Down On The Farm, With Charlie Colasurdo

In 1886, Staples’ 1st graduating class consisted of 6 students — all girls.

All the guys had dropped out. Their families needed them to work on farms.

More than 125 years later, Westport boys still work the land.

Quite a bit has changed, of course. They drive (or are driven) to farms. They have to learn how to farm. And they’ve got an “06880” blog to tell their story.

Charlie Colasurdo is a rising 8th grader at Coleytown Middle School. Here’s what he says about his work at Wakeman Town Farm:

My interest in farms goes back as far as I can think. I always was fascinated by the idea of farm life, even though I live in a suburban town like Westport.

Charlie Colasurdo (right) takes care of younger farmers -- and young farm animals.

Charlie Colasurdo (right) takes care of younger farmers — and young farm animals.

Since I was 6 I bugged my parents to sign me up for farm camps. I went to places like Sport Hill in Easton all the way up to Shelburne Farms in Vermont, so I could feel like I was part of farm life — feeding chickens, getting into the dirt and learning about everything from heirloom seeds to animal husbandry to organic gardening.

When I turned 10, I heard that Wakeman Town Farm was reopening. I was excited to work in their Junior Apprentice Program. I did a 4th grade farm presentation. From there I was invited to the Board of Finance meeting to speak about why I thought preserving the farm was important.

Shortly after that, I was invited to cut the ribbon at the grand opening at the farm. I was thrilled. I got to meet Mike and Carrie Aitkenhead, the farm stewards, as well as the many people who helped make the farm a possibility. I still know many of them personally.

Wakeman Town Farm is thriving today.

Wakeman Town Farm thrives today.

I went to many of the workshops offered the first year of Wakeman, like Seed Starting and Chicken Keeping, but in the beginning there were no programs for kids my age. I started a 2-year apprenticeship at Ambler Farm in Wilton, the closest farm I could find, going after school and on Saturdays. It was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot more about the ups and downs of farming.

Then I heard that Mike and Carrie were removed from their positions as farm stewards…right before I was old enough to work at the farm. I was heartbroken, and wanted to help get the farm back on its feet. My family and I got involved. My mom joined the board and I joined the Middle School Apprentice program in 6th grade.

The first year was incredible. We got Mike and Carrie back by having the 1st Pancake Breakfast. There were 800 people instead of the expected 100. We built from there, with fundraisers, family programs and events.

Charlie Colasurdo photographed these baby lambs at Wakeman Town Farm.

Charlie Colasurdo photographed these baby lambs at Wakeman Town Farm.

As an apprentice I helped side by side with Mike, doing everything from turning compost to planting and building raised beds. I watched and helped as the farm grew from just some raised beds and a few chickens to a place with 3 large gardens, 16 chickens, a fruit orchard, and so much more. Wakeman even inspired me to get my own farm animals, a flock of 6 heritage ducks we will be using for eggs.

Every week, I look forward to the Apprentice program at Wakeman. A few weeks ago, I rode up to Lyme with Wakeman chair Liz Beller to pick up 2 young sheep, joining the farm’s new pair of goats. What I have taken away from the program is a better respect for our food, our farmers, and our environment, as well as many new friends who share common interests.

That’s pretty much my story!

7 responses to “Down On The Farm, With Charlie Colasurdo

  1. Lovely story, even about the baby goats.
    Chef Tor

  2. David Stalling

    What a great story! In his book “A Sand County Almanac,” Aldo Leopold wrote: There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace. It sounds like Charlie has not only learned these lessons but will be helping pass them on to many others. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Bonnie Scott Connolly

    What a great story and what a great kid.

  4. David Stalling

    What a great story! In his book, “A Sand County Almanac,” Aldo Leopold wrote: “There are two spiritual dangers in not owning a farm. One is the danger of supposing that breakfast comes from the grocery, and the other that heat comes from the furnace.” It sounds like Charlie has not only learned those lessons, but is helping to pass them on to others. Good stuff! Thanks for sharing.

  5. Love the ducklings!

  6. Joyce Barnhart

    Just growing vegetables in my yard gave me an enormous respect for farmers. To be dependent on Mother Nature and the vagaries of rain, sun and temperatures for one’s livelihood takes a very special disposition. It’s so nice that Charlie has such a wholesome interest at an early age. It might even lead him to his eventual career.

  7. Joanne Avery

    Agree with all: what a cool story and what a great kid! Love that Wakeman’s still exists, albeit in a new format. Used to be the local sweet corn seller every summer. We’d walk there and feel so blessed to buy fresh stuff grown in the neighborhood.