Project M: Pizza Farm

Goodlifer: Project M: Pizza Farm

Pick a significant cause, then conceive and create a single design project that will be of lasting value in a rural community. That was the brief given to the group of nine young designers who attended Project M at Winterhouse, an intensive summer program designed to inspire young graphic designers, writers, photographers and other creative people, and prove that their work can have a positive and significant impact on the world.

The first week was all about doing research about the surroundings, and what the designers found was that even though the area is filled with family farms, most people still buy all their food at Supermarkets. How could they help connect the community with the local farmers and make them rediscover the virtues of fresh local produce? The solution they arrived at was pizza.


The culmination of the project, Pizza Farm, was an event held on Saturday, August 29, in Canaan, CT. An ad was placed in the local paper, inviting residents to come enjoy pizzas made from local ingredients they could handpick themselves. All the ingredients, from the flour for the crust to the vegetables and meats were donated by local farmers. The event, and pizza, was free for anyone who showed up. Tables were set up for the farmers, with the idea of facilitating conversation between the farmers and the hungry residents (their potential customers) roaming the tents, similar to those of a farmers market, crafting their pizzas from a selection of kale, homemade sausage, basil, mozzarella, squash, corn, broccoli, beets, chard, garlic and peaches. During the event’s two hours, three hundred pizzas were served.

During the Pizza Farm event, 300 pies, stacked with local produce, were served.

During the Pizza Farm event, 300 pies, stacked with local produce, were served.

Peaches on the grill.

Peaches on the grill.

Peaches on the pizza.

Peaches on the pizza.

Everything about the project had to be local, from the food to the promotional materials (the orange T-shirts were acquired at local store Saperstein’s). The event was put together in less than two weeks, under the guidance of visiting critics that included our own Marc Alt, Michael Bierut of design firm Pentagram, Allan Chochinov of design blog Core77, Julie Lasky, editor of Design Observer’s new Change Observer, Alice Twemlow, chair of the Design Criticism MFA program at the School of Visual Arts, and designer Michael Vanderbyl.

Everything for the project, including the T-shirts was sourced locally.

Everything for the project, including the T-shirts was sourced locally.

Project M was started by designer John Bielenberg in 2000, after he attended a talk by the architect Samuel Mockbee, co-founder of The Rural Studio for architecture in Alabama. With a simple mission — “We just want to change the world.” — Project M moves around the country, with a changing roster of designers selected for each project. This summer, it was hosted by Winterhouse in Falls Village, CT, an internationally renowned design studio run by Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel, who also, along with fellow designer Michael Bierut, started the mother of all design blogs, Design Observer.


Says Drenttel: “Food is the new revolution. It cuts across economic lines, supports individual health and the environment, and is centered around ideas of community. It’s the local economy at its best, at its most sustainable.” We could not agree more. So, shop locally, support your local farmers, artisans and businesses, and, if you happen to be a designer, use your talents to create some beautiful change in the world.

William Drenttel, with a truckload of produce.

Winterhouse’s Drenttel, with a truckload of produce waiting to be turned into yummy pizzas.

If you are interested in participating in Project M, visit the site and fill out an application.

Two images in this story were shamelessly snagged from Steven Heller’s column for Print Magazine, others courtesy of Pizza Farm. Quote borrowed from Julie Lasky’s Change Observer post about the event.

About author
A designer by trade, Johanna has always had a passion for storytelling. Born and raised in Sweden, she's lived and worked in Miami, Brooklyn and, currently, Ojai, CA. She started Goodlifer in 2008 to offer a positive outlook for the future and share great stories, discoveries, thoughts, tips and reflections around her idea of the Good Life. Johanna loves kale, wishes she had a greener thumb, and thinks everything is just a tad bit better with champagne (or green juice).
4 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. First time in a long time I’ve wished that I lived on the other coast. What a beautiful way to make change in the world. Brilliant.

  2. A brilliant program that i wish I could have attended. Heard that the (free) pizzas were available right across from a McDonald’s. Sweet!

  3. I think that the intent was good, but a pizza party doesn’t seem long lasting.

    Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.

  4. Sometimes a pizza party is only that, but I think that the project succeeded in doing what it set out to do. Which was to bring community residents in touch with their local farmers so that they can rediscover what it means to connect with the people that grow their food. A local newspaper humorously referred to the pizzas as a “gateway drug” to fresh local produce.

    Hopefully, it will result in some of the pizza party attendees choosing to shop at the farmer’s market instead of the Stop & Shop. In the end, all design can do is bring attention to problems and propose solutions. It will always be up to people to make them happen.

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