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Fridays on the farm: a decade of 'doughnating'

OVEN: Father-son duo Jeff and Zach Hawkins demonstrate how to fire up a brick oven, used for the family’s popular “Fridays on the Farm” pizza dinners.

by HEATHER COX, - hcox@wabashplaindealer.com

More than 10 years ago, Jeff Hawkins had an idea. He knew that his son, Zach, was a good baker and could make specialty doughs, and he knew that he wanted to help raise money for a nonprofit clergy education ministry, Hope CSA.

After some brainstorming and gazing on an old brick house that neighbored his farm, Hawkins decided to buy some of the bricks from the owners and hire a mason to help build a brick oven.

This was just the start to the Hawkins Family Farm’s annual summer tradition of Fridays on the Farm.

Each Friday starting in June consists of guests enjoying 10-inch pizzas baked outdoors with fresh veggies and meat. Attendees are free to either carry-out or eat on the farm picnic-style.

This year marks the 10th season for the event, making it a Friday night tradition for some in the community.

The menu includes margherita pizza, made with tomatoes, fresh basil, mozzarella and parmesan, as well as traditional sausage or pepperoni pizzas made from Hawkins’ own pigs.

Proceeds benefit Hope CSA.

The family invites a guest chef to craft a specialty pizza each week.

This week’s guest chefs are husband and wife duo John and Lindsay Cheesebrew, who plan to open their own restaurant Bird and Cleaver in Fort Wayne this summer. Tonight will mark the fourth time the Cheesebrews have acted as guest chefs on the farm. The couple will be joined by one of their own chefs, Kody Aswegan, in the quest to craft the perfect brick-oven pizza.

“We love everything about the farm,” John Cheesebrew said. “We love what they’re doing as far as the produce and everything that they provide to us, the place is beautiful, we love the charitable aspect of it -- giving back to the community is important to us. It’s just a fun time all around, and it gets us out of our normal routine which is definitely fun.”

For this kick-off week and possibly the weeks following, Junk Ditch Brewing from Fort Wayne will also be joining the event to serve beer.

Hawkins believes that by serving fresh pizza to the community, he highlights the importance of quality local food.

“It’s really become a gathering place for various groups in the community who make it a regular occurrence,” he said. “It’s really kind of a unique, neat thing, for people to feel good about and even proud in Wabash County, because we have people coming from Indianapolis, South Bend and even Chicago occasionally.

“So it makes us feel good about some of the things we’re doing. And Wabash is a great place, there’s some great things happening here.”

Fridays on the Farm will take place every Friday this summer through September – except for July 6 – rain or shine.

Hawkins explained that it takes two days to fire the oven. He and the family make fresh dough the day before, “so we’re ready regardless of what the weather is.”

Guests are encouraged to bring their own chairs and blankets, utensils and drinks and must take any trash with them when they leave.