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The Farm to Pizza Box Business

March 11, 2015

The farm to table ethos isn’t entirely bullshit, it’s just that there are a lot of participants in this space whose actions don’t quite achieve their ambitions.

Farmers will tell you off the record that menus that carry their name no longer buy their product. Sure, the farmers were selling pasture-raised chickens when the menu was written, but the restaurant changed suppliers and just kept on using the same menu. These are clearly the worst offenders.

Regrettably, nobody is willing to go on the record and call out chefs and restaurant owners in what is still a small community that still does business based on relationships. It’s frustrating for all involved.

Gordon Sacks is now a farmer. But he doesn’t come from a farming background, he comes from the business world. And while many farmers operate their farms like a business, until meeting Gordon, I had yet to speak with one who is so actively driving the business forward. This approach is pushing the operation into smart and interesting directions. The most interesting may be reimagining pizza delivery as a way to get people to eat his veggies.

If 9 Miles East Farm pizza is off your radar, don’t be alarmed. Currently, they only make 24 pies a day. I just happened to stumble onto their existence when Mamatoga wrote about the pizza back in December.

I was intrigued so I started looking into them a bit further. On their website is a section called 9 Reasons You Might Not Like Our Pizza. After that I was in love. They only make three different pies, a cheese, a sausage, and a seasonal. They use their own tomatoes, sausage from West Wind Acres, NY State organic flour, and locally made mozzarella. Plus the pizza dough goes through a three day slow fermentation process.

Who are these crazy people, and why are they being so awesome?

So, I reached out to the farm in the hopes that I might schedule a visit, which was pushed off until spring. That was until my bean buddy and Chefs Consortium colleague Ellie Markovitch asked if I knew anyone that was making sourdough pizza.

After connecting Gordon and Ellie, I invited myself along to their meeting in an attempt to figure out what’s going on at the farm.

Gordon has been on this land now for ten years, but he started small. The first two years were dedicated to getting the soil into better shape for growing vegetables. From the beginning he was focused on farm based meal delivery. His goal is to “make it easy to eat healthy food.” He started small, and growth was measured.

Renting space in Washington County Catering’s kitchen, he began by preparing farm-based meals for five families in year one. The subsequent year, he doubled that. Then doubled it again.

A little over a year ago, he committed to building his own commercial kitchen on the farm and now the bulk of his business are a product called Go Boxes. Think of them as a hearty salad. Go Boxes come in many flavors, but all consist of organic greens, brown rice, some kind of bean (or tofu), a local seasonal vegetables (either from his farm or one of his neighbors), and a lacto-fermented bite to end your meal.

9 Miles East Farm brings these Go Boxes and other prepared foods like soups and chili to local businesses for lunch. And at these locations, much like the earlier deliveries of prepared meals, people can also get a five pound bag of vegetables from the farm.

Convenience is the driving mantra here. And that’s where pizza comes in to the picture.

Pizza is the ultimate convenience food. So the farm kitchen is equipped with a Garland three-deck stone floor oven. And Gordon has developed a three day pizza dough that is healthful, delicious, and designed to stand up to the rigors of delivery.

Hopefully, Ellie will write a post detailing what she learned about the 100% spelt starter that’s fed every 12 hours, the pre-ferment that the starter feeds, and the dough which matures for another full day. It took Gordon and his crew three months to get the recipe right, and he bought an amazing Italian fork mixer to help knead the dough without heating it (like a traditional Hobart would do).

Every part of this pizza is intended to bring flavor.

This sourdough crust does the job. The dough is so wet that instead of being stretched, it’s rolled out. But the resulting crust is thin, and crisp, with a tender crumb and assertive flavor.
The crust is also spritzed with olive oil before being topped with tomato sauce to help prevent it from getting soggy.

Tomatoes for the sauce come from 9 Miles East, Slack Hollow and Denison Farm. The sauce itself has a little kick and is cooked down to extract much of the water. This drier sauce, beyond bringing a more concentrated flavor, also helps keep the crust intact.

Cheese gets well browned in the oven, and bubbles are allowed to form. Some that look like they might take over the whole pie get pierced with a fork. And the whole thing gets a shower of fresh chopped parsley when it comes out of the oven.

I have to say, it’s delicious fresh out of the oven.

But Gordon has spent additional time and money to make sure the pizza is delivered hot and in good condition. He uses corrugated mats inside the pizza boxes so that the bottom crust stays crisp. Plus, instead of settling for just insulated pizza delivery bags, the ones owned by 9 Miles East Farm are actually heated.

The killer part is that for now, this pizza is delivery and farm pick-up only. And that there are only 24 pizzas made each day. However, because you order them online via their app, you can place an order well in advance. In fact, that’s exactly how you should do this to make sure you get one of these pies.

It’s a great system. And I expect as demand grows, production will increase too.

Of course, with your pizza, you can also get those farm-made Go Boxes and five pound bags of produce. What you cannot get are chicken wings or two liter bottles of soda. I just wish I lived within the delivery radius of the farm so I could try how good this pizza was after transit. But I’m glad that pick up is an option.

Maybe one day when the weather gets nicer, I’ll load up the family for a pizza excursion. We can order a pizza for pick up and have a pizza picnic in the back of the car. Maybe as a way to grow the business, Gordon can be convinced to put out some picnic tables. I’ll keep my fingers crossed he likes that idea.

10 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2015 10:29 am

    A heads up that the delivery area is roughly the greater Saratoga Springs area, extending east to Greenwich. The farm’s close to Saratoga Apple so if you’re out of the delivery area it might be a good idea to plan to pick it up at the farm and plan a day with other local food attractions.

  2. March 11, 2015 10:35 am

    I’m sold on this pizza!

  3. March 11, 2015 10:44 am

    This whole idea makes me uncomfortable. It is making the process of “farm to table” too precious. Wrapping “farm to table” in with packaged meals to sell to well heeled Saratogians is cute and all, but it’s a step in the wrong direction in my humble opinion.

    I am much more interested in local/responsible farmers figuring out a way to get their produce into my hands that doesn’t involve a packaged meal, a farm share, or me having to enter a boogie market with the burlap sacks and the bulk quinoa. I am prepared to pay a premium.

    I don’t know what the solution is. Maybe farmers markets that drop the hip cache and knickknacks… Probably the answer is small local vendors that have communities committed to patronizing them. If the Delmar market had a larger, better, and more varied selection of quality local produce I would give them wads of cash.

    Long story short, that pizza you describe seems a humongous waste of time and effort.

    • March 11, 2015 10:46 am

      Boogie? Really auto-correct? “Bougie” isn’t in the database?

      • DEN permalink
        March 11, 2015 1:49 pm

        I actually think your autocorrect deserves some credit for refusing to recognize a silly, mangled contraction of bourgeoisie.

  4. March 11, 2015 12:14 pm

    Despite Mr. Dave’s skepticism, I want to try this pizza. If only for the fact that it’s different. The sameness of most of the pizza places in the area is maddening.

  5. March 11, 2015 12:41 pm

    This is a very good answer to my question yesterday. And you even got the brand of oven for me. Thanks.

  6. DEN permalink
    March 11, 2015 1:50 pm

    We need more pizza places with this focus on quality. Thanks for highlighting, Daniel.

  7. Jean permalink
    March 12, 2015 10:42 am

    Pizza is excellent and looking forward to ordering again. I live in Schuylerville, ordered online prior to leaving work one afternoon – very easy app, scheduled for 6 pm delivery and right on time with Pizza hot and ready to eat. Great new business for our area.

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