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Tag Archives: Wakeman Town Farm
Two weeks ago, hundreds of kids scampered around Wakeman Town Farm. The first-ever Eggstravaganza featured an egg hunt, egg toss, egg painting, several Big Bunnies for photo ops, many more real bunnies and fuzzy chicks, plus cocoa and coffee.
It was fun, family-friendly — and one of more than 50 special events held recently in and near WTF’s Tim’s Kitchen. The new community space — including a classroom — opened last fall.
The sustainable agriculture center always hosted farmer camps and apprentice programs. Now it’s expanded its offerings to 12 months a year.
The word is getting out: You can rent the space too.
Wakeman Town Farm hosts developmentally challenged adults from STAR in a cooking series; a media brunch to promote the Westport Library’s Flex program; a Christmas bazaar benefiting Homes with Hope; a photo shoot for Melissa & Doug toy company, along with corporate and non-profit meetings, birthday and anniversary parties, bar mitzvah bunches, fundraisers and private barbecues.
Of course, regular programs continue: preschoolers and their parents participate in Mommy & Me; middle schoolers learn knife skills; Staples students garden; Westporters of all ages attend cooking classes, and agricultural traditions like canning and preserving the harvest stay strong.
Coming up: a Women’s Business Development Council presentation on starting a restaurant; a new Cookbook Club focused on changing your gut bacteria; a Wine, Cheese & Chocolate event; Green Day; a BBQ cooking class with Bob LeRose of Bobby Q’s, and a culinary nutrition class.
During the 4-year planning and budgeting stages, a few town officials were skeptical that the new space would be cost-effective — or that it would be used very much.
Both questions have been answered.
Like every other Westporter, they’re invited to Wakeman Town Farm to see for themselves.
They’ve got plenty of events to choose from.
(Wakeman Town Farm hosts a Volunteer Day from 10 a.m. to noon tomorrow: Saturday, April 14. Interested teenagers and adults can learn about spring and summer events, programs and farm jobs that depend on volunteers. Among them: giving tours, manning tables at events like the Maker Faire and Dog Festival, planting organic garden beds, and tossing burgers and painting faces at Family Fun Day and Green Day.)
The Haberstroh family’s #ALSPepperChallenge has spread all over the country.
But right here in Westport, it’s bearing particular fruit.
The latest group to raise money for research into the devastating disease — in honor of Department of Human Services program specialist Patty Haberstroh — is Wakeman Town Farm.
Challenged by Parks & Rec — whose commission chairman is Patty’s husband, Charlie — Liz Milwe and Christy Colasurdo decided to be creative.
Taking her cue from “Rapper’s Delight,” Christy wrote lyrics. Corey Thomas — WTF’s talented steward — showed his versatility as the rapper.
The video was filmed yesterday at the farm, after their annual team retreat. It’s already been viewed over 450 times on Instagram, and 400 times on Facebook.
Wakeman Town Farm was not the only organization in town taking the hot pepper challenge yesterday. Staples High School’s boys basketball team did the same — and were inspired by a visit from both Patty and Steve Haberstroh, a former Wrecker hoops star (and Patty and Charlie’s son).
Haberstroh noted that Jon Walker — a 1988 Staples grad, and another famed Wrecker basketball player — died last year of ALS.
The Haberstrohs’ challenge has raised nearly $220,000 so far. That includes a $100,000 anonymous donation. Another $250,000 anonymous pledge is expected this week.
(Click here for the Haberstrohs’ hot pepper challenge donation page.)
Since 1948, Aitoro has been the place to go for refrigerators, washer-driers, TVs and other big-ticket home items. Just across the line in Norwalk, they’ve developed a passionate following in Westport (and the rest of Fairfield County).
Tony Aitoro — one of the current owners — loves selling appliances.
But just as much, he loves offering his store for good causes.
Since opening a big showroom in 2004, Tony has made that his mission. Nearly every Thursday night — as soon as customers leave — he hosts an event for a worthy cause.
Clothes to Kids, STAR, Habitat for Humanity, the American Cancer Society, Cooking for Charity — nearly any non-profit that asks can use Aitoro’s great space for a fundraiser. If there’s food involved, caterers — or specialty chefs — take over the kitchen.
The cost of renting a hall can be huge. Thanks to Tony, that money is never spent.
Tony’s generosity extends beyond Thursday nights, of course. When Wakeman Town Farm was putting in a new kitchen this year, he gave them a great price.
“He loves this area. He loves the water, his family, his business, and helping charities,” says Eric Aitoro, Tony’s nephew.
And “06880” loves Tony Aitoro right back.
(Want to nominate an Unsung Hero? Email email@example.com. Hat tip: Livia Feig)
Though the 1 Wilton Road building disappeared, plank by wooden plank, there is some good news on the preservation front.
