Imagine it’s a cool fall evening; chilly enough to need a sweater but warm enough to eat dinner outside. The smell of a freshly-baked pizza wafts through the air as a light breeze blows browned leaves to the ground at Market Square in Carleton Place.
By about this time next fall, Carleton Place residents and visitors will be able to cook, eat and share at a community, wood-fired Friendship Oven.
Spearheaded by Mills Community Support, a non-profit charity that promotes stability and belonging for seniors and aged youth with disabilities, the community Friendship Oven will be available for use by all members of the community who have been trained how to use it. Anything from a pot of stew to bread to pie can be baked in the oven.
“The community oven is a place where people can come together to share their skills and celebrate local food,” said Jeff Mills, the coordinator of Community development at Mills Community Support. “It’s nice when people come together to cook and eat,” Mills said.
The goals of the oven are to close the gap from seed to table and to create new intergenerational relationships. Mills calls it an inclusive and collaborative community development approach.
“We want people to celebrate local food and we want seniors to share their cooking skills with younger people who might not have those skills yet,” Mills said. “The work we do [at Mills Community Support] is all about creating welcoming, open spaces where people can be part of the community.”
Studies show that people with developmental disabilities often live isolated lives and can live up to seven years less than people who feel they belong to a community. Studies also show that there is generally less crime in communities where neighbours know each other.
“It’s not just a tool for cooking; it’s a tool for community engagement,” Mills said.
“It’ll be important in attracting people to Carleton Place to live, and in turn, support the local businesses so I think it’s a great community economic development tool for sure,” agreed Jackie Kavanagh, the manager at the Carleton Place and District Chamber of Commerce. “[The Chamber] just felt it’s a really great project and it’s going to benefit the whole community; the business community and all the people who live here.”
The community oven will also promote active transportation since it will be located along the Ottawa Valley Rec Trail that will connect Carleton Place and Almonte.
Mills Community Support has already started construction on a wood-fired community oven in Almonte. “We’re hoping to connect not only neighbours, but also these sister-communities,” said Mills, referring to Carleton Place and Almonte. “We’re hoping that people will be really excited about it.”
Supported by Carleton Place council, construction of the oven will likely start next spring. Mills says he estimates the project will cost about $10,000 — but that’s just a rough guess. A portion of the proceeds from A Feast of Fall, a pig roast hosted by Black Tartan Kitchen and Stalwart Brewing Co. on Sept. 3, went to the Carleton Place Friendship Oven.
There is a public meeting in Carleton Place on Sept. 7 at the Carleton Place Public Library regarding the community oven.
This article was first published in the September issue of Hometown News. For more articles from our September issue, pick up a print copy at a local retailer or read our digital version.