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Pizza Farm: Food Designed for Social Change

Rural Intelligence FoodOn Saturday, August 29, at 4 p.m., the first ever Pizza Farm will open for business in Canaan, CT, under the pavillion in Lawrence Field at Routes 7 & 44. It will close two hours later after giving away 300 individual six-inch grilled pizzas made with local farm-fresh ingredients to anyone who shows up. It’s a high-concept design project that’s a collaboration between Project M—which brings together designers, artists and photographers to challenge the conventions of design to make socially-conscious contributions to rural communities—and Winterhouse, the internationally renowned design studio run by Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel from Falls Village, CT.

Rural Intelligence Food
“Food Justice Revival” at Maxon Mills in Wassaic

One of our favorite bakeries, Wild Hive in Clinton Corners, is co-sponsoring this conference with the Food Security Roundtable on August 28 & 29 at Maxon MIlls in Wassaic, which is one of our favorite alternative spaces There will be music, food, locally-crafted beer and wines, and discussions about food security projects in the Hudson Valley and the Northeast. The goal is to raise awareness and money for urban and rural farmers and food justice organizers to go to the Growing Food and Justice for All conference this fall.

This is the first time Winterhouse has been directly involved with Project M, which was founed by John Bielenberg in Belfast, Maine. Helfand and Drentell screened more than 50 applicants  before choosing nine men and women who work in some facet of the design world to spend two weeks together as if they were contestants on a reality TV show where collaboration rather than competition is the goal.  The Project M at Winterhouse participants (eight twentysomethings and one thirtysomething) have been sleeping on Ikea cots, cooking their own meals, and staying up half the night on their Macs to conceive and execute their project.

During their first week in Falls Village, they took fact-finding missions to neighboring towns to identify social problems they could execute a design solution for during the second week. They determined that even though the region abounds in farms producing healthy fresh food, most local residents choose to buy groceries at the Stop & Shop rather than farmers’ markets. They decided to design a project that would encourage people to eat local meats and vegetables—and pizza could be the gateway drug. “There is something very democratic about pizza,” says Adam Okrasinski,  an art director at Momentum. In true locavore fashion, they are buying their pizza crusts from Berkshire Mountain Bakery in Housatonic, MA, (which also supplies Baba Louie’s.)

The Project M team not only wants to make good food more accessible, they want farmers to be recognized and appreciated. Thus, the Pizza Farm will be an interactive epicurean experience, where diners will choose the toppings for their free pizzas from the farmers who grew the ingredients. “One of our goals is to bring people together who don’t know each other,” says Orkrasinski, citing Pie Lab, a Project M venture in Greensboro, Alabama, which serves free coffee and pie to create a community hub. “Pizza is a bridge, a food that fosters good will,” says Project M at Winterhouse team member J. Vernal Dilworth.

Because this is a design-based project, the jaunty logo (in a font called “Sign Painter Casual”) needed to look good on posters and the orange T-shirts that the team will wear on Saturday afternoon when they prepare and serve the pizzas. “I told them they had to buy the T-shirts at Saperstein’s in Millerton,” says Jessica Helfand. “Everything about this project must be local.”

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Posted by Dan Shaw on 08/27/09 at 03:39 AM • Permalink