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It made Daryl Kranich sad when he heard farmers were dumping milk so he decided Downtown Pizza in Thiensville was going do something to try and help. 

Kranich had worked with the Ozaukee County Farm Bureau board the past couple years, "the most humble, hard-working, dedicated, passionate and driven men and women," he said in a Facebook post. "They call themselves farmers, I now can call them friends!" 

"Their struggle is real and it started long before COVID-19," Kranich said on Facebook. "I was confused and then heartbroken as I watched farmers dumping milk. I asked myself... WHAT CAN I DO?"

He says it's important to support farmers during this difficult time. Kranich buys cheese from Cedar Valley Cheese in Belgium and Hennings Cheese in Kiel. On Facebook he told customers he bought the cheese and asked them to buy the pizza to support Wisconsin dairy together. 

Kranich added a new menu item, the Dairyland Pizza, made "with fresh herb tomato sauce, Cedar Valley mozzarella, fresh homemade sausage, and topped with tons of squeaky cheese curds from Henning’s." For every Dairyland Pizza sold, Kranich said he would donate $4 to Ag in the Classroom. 

"Downtown Pizza can’t operate without farmers," Kranich said in an email to the Wisconsin State Farmer. "If you think about it, pizza is made by farmers from the ground up. Yes, from the ground, literally: the flour for the dough, the tomatoes, fresh herbs – basil, oregano and garlic in the sauce. The Cedar Valley Mozzarella Cheese that we cover our pizzas with as well as all the amazing toppings are all available to me because of the dedicated hard-working farmers we have."

As the restaurant industry also struggles during the COVID-19 pandemic, Kranich said Downtown Pizza will survive.

"We all understand what’s at risk. We know the quality of our product and our generous loyal customers who have been supporting our family’s restaurants for decades," explained Kranich. "We think of our customers as family. This is their restaurant as much as it is ours. Birthdays, date night, anniversaries, celebrating your kids' sporting event. We are just the extension of your home when you're running behind on time or need a little extra space."

While customers miss the unique inside dining experience at Downtown Pizza, they have been understanding and supportive, Kranich said. Like many restaurants, Downtown Pizza offers curbside pickup and delivery and encourages ordering from the website at http://www.dtpizza.net/.

Area farmers are thankful for Kranich's efforts. 

"When we released that we were getting our mozzarella from Cedar Valley they would tell me you're supporting my family's farm, that’s where our milk goes," said Kranich. "It was such a warm feeling. We all need to support each other starting with your local community. We will get through this and get stronger."

What better way to support local restaurants and Wisconsin farmers than with a pizza loaded with Wisconsin cheese? Kranich said fresh cheese curds from Hennings Cheese on a pizza "is amazing."

The Dairyland Pizza starts off with Downtown Pizza's fresh fresh herb tomato sauce, Cedar Valley mozzarella cheese and homemade sausage.

"We encourage people to add any toppings they want from there but it’s the cheese curds that add that unique element," Kranich told the Wisconsin State Farmer. "I’m not sure if it’s a secret but have you ever put cheese curds in the microwave for 15 seconds? Then you know what I’m talking about — the stretch and texture is mind blowing — now add that to a pizza. Oh yeah baby!"

Kranich is dreaming "of a different tomorrow where we buy local and made in the USA. I live in the Dairyland, in the heart of the country. I am a proud Midwesterner where we have the best dairy, beer, and football," he said on Facebook. "My family and I, along with my restaurant “Downtown Pizza” will be fully supporting Wisconsin farming during these hard times. I ask everyone to support Wisconsin farming as well! Raise them up! Not just now, let this time teach us we need to forever support our Wisconsin farmers!" 

Downtown Pizza serves the Thiensville, Mequon, Cedarburg and Grafton area.

Carol Spaeth-Bauer at 262-875-9490 or carol.spaeth-bauer@jrn.com. Follow her on Twitter at cspaethbauer or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/carol.spaethbauer.

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