by Jeff Mills

Excitement is building beside the Almonte Public Library near the Farmers’ Market, as the Neighbourhood Tomato Community Gardens works on the Friendship Oven Project.

Under the tutelage of stone mason Sean MacKenzie of Dominion Masonry, local citizens are building a wood-fired community oven. A sister oven is planned for Carleton Place in 2018 and recently permission to build by the rail trail and Carleton Place Farmers Market was granted by that town.

This community-building project shines a light on local food security, supports local growers, and will help “The Tomato” close the gap from ‘seed to table.’ The build in Almonte is a unique event. MacKenzie and the other builders have entertained lots of onlookers who stop by.

“90% of the comments range from very interested to excited,” said MacKenzie during a break in the construction. “The other 10% are skeptical or a bit cynical. Just yesterday I had two different couples drop by.”

The first, a new resident and his Spanish wife, were excited and expressed interest to use the oven as most Spanish towns have wood fired ovens.

The other couple came from New Brunswick to visit a great uncle in Almonte. “We love Almonte,” they said while taking lots of photos of the Almonte oven. They are taking the idea back to hopefully kick-start a similar project in their town in New Brunswick.

Everyone is pitching in. The Elizabeth Kelly Library Foundation has given a generous donation as has the Hub. The Almonte Public Library will be the home and the keeper of the key. MacKenzie has volunteered to lead the build and will be compensated with a much smaller honorarium than would have been his commercial rate.

The crew have paid a small amount to learn from Sean and be a part of the build. Mervin Logan of LBL Construction charged half his going rate for work excavating for the foundation.

Tom Levi of Levi Home Hardware will discount supply purchases from his store. Ian Paige sold top quality fire brick at a fraction of their worth. In keeping with local historic architecture, stone found during the excavation, stone from the former train station, will be used in the final façade along with heritage brick.

“Using materials like this adds to the great story of the oven while saving the whole project money. We’ve received a donation of approximately 500 exterior heritage brick reclaimed when the former Co-op store in Almonte was razed,” said MacKenzie.

Want to help? Financial donations can be directed to Mills Community Support, 67 Industrial Drive, Almonte ON K0A 1A0. Mention “Almonte Friendship Oven” in the subject line or if you have any red, yellow, or dark brown bricks that predate World War Two we are about 200 bricks short of a full load! Maybe you too reclaimed some from the old co-op site or have taken down another old building or know of someone with bricks. Contact Jeff Mills – jmills@themills.on.ca and we’ll come and check out your bricks.

Watch for a grand opening in the fall.

Here’s to the warmth of the oven and the community, and the breaking of bread.