Luther College Chips

Luna Valley Farm serves up fresh, Friday night pizza

Luna+Valley+Farm+hosts+its+weekly+pizza+night+during+a+beautiful+sunset.
Luna Valley Farm hosts its weekly pizza night during a beautiful sunset.

Luna Valley Farm hosts its weekly pizza night during a beautiful sunset.

Photo courtesy of Luna Valley Farm

Photo courtesy of Luna Valley Farm

Luna Valley Farm hosts its weekly pizza night during a beautiful sunset.

Elizabeth Hand, Staff Writer

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This fall, Decorah has welcomed a charming new farm-to-table pizzeria at Luna Valley Farm. This new adventure for owners Tom Beard and Assistant Director of the Center for Sustainable Communities Maren Beard (‘08) has transformed their family farm into a gathering place for the Decorah community and beyond. Their pleased customer base shows how Luna Valley Farm is creating far more than pizza.

Luna Valley Farm hosted pizza nights every Friday since Sept. 8 of this year. Through the end of October, the Beards will continue to grow the sense of community as people gather in their restaurant under the stars to enjoy wood-fired pizzas. To Maren Beard, spending time with loved ones in a beautiful space with something beautiful to eat is important.

“Our vision really was to bring people together over good food,” Beard said. “[We wanted] to create a place where people can come, relax at the end of a long week, disconnect from technology, and reconnect with each other and with the beautiful landscape that we have in this part of the state.”

Although the concept of a ‘pizza farm’ is new to this area, the Beards explained that they have existed for over 20 years in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The relaxing atmosphere and great sense of community they experienced at other Midwestern pizza farms inspired them to bring the experience to Decorah.

“It’s kind of like inviting people out to our home,” Maren Beard said. “Being invited to a farm is different than going to a restaurant. It is more casual, there are more chance encounters, and [there is] more [of a] community feel. It is always good to get out in the country and breath some fresh air and take it all in.”

Both Tom and Maren consider themselves to be ‘creative eaters’ and like to try new food combinations. Still, they wanted to have pizzas that are appealing to everybody, including children. The standard offerings are classic Margherita, Iowa Margherita, which is Margherita with local sausage, and Pepper(on)cini, which is a pepperoni pizza with pepperoncinis on top for added spice. In addition to those three, there are specialty pizzas offered that change every few weeks.

Elizabeth Hand (‘21) | Chips
Luther students enjoy pizza on a rainy Friday night at Luna Valley Farm.

“We both love to cook; love having people over; love growing a garden; and like connecting people with agriculture, with each other, and creating community,” Beard said. “Each crust is hand stretched and lovingly topped.”

Maren Beard has worked in the sustainability department at Luther for nine years and is very passionate about the work involved in creating sustainable communities. Maren Beard’s masters in sustainable food systems combined with her husband’s experience in agriculture complement each other.

Lamb, rosemary, and tomato are a few of the many pizza ingredients that are sourced straight from their organic farm. They also enjoy supporting local producers for honey, pears, and pork. Additionally, they feature a variety of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages from places including Toppling and Goliath Brewery and Wisco Pop.

The Beards consider themselves blessed that the community welcomed their endeavor with open arms. According to Maren Beard, this first season has been successful for Luna Valley Farm because of the family and colleagues who have helped them as well as the customers that came to enjoy artisanal pizza.

“We have the best customers in the world,” Maren Beard said. “People aren’t coming out expecting fast food, they are expecting to have an experience.”

The rainy evening of Oct. 6 had no effect on the spirits of their patrons. Sheltered in their rustic barn, the string lights and mason jar bouquets made it an unforgettable first experience for Jessica Skjonsby (‘17) and Claire Lutter (‘18).

“I love the atmosphere here,” Skjonsby said. “It is very relaxing and rustic. It is open to free-flowing conversation. They are building partnerships with farmers and it is a great addition and something new to Decorah. I’d love to come back to see how they grow and progress.”

Skjonsby, who isn’t typically a fan of pizza, shared her praises of its flavor as well as it being a sustainable and relatively healthy food. Both Skjonsby and Lutter have experience with being RA’s and emphasized how important it is for students to get off campus. They hope that more Luther students take advantage of pizza nights in the future.

“It adds another gem to the treasure chest that is Decorah,” said Lutter. “It is another great addition of something special that everyone in the community can continue to utilize. It’s really exciting to see it be so successful.”

People have come from as far as Des Moines and Minneapolis to enjoy pizza nights at the farm. The Beards have loved watching people from all over Decorah, Winneshiek County, and the Midwest enjoy their time over fresh pizza.

In 2018, Luna Valley Farm plans to be open from May through October. The extended season will open up a whole range of possibilities for pizza toppings and new flavors. The last pizza night of 2017 is Oct. 27.

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