Tag Archives: Wakeman Town Farm

I Met A Pie-Mom…

There was lots going on this afternoon at Wakeman Town Farm.

The Family Fun Day included food, meet-the-animals, talk-to-farmers — and of course a pie-eating contest.

Betsy P. Kahn sends along these great photos:

On your mark...

On your mark…

Getting into it.

Getting into it.

REALLY getting into it.

REALLY getting into it.

And the winner: co-WTF steward Carrie Aitkenhead.

And the winner: co-WTF steward Carrie Aitkenhead.

There was also “farm girl mud wrestling.”

Betsy did not send photos.

“06880” is a family blog.

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!

From The West Village To Westport: 1 Year Later

A year ago April, I posted a story about a woman I’d never met. She was a native Californian who spent the last 7 years in Greenwich Village; a freelance graphic designer with a great portfolio, and the mother of a 2-year-old girl.

The family — well, the little kid had no say — were thinking of moving to the ‘burbs. They were looking at 2 towns: Westport and Darien.

She asked me what she’d find here. I deferred to the collective wisdom of “06880” readers.

Alli DiVincenzo

Alli DiVincenzo

Some people advised her to stay put. Others bashed Darien. But the majority of responders offered thoughtful, wide-ranging, realistic reasons for her to come to 06880.

Things happened quickly. Within 2 months Alli DiVincenzo, her husband Glenn and young Capri found a house and closed. On June 22 they moved to Green’s Farms.

The other day, Alli emailed again.

Did she bear good news? Was she aching for the city — or California?

Read on:

I can’t believe it’s been just over a year since you came to my curious rescue about the town of Westport. You graciously posted my cry for help and opened the blogwaves to your readers for their opinions.

The responses not only hit every geographical touch point, but many emotional ones as well. Your readers are passionate. I thank you and all of them again for enlightening us on the good, the bad and the ugly –although I have yet to witness anything truly “ugly” in this town. Even the seagulls are pristine.

My sister visited last week. She described Westport as “Perfectville!” (She acknowledged that she has yet to experience a winter here.)

Alli's neighborhood, near Burying Hill Beach. (Photo by Alli DiVincenzo)

Alli’s neighborhood, near Burying Hill Beach. (Photo by Alli DiVincenzo)

Lots has happened to Alli in a year.

For one thing, Capri now has a baby brother. Will was born 9 months to the day after Alli and Glenn moved here. (Ahem. I refuse to go there.)

He’s got a longer-than-he-realized commute to New York. But she set up a home studio. Thanks to tons of people she’d just met, but who were eager to refer her, her AlliQDesign firm has plenty of projects. She worked with Westport Invitations; designed a poster for Amy Oestreicher‘s Gutless and Grateful show, and did graphics for the Westport Library‘s Great Gatsby Party. A mother at Capri’s pre-school sent 3 clients Alli’s way.

The neighbors on her cul-de-sac were very welcoming. She was invited to a Christmas party, and they threw her a baby shower plus a baby welcome brunch.

Her neighborhood features a long-running book club, filled with women who are “smart, beautiful, strong and successful, each in her own way.” A neighbor introduced her to the staff at the Westport Country Playhouse; she’s been to every play since. 

Alli and Capri, with holiday plants at Terrain.

Alli and Capri, with holiday plants at Terrain.

Alli and Capri went on the Wakeman Town Farm chicken coop tour. The family has explored Earthplace, the beaches, and canoed on Sherwood Mill Pond. Alli calls Westport’s resources and recreational activities “beyond any scope we’ve ever known.”

Alli loves the open spaces — and the fact that people don’t hide in it. Last week she chatted with a man pushing a stroller. He works on environmental issues. “People here do very interesting things,” she says.

For a while, she and Glenn thought Bobby Q’s was the only place to eat. They’ve since discovered the Whelk, the Dressing Room and many others. The variety of restaurants was “a pleasant surprise,” Alli says.

This summer — for the 1st time ever — the family is not going anywhere. They just want to enjoy their new home town. After all, Alli says, “It’s like a vacation spot.”

She admits downtown is “a bit sleepy.” But she is excited by the changes coming soon. And, as her father observed, “You can always tell a great downtown: It doesn’t have parking meters.”

