Tag Archives: Elizabeth Beller

Meanwhile, Back On The Farm…

Wakeman Town Farm — remember it? — is moving along steadily, in its transition phase after this summer’s kerfuffle.

Wakeman Town Farm.

According to spokeswoman Elizabeth Beller, the transition team — which also includes Liz Milwe and Cathy Talmage — is working diligently to restore WTF to an “educational center for sustainable living.”  The emphasis is now on education, not farming.

Fundraising is the primary goal.  Once funds are secured, the team plans to go before the Board of Finance to demonstrate its financial viability.  The hope is to do this in early October — at the latest, early November.

An energetic, rapidly growing group of volunteers is working to maintain the farm.  Former steward Mike Aitkenhead and his family are among them.  “We hope they will return as stewards,” Elizabeth says.

“A core group of volunteers is working on a new mission statement, logo, and a signature image,” she added.  “Most importantly, we want the message out there that we are an ‘inclusive’ group, hoping to involve the entire community in our efforts.”

A website is live:  www.wakemantownfarm.org.  So is a Facebook page:  “Wakeman town Farm Sustainability Center.”

Recently, the team visited Ambler Farm in Wilton.  Elizabeth calls it “a thriving, town-owned, school-teacher-as-steward run facility, with a wealth of educational programs, summer camps for kids, and membership opportunities for the entire community.”  It’s a model WTF hopes to learn from.

Mike Aitkenhead (kneeling) and his family will soon be back at Wakeman Town Farm.

Ambler Farm’s steward and a board member spent 2 hours explaining their philosophy and management, giving a tour and answering questions.  “We left the meeting inspired that we could do everything they’re doing at Ambler,” Elizabeth says.

Also ahead:  a summer camp for youngsters; adult (and kid) workshops, and a farming intern program for middle and high school students.

There will be a new flock of baby chicks, and bunnies, in the spring.  Maybe French Angoras — to harvest their wool for spinning into yarn — along with dwarf dairy goats.

The bad news:  The group has to raise $25,000 to cover operating costs for one year.

The good news:  They’re passionate about doing it.  And — like the transition no one thought possible — they’re getting it done.

(The 1st WTF fundraiser is a cocktail gathering this Saturday, September 10, 5-7 p.m. at the Bellers’.  A 2nd fundraiser is set for Sunday, September 25, at the home of Andrea Mathewson.  Tax-deductible donations — payable to “Town of Westport,” with “Wakeman Town Farm” on the memo line — can be sent to Elizabeth Beller, 4 West Ambler Rd., Westport, CT 06880.)

Check Out These Chicks!

Growing up in Maryland, Elizabeth Beller was surrounded by gardens and animals.

Her father — a naturalist — was into sustainable agriculture long before it became a buzzword.  Her grandfather raised Rhode Island reds, and had a compost garden long before it became popular.

Elizabeth was the weeder.  She loved the fresh vegetables, but the rest — meh.

Elizabeth Beller

For many years as an adult, Elizabeth did not have a garden.  But after moving to Westport 4 years ago she got into yoga and massage therapy.   She saw connections between the human body and what goes into it.

She wanted her children — now 17 and 11 — to understand the food they were eating.  “They needed to know that eggs came from chicken’s bottoms,” she says.

Her kids’ reactions:  “Eeew!”

Undeterred, Elizabeth researched the most effective ways to raise chickens.  A crucial idea:  putting the coop no more than 25 yards from the back door.

Which is how — right outside her West Ambler Road house — Elizabeth is raising 6 adult chickens, and 9 baby chicks.

The 8×8 coop — with an attached 8×16 run — plot is completely deer-proof.  (Woodchuck-proof too, thanks to her dogs.)

The birds are hardy, bred to survive harsh winters.  “They all huddle together,” Elizabeth says.

A few of the Bellers' eggs.The menagerie includes a variety of breeds. They're colorful -- and they lay colorful eggs. Some are green, others chocolate (the color, not the flavor). The bantams lay little eggs -- but they're very rich and tasty.Her eggs, Elizabeth says, "look nothing like the market. They're all different sizes and shapes."

Her families eat the chickens’ eggs — every day.  So do the dogs.  Theirs are fried — resulting, Elizabeth says, in “beautiful coats.”

Leftovers go to the Bellers’ friends.  They are grateful — but they often have questions.

Most common:  “Where’s the rooster?”

“There is none,” Elizabeth replies.  “You need one to make baby chickens — but not eggs.”

A while ago Elizabeth and her daughter Brie decided to chronicle their life.  The result is Simply Chicks, a blog dedicated to all things chicken.

Brie Beller and friend.

“We share our adventures, misadventures and problems,” Elizabeth says.  “It’s nice to hear different perspectives.”  The blog has attracted readers as far as California, Australia and New Zealand.

“Chickens are great pets for kids, especially if they have dog or cat allergies,” Elizabeth notes.  “Chickens are affectionate.  They’re fast too.  Watching kids run after them is better than a swing set.  It’s a game, and kids get totally exhausted.”

Chickens serve another purpose, Elizabeth says.  They allow her family to be part of the food process “without the hassle of a vegetable garden.”

Once you start raising chicks, she adds, you want more.  “It’s like eating potato chips,” she says.

But much healthier.

Wakeman Town Farm Transfers To Town Today

The lease has been signed.  The transition is complete.

Today, the Town of Westport takes over Wakeman Town Farm from GVI.

Mike and Carrie Aitkenhead — the couple whose contract as “town farmers” was not renewed, leading to a townwide controversy and the resignation of 5 Green Village Initiative board members — have agreed to volunteer at the farm.

“They will be a very visible presence,” promises Elizabeth Beller, who heads the transition team.

The "GVI" sign may come down, now that the town has taken over operation of Wakeman Farm.

The transition group plans to continue the farm’s popular programs.  Mike’s Staples High School horticulture class will work at the farm; Staples’ Club Green, and the middle school environmental clubs, will also work there after school.

The full transition team will be appointed by first selectman Gordon Joseloff.  Former GVI members will be included.

Already, team members have met with the Board of finance a member of the Friends of Parks and Rec to discuss the umbrella organization that will help the Town Farm retain its not-for-profit status.

Additional meetings are scheduled for early next month.  That will pave the way for a $20,000 fundraiser.

“The Board of Finance naturally has questions about funding and capital expenditures,” Elizabeth says.  “The town wants assurances that the farm won’t cost them anything.  Right now, things look very good, and very positive.”

(A training session, for anyone interested in volunteering at the Wakeman Town Farm, is set for next Sunday, August 28 (9:30 a.m.).  Mike Aitkenhead will lead the session.  For more information, email elizbeller@gmail.com)

WTF Transition Team Wants You!

Liz Milwe, Cathy Talmage and Elizabeth Beller have been chosen by First Selectman Gordon Joseloff to serve as a transition team, as the Town of Westport assumes responsibility for Wakeman Town Farm, from Green Village Initiative.

A new board will be appointed once the transition is complete.

The transition team welcomes involvement from the entire community during the transition, and beyond.  Interested volunteers should email Elizbeller@gmail.com

Westporters are encouraged to volunteer for the Wakeman Town Farm transition committee. (Photo/Inklings)