With his varied interests — education; food sources; working with plants, animals, schools and community — Corey Thomas had a vague idea of his “dream job.”
But until he interviewed for the position of director at Wakeman Town Farm, he had no idea such a job existed.
It does. And — beginning this past Monday — the young farmer is living the dream.
Thomas steps into the position held for its first 7 years by Mike and Carrie Aitkenhead. They stepped down in June to pursue other adventures. He is a beloved environmental science teacher at Staples High School; she’s now a curriculum specialist with the Melissa & Doug toy company.
The new farm director is a worthy successor to the couple who planted the seeds that grew the Town Farm from abstract concept to thriving, robust community center.
Growing up in Westbrook, Connecticut, Thomas wanted to be a veterinarian. But as a student in the University of Connecticut, his focus gradually shifted from animals to people. International aid and agricultural development intrigued him, but most positions were in management.
“I wanted boots on the ground,” Thomas says. “I realized the best way to impact people is through education.”
The combination of agriculture and education grew more compelling. “There’s so much unawareness, misinformation and disconnectedness about where our food comes from,” Thomas explains. “Educating people is a direct way to address that.”
Thomas earned his master’s degree from UConn in curriculum and instruction, with a concentration in agriculture education. A few months ago, a professor told him that Westport was looking for a farmer.
“I was blown away by the space,” Thomas says of his first visit to the Cross Highway facility. “It’s very rare to see a farming operation like this, with beds, animals, a large space, and people with a real vision. It was clear Mike and Carrie had done a great job with volunteers, and the community was really invested in it.
“This was exactly what I was looking for. I was amazed I’d never heard of it.”
Thomas and his partner Rachel recently moved into the now-renovated space. He’s already begun taking inventory, reaching out to volunteers, planning student programs, and using crop planning software to move forward.
The new farmer loves many things about Wakeman Town Farm — particularly the new teaching kitchen.
Yet his biggest surprise does not involve plants or animals. It’s the people.
“Everyone in Westport seems thrilled and passionate about the farm,” Thomas says. “They know all about it, and they’re connected to it.”
Corey Thomas will have no problem keeping the town down on the farm.
(For information on Wakeman Town Farm — including Tim’s Kitchen and classroom space, cooking classes, teen pizza nights, private parties, a fall beer dinner, the anniversary party and more — click here.)