Since we bought our farm three years ago we have been growing organic crops, grazing sheep and cattle on pasture, powering our farm and home with the sun, and growing deep roots in our community. We’ve also been discovering that we love bringing people together over good food, especially when we can share ingredients we’ve grown here on Luna Valley Farm…
…Because of that passion, we now want to transform our farm into a rural pizzeria! We plan to create some of the tastiest pizzas around in a wood-fired pizza oven here on the farm, using ingredients that we’ve lovingly grown in our beautiful valley. Pizza nights at Luna Valley Farm will offer delicious, homegrown food in a tucked-away setting. Guests can wander the field roads and pastures to explore the farm and connect with the origins of their dinner. We plan to be open from May - October starting in 2018, and kick off this year with a short season beginning on September 1, 2017. But we need your help to make it happen!
Never been to a pizza farm? Let us paint you a picture. After experiencing one for the first time, you begin to plan your weeks around being able to leave work early on a Friday just so you can hop in the car and hit the gravel roads that will take you to the place you have been waiting all week to visit. You arrive, park in a pasture and join the others, some of whom are other weekly regulars and others who are coming for the first time. Together, you make the journey along the edge of the field to the barn where you find a chalkboard containing the pizzas of the week. You stand there wondering how you are ever going to choose but finally you decide on the pizza with farm-raised bacon, apples, onion and cheddar. You know it is going to be delicious. While you wait for your pizza (which in the summer may take over an hour) you stake your claim by spreading out a blanket on the grass. Beer in hand, you experience the beauty of the valley, reconnect with old friends and greet the farm animals as you walk around the field roads and pastures. You wander back to the barn where you watch pizzas cooking in the wood fired oven and realize one of them is yours! In a matter of minutes your pizza is ready. You take it over to your picnic blanket which just happens to be next to a few friends. You can't wait to crack open the box. You take your first bite and think to yourself, "now that's how food is supposed to taste." You keep eating your pizza and, for a moment, forget about all the problems of the world. Life is good. You linger for awhile, catching up with friends and listening to the sounds of the live band. Then you hop back in your car and head back to town, already longing for next Friday.
Tom is an organic farmer with deep roots in this community, a passion for grazing ruminant livestock and a love of trying new recipes. Tom has been farming his entire life and has a degree in agriculture. Maren is a sustainability professional with a degree in food systems, love of growing vegetables and passion for bringing people together. Maren has ten years of food service experience and marketing expertise and is an Assistant Director in the Luther College Center for Sustainable Communities. We value hospitality and look forward to welcoming friends, family and neighbors to our farm for inspired wood fired pizza, craft brew and a chance to be reinvigorated at the end of a long week.
Location and Facilities
Luna Valley Farm is located in Pleasant Township, 8 miles north of Decorah, Iowa. We are at the bottom of a long gravel hill and our farm borders the beautiful Canoe Creek for 1/4 mile. Our tucked-away location, relatively close to town, is something that we think adds to the appeal and charm of our business. Customers are invited to make their dining experience as casual or formal as they like, with anything from blankets and lawn chairs to white tablecloths and candles.
What We Will Offer
- A Unique Destination: We will create a warm, welcoming, tucked-away place where friends, families and neighbors can gather together over delicious food and craft beer. You will come out after a long week and leave feeling invigorated by lively conversation, a memorable dining experience and the beauty of a Driftless valley.
- Artisan Pizza Made with Farm Fresh Ingredients: Ingredients served on the pizza will be grown on the farm. You will have the opportunity to wander the field roads and pastures to see how your food was grown. It doesn't get much more local than this!
- Gathering Space: We will be open from May through October. There will be a limited number of picnic tables and you can bring blankets and chairs to set up anywhere you'd like. You can lounge by the creekside, on a hillside, next to the garden or in view of the sheep. Whether looking to come for community or some time alone, you will find what you need at our place. We will also open up our farm for a limited number of private gatherings, making for memorable graduation parties, Luther Homecoming events, NordicFest family reunions, birthday parties, anniversaries and wedding rehearsals.
- Family-Friendly Atmosphere: You can bring you own side dishes and desserts which should cut down on total cost of your dining experience, thus making our farm an affordable destination for families looking for a meal out. Kids can run around and spill on the ground without it being a big deal. We will create a fun, inviting, casual environment that is welcoming to everyone.
Our $75,000 start-up budget includes our Valoriani wood fired oven, commercial kitchen, plumbing, electrical, kitchen equipment, cooking supplies, licensing, insurance, coolers and picnic tables. We are doing as much of the work ourselves and buying as much used equipment as possible to keep start-up costs manageable. In our dream world we would also fully restore our barn for added event space and indoor seating, construct restrooms (we plan to use port-a-potties the first few seasons) and construct a high tunnel to extend the season for our vegetable production. These things would cost an additional $70,000 above our projected start-up budget and are things we plan to do in future years.
