MOUNT HOREB, Wis. – Campo di Bella, a farm and farm-to-table restaurant and winery near Mount Horeb, recently hosted a field day for farmers interested in learning about launching farm-based food businesses. The field day, held Aug. 23, was one in a series of such events coordinated by Renewing the Countryside, a nonprofit organization based in Minneapolis.

“Riding a growing wave of public enthusiasm for agritourism, food service on farms offers an attractive way for farmers to diversify their income and forge a closer connection with their customers,” Renewing the Countryside stated.

Marc and Mary Ann Bellazzini, who own and operate Campo di Bella, shared what they learned in establishing their business. They opened their restaurant in February 2015 to offer farm-to-table dinners Friday and Saturday evenings throughout the year. Diners must make reservations in advance and pre-pay for dinners, which are served at specific seating times. Five-course meals are served Saturday evenings.

“We are currently booked about seven weeks in advance,” Mary Ann Bellazzini said.

Marc Bellazzini added, “We have a fixed menu, which minimizes food waste.”

The majority of the food the couple prepares as well as the wine is produced on their 20-acre farm. At any given time they have about 15 Old English Babydoll Southdown sheep. A small herd of Black Mulefoot hogs graze a 2-acre wooded lot. The farm features a small orchard with apple, pear, plum, paw-paw and cherry trees. The Bellazzinis also have a large vegetable and herb garden.

Grapes from the farm’s 265 French-American grapevines are harvested and made into wine, with the Bellazzinis creating about 650 bottles of semi-dry wine per year. Marc Bellazzini also is experimenting with making red-wine vinegar. He works off the farm as an emergency-room doctor in Madison, Wisconsin, while on weekends he does the cooking.

Mary Ann Bellazzini manages the business, including a staff of 14 part-time employees. She discussed with meeting attendees the zoning as well as the various permits and licenses that one would need to own and operate a food-service business.

“First do your homework and talk to your town board about what you want to do,” she said.

She had contacted the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection for assistance. The agency offers guides on food-processing and food-sales requirements as well as local-food marketing. Farmers interested in starting the licensing process may complete an online form offered by the agency.

Most licensed food establishments must have at least one manager certified in food-protection practices, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Many certification courses are offered online. A list is provided on the agency’s website.

The Bellazzinis discussed various licenses and associated costs, such as wine and beer licenses, liquor licenses and bartender licenses. To operate their winery they also needed to obtain a permit from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. States Treasury Department.

Anyone considering starting an on-farm food-service business or an agritourism business also needs to consult with insurance companies about liability insurance.

The Bellazzinis consulted with their attorney about what terms and conditions to post on their website. And they have posted a sign at the entrance of their farm with verbiage from the Wisconsin Limited Liability Law, which provides immunity from liability for agricultural-tourism providers who meet specified requirements.

Lisa Kivirist, who serves as a Wisconsin representative for Renewing the Countryside, provided each field-day attendee a copy of “Come & Get It.” Kivirist co-authored the reference book with Rachel Armstrong of Farm Commons. It provides information on what people need to know to serve food on their farms. It features chapters on business opportunities for on-farm food service, types of on-farm food service, marketing, financing and more. It also features profiles on several on-farm food service operations in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

  • Dinner on the Farm, St. Paul, Minnesota
  • Borner Farm Project, Prescott, Wisconsin
  • Campo di Bella, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin
  • Dream Acres Farm, Spring Valley, Minnesota
  • Squash Blossom Farm, Oronoco, Minnesota
  • Together Farms of Mondovi, Wisconsin
  • Suncrest Gardens Farm, Cochrane, Wisconsin
  • Moonstone Farm, Montevideo, Minnesota

Funding for the publication was provided by the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture, the USDA Farmers Market Promotion Program and the North Central Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education.

“Having more options for the public to visit and experience where your food comes from helps our whole local-sustainable agriculture movement grow,” Mary Ann Bellazzini said.

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Lynn Grooms writes about the diversity of agriculture, including the industry’s newest ideas, research and technologies as a staff reporter for Agri-View based in Wisconsin. Email to contact her.