When Chaz and Megan Self first met, long before they got married, they had several things in common, including a lifelong love for farming and a strong desire to have a part in modern-day agriculture. They also had another common denominator between them—minimal knowledge or first-hand experience of how farms actually run.
Fast forward to the present, when the Selfs now have a full-fledged farming operation in the outskirts of East Troy, WI. They’ve managed to carve out a niche with their innovation, unique programs and ongoing desire to grow and evolve.
For Chaz, the serious desire to farm began shortly after he entered adulthood. It finally became a reality when he and Megan met a group of established farmers, who became their mentors.
“I’ve had a goal to farm since I was 19 years old,” Chaz explains. “I never really knew how that was going to happen. But transitioning (an existing farming operation) with a retiring couple seemed to be the best option for us. Their views aligned perfectly with ours, and we had a really great relationship with them. They taught us everything we know.”
The bountiful harvest of knowledge and wisdom, Chaz says, planted the seeds for Grassway Organics’ continued upward trajectory. The mentorship gave the Selfs a glimpse into sustainable agriculture and ethical farming practices. The couple officially took over the business in 2016.
Chaz, who ultimately obtained a master’s degree in dairy farming, says his schooling and first-hand experience sharpened the focus within Grassway Organics. As its name suggests, the operation specializes in the organic, grass-based movement.
The dairy and meat produced by Grassway Organics carry the designation of certified regenerative organic, Chaz says, and are the result of animals living in a free-range, pastured and grass-only environment.
Since assuming the business and farming operation six years ago, the Selfs have evolved it into new areas, include agri-tourism.
“We’ve been doing events on the weekends,” Chaz explains. “We wanted to branch off a bit and do that.”
The desire to open up their farm to observers was inspired by the Selfs’ own natural curiosity for agriculture, as well as the keen awareness that few people have a true understanding of the ins and outs of such an operation.
“Most people don’t have access to a farm,” Chaz says. “It was really our goal to open up our farm to people. It’s something we’ve wanted to do from the beginning.”
More recently, as the Selfs have continued their evolution of Grassway Organics, the couple has introduced another event that has achieved widespread acclaim: Pizza on the Farm. In their ongoing quest to open up their operation to the broader public, they serve up wood-fired pizzas on Friday and Saturday evenings. The event kicks off in May each year and runs through September, rain or shine.
The pizza is served up in a casual, rustic environment, where diners are asked to bring their own chair and blanket because table seating is limited. Diners enjoy the pizza against the backdrop of the free-range animals grazing the farmstead.
“It’s a really special event for us because we like to educate others about the farming industry,” Chaz says. “Obviously, it’s about more than just pizza.”
“All of our area farmers are receiving support as well. It’s a very unique situation.”– Chaz Self, owner
Pizza on the Farm serves another purpose beyond agri-tourism. The event is an opportunity to make use of the products cultivated on the farm—or to curate them from other farmers in or near Walworth County.
“If we don’t grow the ingredients, right here on the farm, then we bring in the ingredients within a 30-mile radius, which is a cool aspect,” Chaz says. “By doing this, all of our area farmers are receiving support as well. It’s a very unique situation.”
To further illustrate the point, Chaz explains how the meat and cheese baked into the pizzas are made right on the farm, while the vegetables come from nearby, locally run and community-supported agriculture (CSA) operations. The pizza crusts, meanwhile, are hand-crafted with ancient organic wheat that is grown in Elkhorn.
Even the beverages served up at Pizza on the Farm are locally sourced. The menu includes local hand-crafted beer, hard seltzers, wine and non-alcoholic beverages.
In addition to Pizza on the Farm, the Selfs have established an on-site store that is open during specific periods of the week. Local organic products from the farm are sold within the store.
As with many businesses, COVID-19 impacted Grassway Organics, but Chaz says the pandemic had a silver lining and brought yet another opportunity to evolve and innovate the business. In the past two years, he and Megan have established an online delivery program. It has proven so popular that it is continuing even as the pandemic has subsided.
“That was an addition we never expected to make,” Chaz says. “But it’s been a very reliable source of income for us.”
In the first half of 2022, Chaz and Megan have continued looking at new innovative opportunities for the farmstead, which recently expanded by 100 additional acres. They have been making frequent additions and enhancements to their website and social media platforms—all with a common goal in mind, being as transparent as possible to their clientele.
W2716 Friemoth Road
East Troy, Wisconsin 53120
10 am-2 pm Tuesday,
10 am-6 pm Thursday through Saturday,
Closed all other days