Hometown Farmer: Passion for Pasta Against All Odds
(ALCESTER, SD) - Making homemade pasta can be a very rigorous and time consuming process, but for Dan and Elizabeth Avery, they have built the perfect pasta making business in Alcester, South Dakota called Artisan Italian.
One obstacle after another, this family has started a new chapter of their life with pasta.Back on May 26th, 2010, the Averys' then 10-year-old son, Micah, was having brain surgery. It also happens to be Dan and Elizabeth's anniversary. That same day, a fire sparked inside their barn. "I said to her, Happy Anniversary. Our barn burned down. And thankfully, Micah came out of the surgery fine," said Dan Avery, co-creator of Artisan Italian. They started growing vegetables in a greenhouse to sell at Farmers Markets, but the Averys wanted to offer something different: pasta. "We went to market in Vermillion and we thought if we sell 10 or 20 bags, we'll just be loving it. We sold like 40 or 50," said Avery. That's when they knew they had a good thing going and the business started to snowball. "We went to the Sioux City market. And then we went to the Sioux Falls market. And now we have retail stores that we're in and get to meet so many people that way, too," said Avery. Each batch produces about 12 and a half pounds of pasta. "This is our fettuccine. Our hallmark. This in particular is our tomato basil," Avery said showing the pasta. He also picked up one of his noodle creators. "This is a gemelli and we call it twins. That's the English. Looks like little S's on the die." Dan and Elizabeth are not just making pasta. They're making spice blends and sauces. "As much as we can, we grow here on our organic farm and the rest we source from other, as Dan said, quality farm place," said Elizabeth Avery, Dan's wife. However, last May, a severe storm ripped through their town, damaging their greenhouse and the plants inside. "Oh it kills me to lose the tomatoes because we go through, I'd say two-thirds of our pastas have some sort of tomato in it. And so that was heartbreaking," said Elizabeth.
That hasn't stopped the Averys, though, from continuing their pasta passion. "We're not giving up. It's just things are delayed a little bit," said Elizabeth. "The cool ingredients are great, but when people come back and say, 'You know, this is how we used it.' That's what really makes us happy. That is probably the sweet spot of the whole thing," said Dan.
Right now, the Averys are in the process of building a pasta house to expand their pasta making production and to store all their ingredients.