a mix of a number of those examples. A wood fire will be built inside the domed oven, heating the floor to around 750 degrees and the dome to an even more blistering 900 degrees. In his designated role as "pizzaiolo," an Italian phrase meaning pizza maker, Whitefeather said each pie will take around 90 seconds to make.
Wendt said the sauce and dough recipes for the pizzas will be developed at the farm, with the latter having more of a crispy, cracker-like texture. The menu will change, but always have a focus on simple ingredients with a heavy reliance on what's available on the farm.
"What we've got is this seemingly authentic Italian pizza experience, but underlying that is the freshness and the local sourcing of vegetables, and how much more local does it get than 50 yards away from the place where the pizza is being baked?," Wendt said.
For more information on Whitefeather Organics, visit http://whitefeatherorganics.blogspot.com/ or find the farm on Facebook.