| Jul 23, 2009

Back to HomeFeature Article - July 23, 2009 MERA Outdoor Oven forcommunity useby Julie Druker

Official ribbon cutting ceremony unveils MERA’s new outdoor Community Oven. (l to r) Tom Shoebridge, Darrin MacDonald, Marnie McCook and Mallory Beauchamp.

The smell of fresh-baked pizza filled the air around the MERA schoolhouse on Saturday July 18, when their recently completed project, an outdoor wood-fired community oven, was fired up and unveiled to the public in an official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Tom Shoebridge, chair of the MERA board, and Marnie McCook, representing the Trillium Foundation, along with local stone mason Darrin MacDonald and carpenter Mallory Beauchamp did the ribbon-cutting honours.

According to McCook, “Only MERA would come up with a project as innovative and creative as an outdoor community oven.” The $15,000 Trillium grant, awarded to the project back in the spring under the two combined categories of arts and culture and economic potential/enhancement, was instrumental in allowing the project to come to fruition.

The idea for the project came about back in 2000 when Ankaret Dean, one of MERA’s founding members and according to chair Shoebridge “the Queen of arts ideas at MERA”, saw an outdoor oven at the Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto that was a tremendous draw to the park and an integral part of a number of community events held there.

Ankaret explained, “At that time we (at MERA) were busy with many other important projects but when the farmers’ market started up last year I brought up the idea about the community oven and then it all just fell into place.”

Ankaret approached her then neighbour Darrin, a local stone mason who teaches the Heritage Masonry course at Algonquin College in Perth, and the two began researching and designing the project and eventually made the application for the Trillium grant. According to Darrin, “We based the design on the Dufferin Grove stove which was built in the shape of a little brick house, but we incorporated other elements like local Beckwith sandstone.” Mallory, who assisted Darrin with the stove’s construction and who also lives in the area, carved the central circular Indian sandstone with the MERA moniker.

The oven will be available free to everyone in the community and can be booked by community groups or individuals through MERA. A training course is mandatory, however, since improper use can damage the internal elements of the stove. MERA will also be offering free training sessions in how to operate the oven. Those wishing to use the oven for commercial ends will be charged a rental fee.

To date, a number of people have already been trained and local bakers plan to use it to make some of their products which they plan to sell at the farmers’ market held at MERA every Saturday from 9AM – 1PM.

On Saturday, Steve Kotze and his family were busy assembling and baking pizzas that were being offered to those present for the ceremony. Steve had been trained by Graham Beck of the Little Stream Bakery in Glen Tay.

MERA members are also hoping to hold community pizza nights on Thursdays where the community can come and make their own pizzas.

All involved in the project anticipate the new oven drawing a number of community groups and individuals to MERA to take advantage of this unique community facility. Anyone interested in reserving a spot for MERA's free outdoor oven baking course on August 6 can call 613-278-0388

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