Of course, every mother wants her child to be happy. So how does Capri like Westport?

“She’s taken the town by storm,” Alli says.

Green Day Comes To Westport (Video Added)

Eco-Fest — Staples High School’s Club Green annual celebration of our planet — will not be held this year.

Instead, the hard-working environmental club is producing 5 different “eco-events.”

They’ll take place — one after the other — this Sunday (April 28). It’s called Green Day, and it promises to be more even entertaining than the band of the same name.

Plus a lot less punk.


earth

All activities are very family friendly. And nearly all are free.

Sunday begins with a clean-up of Longshore (8-10 a.m.). There’s plenty of post-Sandy debris to pick up. Wear hiking or rubber boots; bring gloves; park by the 1st tee — and do your part to make this town jewel sparkle.

From 10 a.m. to noon at Wakeman Town Farm, kids can meet animals, plant vegetables and do crafts. Mini-workshops on gardening are planned for adults. Representatives from local farms, farmers markets and CSAs will provide info too.

At noon, Earthplace sponsors 2 hours of guided nature walks, pond activities, and sustainable energy displays — even toy solar car-building.

LoraxBetween 2 and 4 p.m., the Westport Library hosts video showings of the classic Dr. Seuss story The Lorax. There are also children’s crafts and other activities related to that classic 1971 book. (Spark Notes: A beautiful valley becomes polluted, but there’s a ray of hope at the end.)

All that eco-stuff can work up an appetite. With hunger still a real problem in America, there’s a screening of the haunting documentary “A Place at the Table” at Town Hall (4 p.m.). A panel discussion on hunger in the U.S. follows. It’s co-sponsored by Westport Cinema Initiative and Saugatuck Congregational Church, and tickets are $10.

Sunday’s forecast is for blue skies. How perfect for a Green Day.

(To see today’s “Good Morning Staples” TV show — featuring a preview of Green Day activities — click here, or click the YouTube video below.)

Mike The Mailman Does Deliver

Amazingly, this is my 2nd “inspirational mailman” story in 2 days.

Yesterday I highlighted Westport’s George “Nooky” Powers.

Today it’s Mike the Mailman. You may not have heard of him, because he works at Penn State University.

Mike the Mailman...  (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

Mike the Mailman… (Photo courtesy of CBS News)

Then again, you may have heard of him. If, that is, you were like Hedi Lieberman: snowed in, and watching “CBS Evening News.”

Mike Kerr is a much-loved postal worker in State College. He’s worked there for 38 years.

He was grand marshal of the Homecoming parade. One woman buys stamps when she doesn’t need them, just to see Mike.

So what does 16801 have to do with 06880?

Mike Aitkenhead.

...and Mike the Teacher.

…and Mike the Teacher.

“You really have no idea who you’re going to influence and when you’re going to influence them,” says Mike, who CBS’ Steve Hartman identified as “a high school teacher in Connecticut,” but who we know as both an outstanding Staples High School educator and the Wakeman Town Farm steward.

But let CBS Evening News take it from there:

(Mike Aitkenhead) got his master’s at Penn State, and although he didn’t know Mike the Mailman very well, years later, when he was awarded teacher of the year in his district, guess who he thanked for his success.

“The one person I’m always going to remember and probably taught me the most about life was actually Mike the Mailman,” Michael said in his speech.

“It was honestly his example that kind of taught me it’s not what you do in life, but it’s how you do it,” Michael says.

Now that’s something to write home about.

Trimming The Wakeman Tree

This Saturday at 5 p.m. — right after the Wakeman Town Farm/Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens Christmas tree and greenery sale — everyone in town is invited to a Christmas tree lighting. There’s a bonfire and hot chocolate too.

It’s billed as the “1st annual” event. But really, trees have been lit at the Town Farm on Cross Highway for years.

Let Bill Constantino — a 1986 Staples grad — tell the tale:

The Wakeman Farm.

First my great-grandparents, then my grandparents Ike and Pearl Wakeman, owned Wakeman Farms. They served Connecticut and New York for a very long time.

Granted I’m only 44, but the traditions and family values that have been ingrained in me will be passed on to my girls and their families for generations.

I have countless memories of “The Farm.” Many years ago we started a tradition of lighting the hemlock tree on the corner of the driveway. It started one night about 2 weeks after Thanksgiving with my grandparents and various uncles, aunts and cousins who decided to decorate the tree on the side of the house.