Next Monday (October 30, 7 p.m., Town Hall auditorium), 1st selectman Jim Marpe and Historic District Commission chair Francis Henkels will present the organization’s 2017 awards.
Eight properties — from all over town — have been chosen. They represent a variety of styles, and were selected for many different reasons.
Taken together, they are proof that Westport still cares about its architectural heritage.
Well, sort of.
Since 1923, this Tudor revival has anchored downtown. Generations of Westporters knew it as the YMCA. When the Y moved to Mahackeno, there were grave concerns over the future of the building.
Bedford Square Associates — led by David Waldman — made a strong commitment to historic preservation. With hard, creative work and collaboration with town agencies, they and architect Centerbrook Associates designed a mixed-use complex that repurposed the Bedford building. Though there is significantly more space, the character and scale respects the streetscape of Church Lane, the Post Road and Main Street.
Wakeman Town Farm
This late-1800s farmhouse, with veranda, turned posts and a projecting gable is a Westport landmark. In the 1900s the Wakeman family supplied neighbors with produce, milk and eggs.
In 1970 Ike and Pearl Wakeman sold the historic property to the town. Today it is a sustainability center and organic homestead, open to the public.
Longtime Westport architect Peter Wormser donated his time and talent to rehabilitate the farmhouse. Public Works oversaw construction. Key elements include a rebuilt front porch, and new educational kitchen and classroom. Wakeman Town Farm is now even better able to teach, feed and inspire Westporters of all ages.
190 Cross Highway
The Meeker homestead stood on the route taken by British soldiers, heading to Danbury to burn an arsenal. But after 2 centuries the barn and 1728 saltbox house fell into disrepair.
When Mark Yurkiw and Wendy Van Wie bought the property in 2003 it was in foreclosure. They rehabilitated the barn/cottage, and got a zoning variance to subdivide the property (making both buildings more likely to be preserved.) They’re now protected by perpetual preservation easements.
383 Greens Farms Road
This English-style barn was built in 1820 by Francis Bulkley. In 2000 Lawrence and Maureen Whiteman Zlatkin bought the property. They installed a new shingle roof, reinforced the basement foundation and floor beams, replaced exterior siding and enhanced the interior. All work was done with meticulous care, using historically appropriate materials. The barn now hosts civic gatherings, concerts and family events.
Maureen died last month. Her husband hopes that her focus on preserving the barn will inspire other Westporters to do the same to their treasures.
8 Charcoal Hill Road
This 1927 stone Tudor revival is a classic example of the homes Frazier Forman Peters designed and built in the area. When Sam and Jamie Febbraio bought it in 2015, it had suffered from severe neglect. They meticulously restored it to its original form, adding 21st-century amenities. A 3rd-generation Westporter, Sam understands the appeal and significance of Peters homes.
101 Compo Road South
Jenny Ong purchased this 1924 colonial revival — listed on the Westport Historic Resources Inventory — in 2015 “as is” from a bank, with no inspection. Extensive water damage made it uninhabitable. The roof had collapsed, and the exterior was rotted.
The owner hired a structural engineer and architect. The original footprint was maintained, but with new windows, doors and roof. A dormer, stone steps and driveway were added. The rehabilitation replaced basement posts, first floor joists and flooring.
37 Evergreen Avenue
The renovation of this 1938 colonial revival — located in the Evergreen Avenue Historic District — included the removal of a later-addition solarium in the front of the house. It was replaced by an addition within the existing footprint. Materials and design reflect and enhance the house’s original character. Owners Bruce McGuirk and Martha Constable worked with the HDC to ensure the work would be appropriate for the historic district.
6 Clover Lane
This 1966 home — designed and built by George White — is a typical New England saltbox-style replication. Its 3rd owners — Lawrence and LJ Wilks — have taken special care to preserve the exterior.
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.)
How does the Wakeman Town Farm’s garden grow?
With a ton of help from the Westport Garden Club.
WTF has received a $5,000 gift from the WGC — the club’s largest single donation in its 93-year history. Funds will help create perennial gardens, at the newly renovated and enhanced property.
The grant was made possible by the Garden Club’s annual plant sale. This year’s event — one of Westport’s favorite springtime rituals — takes place on Friday (May 12, Saugatuck Congregational Church, 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.).
After the sale, the club plans to donate any remaining plants to the Town Farm. Members will also help plant and tend the new gardens.
Among many other activities, they plant, weed, prune and mulch sites like the Compo Beach entry and marina; Adams Academy; the Earthplace entrance; the Library’s winter garden near Jesup Green; various cemeteries, and the Nevada Hitchcock Memorial Garden at the Cross Highway/Weston Road intersection.
An astonishing array of plants are available on Friday. Among the most popular: “perkies.” These perennials come from local gardens, and thrive in our quirky Connecticut climate.
The Westport Garden Club plant sale is on, rain or shine. Exactly what you’d expect from this intrepid group, who do so much to “grow” our town.