Near Orient, Pizza on the Prairie is a fun Friday night event featuring pizzas, side dishes, desserts and drinks in a rural al fresco setting.
By Karla Walsh
With a mission to promote local food and sustainable agriculture, the Wallace Centers are known for their elbow-rubbing farm to table dinners and cooking classes. All that changed in early 2020, as the coronavirus altered daily life in Iowa and beyond. But rather than hang things up until a vaccine was developed, Deb Houghtaling, president and CEO of the Wallace Centers of Iowa, decided to get creative.
In late June, the Wallace Centers launched the inaugural season of Pizza on the Prairie, an all-ages weekly Friday evening event hosted at their historic Orient property featuring pizzas, side dishes, desserts and even cocktails using produce grown on their own farm.
“Visitors can walk through our prairie, sit beside the historic farmhouse, look at the gardens and orchard, and enjoy a meal that features products grown literally feet away from where they’re eating,” Houghtaling says. “All social distancing procedures are followed and we require reservations to limit capacity.”
Whenever possible, anything not harvested on their property is sourced from other Iowa producers and farms such as Milton Creamery, Early Morning Harvest, Picket Fence Dairy, Mangalitsa Estates, Graziano’s and Harvest Barn Marketplace. Recipes are developed by the Wallace Centers staff chefs Hans Walsh and Katie Porter.
One attendee raved to Houghtaling, “This is what it means to live in Iowa and enjoy the summer outside.” Another said upon checking in, “I just got here and this is already my new favorite thing.”
Due to early successes and a safe, sustainable way to still create a communal experience centered on local food, the Wallace Centers plan to expand the season for 2021—possibly from May through October. As for this year, a few weeks still remain in the Pizza on the Prairie series. A $5 per person deposit secures your spot, which can be used toward your food and drink purchase. Visit here to check for upcoming availability each Friday now through Sept. 25.