The Indian Trail Master Naturalist and Panza Brothers Pizza company were two of the many vendors participatng in the Waxahachie Downtown Farmers Market Saturday, July 27.

Indian Trail Master Naturalists were on-hand to share information about wildlife-friendly gardening and to offer tips on how to handle them.

Eileen Berger, president of the Master Naturalists said most people have wildlife in their gardens, whether they want it or not. She added that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.

“Everyone has wildlife in their garden whether they have invited it in or not,” Berger said. “Some wildlife is good, beneficial and a joy to watch.”

She said that as naturalists they believe that everything in nature is beneficial and good, but not everybody sees it that way.

“We (naturalists) like everything in nature and believe that everything is there for a purpose,” Berger said. “I’m OK with the snakes, opossum and skunks, as long as they don’t bite or spray me. They are there to take care of the bugs and microorganisms that we can’t see. If we hurt them or get rid of them, then the flow of our ecosystem is completely thrown off.”

Berger explained that most people don’t like creatures like that in their yards. She said when it comes to warding off animals like that, shooting them is the first thing that comes to people’s minds, but she warns against taking such action.

“Shooting an animal is not the best action to take,” she said. “I also warn against spraying certain chemicals or using a type of poison. These actions can cause more harm than good.”

She said if children are around, if the people have pets, those things can cause a great deal of damage.

Berger suggested evaluating the damage and seeing if it’s something the gardener could live with.  

“If an animal is digging holes in your yard, you must decide whether you can live with the holes or not,” she said.

For ideas about controlling or landscaping for wildlife, Berger suggested utilizing Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center. She also said a good book is Kelly Bender’s “Texas Wildscapes: Gardening for Wildlife.”

The Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter is one of 42 chapters that comprise the Texas Master Naturalist Program. Chapters are co-sponsored by the Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. For further information, contact the Indian Trail Master Naturalist Chapter at the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, at 972-825-5175 or e-mail ellis-tx@tamu.edu.

One would expect to find vegetables, produce, homemade items and receiving gardening tips at such a place, but pizza at a farmers’ market—that is quite unheard of, but Brian Panza of Midlothian said he wanted to add a unique element to this particular marketplace.

“I’ve been down to the market on several occasions and fell in love with the atmosphere,” Panza said. “My sons and I came up with the idea to take the fresh fruits and vegetables they sell to make our Italian style pizzas right there on location. It has proven to be a great idea.”

He said he wasn’t sure how well they were going to do considering the fact they arrived at the market at 8 a.m.

“When most people think of oven fresh pizza, they envision ingredients like pepperoni, sausage and lots of cheese,” he said. “While I make those types of pizzas, I needed to come up with pizzas that people would want to eat that early in the day.”

Inspired by his surroundings and fruit merchants at the farmers’ market, Panza decided to make several specialty pizzas that included fresh pears and apples.

“My fruit pizzas were a surprising hit this past weekend,” Panza said. “I make one that has pears and non-alcoholic white wine. That seemed to be a favorite, as well as the apple pizza.”

Panza also makes a margarita pizza with a basil and crème white sauce, which is one of his favorites.

Not wanting to leave out the typical pepperoni and cheese pizzas, Panza said they put through many of those in the oven as the day wore on. He said by the end of the day, he was sold out of everything.

He said what makes his portable pizza oven unique, other than the fact that it’s mobile, are the ingredients that make up his pizzas.

“When it comes to my meat pizzas, I only use imported meats that are cured,” he said. “Also, I only use fresh fruits and vegetables purchased right there at the market.”

He said the advantage of the mobile pizza oven is that he doesn’t have to worry about managing a restaurant or people and the hours are flexible.

“One of the great things about this is that I only have to commit to Saturdays,” Panza said. “I don’t have to be in a restaurant and my hours are very flexible.”

He said the other great thing about the farmers market are the merchants. He said all of them have welcomed him with open arms.

“The merchants there have been so welcoming and inviting,” he said. “One of them even gave me some fruit that I’m going to try in my next specialty pizza.”

Panza was born and raised in upstate New York and moved to Dallas back in the early ’80s. He owned several restaurants, but decided to get out of the business until his children became older.

“I was out of the business for about 15 years,” he said. “Now that my kids are older I feel like I have more time to focus on it.”

He said the farmers market is a wonderful event and he is committed to it until it closes for the season.

The Waxahachie Downtown Farmers Market features fresh, farm raised fruit, vegetables, eggs and plants from 8 a.m.-1 p.m on Saturdays. Along side the farmers, people will find a wide assortment of jewelry, clothing, art and other gift ideas. The Downtown Farmers Market is located at 410 S. Rogers St.

Follow Melissa on Facebook.com/MelissaCadeWDL. Contact her at 469-517-1450 or melissa.cade@waxahachietx.com.