What comes to mind when you hear the phrase “pizza farm”? Do you picture big pizza pies rising from a field, already topped with mozzarella and pepperoni? OK—a pizza farm isn’t quite so literal. We’re talking about a new trend in farm-to-table agriculture: Farms and gardens that grow their own ingredients and invite visitors for fresh pies—usually from a wood-fired oven—and an evening on the farm.
In June, Long Lake’s Two Pony Gardens will open its pastures and patio for another year of “pizza nights”—and the team is excited about what the summer holds. “When you get to the farm, you instantly feel all of the stress [leave] your shoulders,” says Anna Jaffray, one of Two Pony’s “tomato ladies.” “You get this wonderful opportunity to be on this huge expanse of land. You can talk to the people who are growing the food.”
Two Pony Gardens is known for two major crops: big, beautiful dahlias and—of course—tomatoes. Several years ago, when farm founder Lisa Ringer had a wood-fired oven built near the horse paddock, it seemed like a natural fit to invite friends to sample summertime pizza under the stars. “It just started as a fun thing for friends to do,” says Jaffray. “Then more and more people came, and [pizza nights] got bigger and bigger.”
Pizza nights have been open to the public for a couple of years, and will be held on three nights only this summer. Jaffray says you’ll want to RSVP soon as reservations fill up weeks in advance. “It’s been hugely successful, which is awesome, “ she adds. “Things are always evolving.” Two Pony Gardens also hosts small weddings and parties for 75–100 guests.
So what happens, exactly, on a pizza night? Bring a few friends, a cozy picnic blanket, a bottle of wine and a pair of comfy shoes for forest hikes or horse-drawn carriage rides. You’ll get a ticket for your pizza and you can watch the pie-masters as they assemble your dish and bake it in the outdoor oven. “There are always a few different kinds of pizzas to choose from,” says Jaffray. “We always do a Margherita pizza with fresh basil and tomato.” The second pizza option varies from based on what’s in season. “My favorite last year was a mushroom and sage-butter pizza,” says Jaffray. “It was phenomenal.”
Last summer, pizza nights saw at least 100 or 200 guests each Saturday, says Jaffray. And the ambience is important: Visitors can spread their picnic blankets near the horse paddock, hike through the woods or the dahlia gardens, listen to live music and enjoy the sunset under the glow of twinkle lights. Siri Knutson, one of the events’ co-organizers, who is also a designer, says setting the mood helps connect people to the farm. “I think it’s a magical feeling.”
Of course, the ultimate goal of pizza nights is to bring neighbors together for a delicious picnic. But, says Jaffray, she and her colleagues also think about their role in the local-food movement. “People are hearing more about pizza farms, so they’re looking for a place to go,” she explains. “People are more interested in eating food from places they know. … They know the food has been grown in a healthy way for them and for the Earth, too. We love showing kids what it’s all about, and showing city folks what it’s all about: being part of the community and welcoming people onto the land.”
Two Pony Gardens: 1700 Deer Hill Road, Long Lake; 763.473.0783. Check the website for dates and times.