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Saginaw couple looks to launch the Northland's first pizza farm

Fairhaven Farm's got the wood-fire oven. To build the rest, they're hosting a Kickstarter campaign

John and Emily Beaton smile as Emily holds a pizza peel with a fresh pie outside their wood-fire oven.
John and Emily Beaton smile as Emily holds a pizza peel with a fresh pie outside their wood-fire oven. The couple behind the Saginaw, Minnesota-based Fairhaven Farm are looking to become the first pizza farm in the Northland by launching a Kickstarter to raise $33,000, seed money for a commercial kitchen and a building to house it. They hope to start twice-weekly pizza nights in August.
Contributed / Julia Wisehart for Fairhaven Farm
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DULUTH — The Northland may be getting its first pizza farm.

Fairhaven Farmers John and Emily Beaton are looking to expand their Saginaw-based operation producing organic veggies, herbs, fruits and a community-supported agriculture program — to also offer on-the-farm wood-fired pizza nights.

The concept means pairing their produce with Minnesota-grown and -produced flour, local cheeses and meats for fresh pies to be enjoyed on the farm during limited hours on select days.

It’s a way to add value to their crops, create a gathering space and business for our local economy and for folks to make a direct connection to their food.

“People can literally walk through the field where the ingredients come from,” John Beaton said.

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The wood-fired bread oven at Fairhaven Farm on Aug. 2, 2021, in Saginaw. In the past 20 years, about 10 farms outside the Twin Cities and dozens across the state and the Wisconsin-Iowa border have built wood-fired ovens to launch pizza farms. The Beatons hope to add pizza farming to their operation.
Clint Austin / File / Duluth News Tribune

The Beatons already have the oven, so they’re launching a four-week Kickstarter campaign to build the rest.

They aim to raise $33,000 to construct a commercial kitchen, a building to house it, a gathering space and more for their pizza farm. They’re hosting a crowdfunding kickoff from 3-8 p.m. Friday at Bent Paddle Brewing Co., 1832 W Michigan St., in Duluth.

“It’s a big project, but we hope to start selling pizzas and doing pizza nights in August and September,” Beaton said.

In the past 20 years, about 10 farms outside the Twin Cities and dozens across the state and the Wisconsin-Iowa border have built wood-fired ovens and expanded into a sometimes-eatery — such as Pleasant Grove Pizza Farm in Waseca, Minnesota, and A to Z Produce and Bakery in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

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John Beaton of Fairhaven Farms sprinkles sage seeds onto a flat at his Saginaw farm March 22, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

Pizza farming is a continuation of the food cycle, said Todd Juzwiak, from seed to plant to vegetables to ingredients to a delicious and nutritious pizza.

Juzwiak operates Dreamacres Farm, an off-grid, organic pizza-and-more farmstead in Wykoff, Minnesota. He has been mentoring the Beatons on this next move, which could be quite a transition.

“It means expanding your skill set from a farmer to include cook, baker and restaurateur.

“It is a lofty goal for a couple of farmers outstanding in their field, but I'm sure Emily and John are up for the challenge and reward of creating a well-earned meal.

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“I'm looking forward to tasting the results,” Juzwiak added.

MORE ON LOCAL AG
She is the farmer without land, she lives in a tiny house and kale is 90 percent of her diet.

Pizza farming has spread to Indiana, Connecticut, Missouri and California. Pizza’s often the only menu item, but the toppings change with the farm’s yield.

Some farms also raise pigs for meat and cattle for cheese, but the Beatons plan to work with regional food producers.

And while the pandemic caused a decline in business for some pizza farms, more saw a boost due to its outdoor, socially distanced setup and its experiential allure, according to the New York Times.

“Many restaurants have needed to pivot during the pandemic to create an outdoor space. We are starting from that point, so we expect it to be successful. You’ve got 20 acres to walk around instead of a patio,” John Beaton said.

Drawing on existing models, pizza farms are not like restaurants in the hours of availability.

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John Beaton seeds flats while wife Emily moves a flat of seedlings at the couple’s Fairhaven Farm on March 22, 2021.
Steve Kuchera / File / Duluth News Tribune

Beaton anticipates Fairhaven will host from 4-8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with likely a preorder component.

Beaton envisions the commercial kitchen building will also act as a wash and pack area to process more fresh veg for their farm. He also wants to allocate space to a store in which to sell other local farmers’ products. “So, when you come to the pizza farm, you become aware of the entire regional farming community,” he said.

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The pizza farm will add a few jobs. The Beatons are anticipating hiring their first employee, a production manager and a farm apprentice. They envision pizza nights will be a mix of themselves, volunteers, employees and almost-seasonal kitchen workers.

“It is a marker of where our agricultural economy is,” said Beaton.

“The fact that now our community supports local food enough where it can support this idea shows that our farming economy is actually growing and expanding, and the number of food producers that we have is expanding.

“We really have a lot to share and a lot to show.”

If you go

Melinda Lavine is an award-winning, multidisciplinary journalist with 16 years professional experience. She joined the Duluth News Tribune in 2014, and today, she writes about the heartbeat of our community: the people.

Melinda grew up in central North Dakota, a first-generation American and the daughter of a military dad.

She earned bachelors degrees in English and Communications from the University of North Dakota in 2006, and started her career at the Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald that summer. She helped launch the Herald's features section, as the editor, before moving north to do the same at the DNT.

Contact her: 218-723-5346, mlavine@duluthnews.com.
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