Goin’ Back To Wakeman’s Farm

Last week’s vote by the Board of Selectmen, approving the lease of town-owned Wakeman Farm to the non-profit Westport Green Village Initiative — which, subject to final governmental approval, will return it to a working farm — was greeted with joy by most Westporters.

One — Ann Sheffer — scurried to her mother’s voluminous scrapbooks.

There she found a Westport News editorial from November 11, 1970 — almost exactly 39 years ago.

It said:

A recent suggestion to the Board of Education seems to merit exploration, both as to its feasibility and its appeal to young people.

That’s Mrs. Ralph Sheffer’s idea that the town-owned Wakeman tract be used to teach farming, or some aspect of agriculture, as a Staples elective.

She notes quite wisely that while we in suburbia cherish what we in our illusions consider the rural life, that all the community activities really leave little time for growing things; that we have become “pretty far removed from our heritage of knowing and loving and using the land well.”

The Wakeman property may once again be a working farmThe editorial added that the “longtime farming Wakeman family (could) guide our young people in some of the skills and technologies of modern day farming (and) might even fill some of that often-bemoaned lack of ‘something to do’ for the town’s many teenagers.”

If Staples could not provide farming as an elective, the News said, perhaps the Mid-Fairfield County Youth Museum (now called Earthplace) or “area 4-H clubs” could sponsor agricultural projects.  At any rate, the editorial concluded, the idea “should have appeal to the young people, with the prevalent ‘back to the earth’ trend that seems to be sweeping youth nowadays, along with intense interest in conservation.  This would offer first-hand opportunity for learning right here at home.”

Those back-to-the-earth teenagers are now in their 50s.  Some of them are part of Westport’s Green Village Initiative.  (Others, alas, drive Hummers.)  Their children take Advanced Placement Environmental Studies — one of Staples’ most popular courses — and learn, through a new garden on school grounds, all about sustainable agriculture.

Now — nearly 4 decades after the seed was 1st planted — 1 more agricultural idea has taken root.

The Westport News editorial concluded:  “Let’s see what can be done and not let this meritorious suggestion gather dust while we hustle around trying to dream up all sorts of programs to fill the needs of our energetic teenagers.”

Some good ideas, it seems, just need time to grow.

One response to “Goin’ Back To Wakeman’s Farm

  1. so it does seem the “time is right” to finally “return to the land. it’s a shame that we have missed the opportunity to learn from the homesteaders themselves.