- Construction of commercial kitchen and structure for pizza oven ($20,000) - We will renovate the milking parlor portion of our old barn into a commercial kitchen and will construct a open pole structure to contain our wood fired oven.
- Wood-Fired Pizza Oven, Installed ($11,000) - We will buy a Valoriani Masonry Kit through Mugnaini Imports in California. The 180x140 model will accommodate the 16" pizzas that we plan to serve on our farm and also allows room for sheet pans full of vegetables. This price includes the materials we need to build the base and build the oven. This will be purchased and built in Spring 2017
- Kitchen Equipment ($15,000) - This includes coolers, freezers, pizza prep stations, stand mixer, oven/stove, countertops,
- Small kitchen equipment ($7,500) - Cutlery, cutting boards, pots, pans, stainless steel sinks and countertops.
- Utilities ($4500) - Installation of plumbing, electricity and heat for the commercial kitchen.
- Picnic Tables - ($1500) - We are going to purchase the lumber and make them ourselves to save money.
- Signage ($500) - We are hiring a local sign painter to make signs for us - one for out by the road and another for the barn.
- Other Expenses ($15,000) - Fixtures, book-keeping software, sound system, menu development, POS system, website, marketing/advertising, food establishment license, liquor license, insurance, cutlery, port-a-potties, utilities, staff training, inventory.
Sources of Funding
We have a diversified plan for funding the start-up of our wood fired pizza nights.
- Winneshiek County Economic Development Biz Booster Challenge Award ($4,000) - We submitted our business plan to the local biz booster challenge and are totally honored to have been awarded $4,000 towards our project! Thank you Biz Booster Challenge Committee!
- Bank Loan (up to $40,000) - We have an awesome local bank and have secured a loan to help start up our business. Surpassing our Kickstarter goal means we can either take out a smaller loan or that we would have more capital to invest in things like restoring the barn, building bathrooms and constructing a high tunnel.
- Quiet Fundraising Period: ($18,500) - Prior to our Kickstarter campaign we ran a "quiet phase" of fundraising through which our close family and friends joined us in getting this project off the ground through generous contributions totaling $18,500. (Thank you family and friends, we could not be doing this without you!)
- YOU!!! ($15,000) - We are asking you to join us in getting this community-based business off the ground! We love farming, growing good food, cooking delicious meals, hosting friends and family and are excited to open up our farm to you on Friday nights!
- Practical Farmers of Iowa Savings Incentive Program ($4800 - Available December 2018) Maren was accepted into this program in December 2016 and has committed to saving $100/month for 24 months, which will be matched at the end of two years (December 2018). This program not only provides a financial match but also significant support and mentorship.
If we surpass our $15,000 Kickstarter goal will be applied towards these projects:
- Permanent Restrooms ($7,000) - We are planning to install restrooms by the start of the 2019 season but would LOVE to be able to do this sooner.
- High Tunnel ($12,000) - We plan to install a 30x72 moveable high tunnel on our farm by 2019. Additional funds, when coupled with grants through the NRCS would enable us to do this sooner. A high tunnel = more delicious farm fresh ingredients!
- Full Barn Restoration ($40,000) - We have dreams of fixing up our entire barn which will take a lot of work - stone foundation, carpentry, lots of paint. We think our customers would love access to our barn for covered heating in case of inclement weather, special events, movie nights and more.
Over the past few months we have been fortunate to meet with financial advisors, marketing experts, small business development consultants, contractors, food system specialists, chefs and the owners of other pizza farms. We rely heavily on the expertise available to us and feel confident in our plans because they have been developed in community with others.
We are the only such entity within 1.5 hours of Decorah that will be offering on-farm wood fired pizza on Friday nights. We consider other regional pizza farms, such as A to Z Produce and Bakery, Suncrest Gardens and Dream Acres to be cooperators rather than competitors as we all work together to build up agricultural tourism throughout the region. If you have never visited these places, we highly encourage it! Make 2017 your summer for touring regional pizza farms.
Thank you for joining us in bringing wood fired pizza to Luna Valley Farm!
Maren and Tom
Risks and challenges
We have a unique offering since no other farms within 1.5 hours of Decorah are serving wood-fired pizza on Friday nights. However, it's no secret that there are plenty of pizza restaurants in the area which include local favorites like Mabes, fast food chains like Pizza Ranch and Pizza Hut and the only other wood-fired pizza place in town, McCaffreys. We differentiate ourselves by offering an unforgettable dining experience with the freshest ingredients imaginable where the farm is the table.
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