Pizza Creates a Community Hub

Wakeman Town Farm Draws Teens and Others with a New Pizza Oven

Since the Wakeman Town Farm (WTF) team first fired up its 800-degree oven in 2019, local chefs, volunteers, and students have experienced WTF’s mission, “Grow Your Food, Know Your Food.”

This incredible community resource furthers WTF’s mission to promote healthy food production, responsible land stewardship, sustainable practices, and community service; plus, it’s a heck of a lot of fun.

WTF hosts outdoor cooking classes incorporating organic bounty that students have grown and harvested on the property. It has also enabled the team to educate and serve pizza to students from underserved communities, including more than 200 campers from Bridgeport’s Horizons Program.

As hoped, the oven has become a social and community hub and a novel addition to WTF’s camps and programs. S’mores pizzas, anyone? The oven also allows WTF to provide food for casual events, like the spring and fall Beer Gardens. Finally, the pizza piazza, featuring picnic tables and string lights, is available for rent, which drive revenues and helps WTF be self-sustaining.

During the Pandemic, the new Pizza on the Patio nights offered safe, socially distanced outdoor adult gatherings for friends seeking to get out for a glass of wine, live music, and a homemade pie while touring the grounds and gardens. And who wouldn’t enjoy a multi-course dinner cooked by top local chefs like Frederic Kieffer of Artisan Southport, who used the wood-fired oven to cook roasted oysters, summer berry tarts, and more? Going forward, the pizza oven will continue to serve the Westport community as a good, old-fashioned outdoor gathering spot with some mighty-fine pizzas topped with WTF's homegrown basil, garlic, hot peppers, and heirloom tomatoes. How great is that?

So, who cooked up the idea for a pizza oven?

A few years back, committee members at WTF were brainstorming ways to attract more teens. Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo, then-co-chairs, had seen a variety of pizza ovens at farms and wineries in their travels across the country and decided it was time to investigate.

Back then pizza ovens weren’t ubiquitous. Yet NPR predicted a trend which started in the Midwest as a way for farmers to increase revenues while utilizing their farm produce and products. It sounded promising.

The farmgals predicted that an outdoor oven would be a win, and modeled teen educational initiatives after “knead 2 know,” the Yale Sustainable Food Program's weekly Friday presentation series, in which a student is asked to share their food systems research or work. Wakeman planned a similar program, which includes an educational series or workshop led by their teen apprentices, followed by pizza.

But such a project is a pipe dream until there is public interest and funding to pay for it — quality commercial outdoor ovens don’t come cheap. But a bump in the road has never deterred the WTF team before. And as luck would have it, one of WTF’s most generous supporters (and committee member), Robin Tauck, mentioned the Tauck Ritzau Innovative Philanthropy Grant designed to promote community initiatives across the globe. So they rolled up their sleeves, consulted with experts, submitted a proposal, and were accepted!

Then the outdoor pizza ‘piazza’ came to fruition! Local architect Peter Wormser (who also designed “Tim’s Kitchen”) donated his design talents, and Ginger and Jim Donaher of the Gault family generously provided the stone for the pizza oven’s hearth and patio.

To get in on the fun and learn about WTF’s programs, visit: WakemanTownFarm.org and sign up for news blasts.

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