Embracing the Entrepreneurial Spirit – Creating a Diversified Agritourism Business

In Edible-Alpha® podcast #56, Tera speaks with Mary Ann Bellazzini from Campo Di Bella winery, farm and farm-to-table restaurant. Campo Di Bella is a diversified agritourism operation, rooted in the Bellazzini’s Italian heritage and located on 20 acres of rolling hills in South Central Wisconsin.

Owner Background
When Mary Ann Bellazzini and her family moved to Wisconsin, they didn’t plan to be farmers. She and her husband grew up in first generation Italian families and they knew food. Their journey started with a large garden on their five-acre property. Encouragement from friends first led the couple to selling their excess vegetables at the local farmers market. Next, they launched a CSA, and later they purchased a farm four times the size of their original property. Their agritourism business grew from there.

The Bellanzzinis purchased their 20-acre farm in 2008, and they added 265 grapevines. Growing grapes for use in wine production is a challenge in Wisconsin’s climate. Delays due to various weather and farm issues meant they didn’t harvest their first grapes until 2014; however, the couple created one variety of wine from this harvest and it sold out. In 2017, when their batch of wine failed because of an extremely cold winter and damp spring, they experimented with making cold-hardy, traditional red wine vinegar. With support from state grant funding, these first vinegars will be available in winter 2019.

Campo Di Bella attempted to produce a rosé in 2018. With feedback from local mentor Philippe Coquard of Wollersheim Winery, they determined that though their rosé was a good dry wine, it was not appropriate for the Wisconsin market. In another example of “making lemons out of lemonade,” they turned this rosé into vermouth using brandy from Michigan and spices from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They currently maintain just shy of an acre of grapes and release one variety of wine per year, which they sell at their restaurant alongside other wines.

Farm to Table Restaurant + Farm Stay
In 2013, Mary Ann and her husband tested their restaurant concept in various offsite locations. One year later, they decided to build the infrastructure to host dinners on their own land. They incorporated a wine cellar in the basement and used the main floor for dinner service and tastings. In fall of 2014, they piloted Saturday farm-to-table dinners with wine sales on the premises. In 2015, they opened the restaurant full time on the weekends; the weekend menu includes a three-course Friday cenetta dinner for $35–$45 and a five-course Saturday farm-to-table dinner for $55-$65. Guests come from as far away as Chicago and Minneapolis for their high-quality meals and treat the farm as a destination that delivers a unique dining experience. In 2018, they turned the second floor of the restaurant building into an AirBnB suite.

Campo Di Bella is a great example of a farm embracing the entrepreneurial spirit and pivoting their business model to adapt to both emerging market and environmental conditions. Mary Ann is excited to see her kids, and kids of other farm entrepreneurs, start to envision their own unique paths for keeping the family farm viable for future generations. To learn more about Campo Di Bella or to book a dinner, visit: https://www.campodibella.com/