We wanted to light up the sky, and allow our family and friends to see this beautiful tree when they came by to visit over the holidays.

The Wakemans’ tree, years ago. (Photo courtesy of Bill Constantino)

The tree wasn’t as big as it is today. Nevertheless, when we started, we didn’t have enough lights. So my grandmother, mother and aunts ran to every store in the area to gather enough lights to go around the tree.

That, of course, left my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins to talk about anything and everything. They traded stories about “The Farm.” It was a great family bonding experience.

Over the years, different family and friends have decorated the tree. Sometimes we contacted the Westport News. They took pictures of the lit tree, and put it on the front page of the paper.

For me, the tree symbolizes remembrance of generations of our family, friends and customers who have worked, purchased or just stopped in to see the “family” at Wakeman Farm.

Now the torch has passed to the newly extended Wakeman Town Farm family. There are new traditions to be forged, certainly…but with some old traditions to be honored as well.

It’s the next best thing my grandparents, mother and family would have wanted.

 

Wakeman Town Farm And Gilbertie’s Celebrate Strong Roots

90 years ago, Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens planted roots on Sylvan Lane.

Today they stretch all across town.

A few years ago, the Westport Farmers’ Market needed a winter home. Sal Gilbertie — the herb garden founder’s grandson — stepped up to the plate.

Sal Gilbertie

When Wakeman Town Farm needed to brighten its grounds for a Harvest Dinner fundraiser, Sal showed up with a truckload of over 100 fall mums. He dropped them in the yard without a word.

To show its appreciation — and demonstrate the importance of strong local roots — WTF is partnering with Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens for a 1-day Christmas tree and greenery sale. It’s next Saturday (December 1, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) at Wakeman Town Farm, 134 Cross Highway.

Sal will sell Fraser firs and undecorated wreaths, plus balsam wreaths festooned with pine, cedar, herbs and assorted natural decorations.

At 5 p.m. there’s the 1st-ever Wakeman Town Farm Christmas tree lighting, featuring hot chocolate and a bonfire.

True to its goal of supporting local farmers, growers and businesses — as well as its educational mission — WTF passes along this info:

Christmas tree farms stabilize soil, protect water supplies and provide refuge for wildlife, while also creating scenic green belts. For every real Christmas tree harvested, 3 seedlings are planted in its place. That, in turn, reduces global greenhouse gas effects.

Meaning — just like at Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens — strong roots continue to grow.

WTF: What A Difference A Year Makes

This summer is shaping up as a lot hotter than last.

Except at Wakeman Town Farm.

A year ago, passions blazed  at the “organic demonstration homestead” on Cross Highway. Steward Michael Aitkenhead and his family were ousted. Many of the farm’s friends and fans responded with outrage. Fingers pointed, tongues wagged — the heat was on.

A year later, all is calm. Crops are growing nicely; educational programs hum along, and Aitkenheads are enjoying a very peaceful summer.

It’s all on display this Saturday (July 14, 12-4 p.m.). WTF hosts a “down-home family event for kids and families of all ages.”

Along with “festive food trucks and farmyard lawn games,” there will be pony rides, Kaia kids’ yoga, a petting zoo, face painting and a pie-eating contest.

A press release invites you to check out the organic vegetable gardens, picnic on the grounds, meet the farmers — “and see what all the buzz is about!”

Buzz. It’s a far better sound than last summer’s gunfire.

(All proceeds benefit the programs and upkeep of Wakeman Town Farm. The suggested donation is $5 for children, $10 for adults. Food is available for purchase.)

One Good Reason To Cross The Road

Back in the Westport day, most folks raised chickens. They were a great source of eggs (and meat).

As we modernized, we bought our eggs and chicken at grocery stores. Then came supermarkets.

Our backyards grew grass, not dirt. Then came swing sets, patios and pools.

Now we’re back to backyard chickens.

More Westporters than you realize keep coops. To honor them — the people and the chickens — Wakeman Town Farm is sponsoring a tour of 15 backyard henhouses.

The fundraiser is set for Saturday, May 5.

This being Westport, the coops are not exactly Tyson Farms. According to WTF, participants can check out “the hautest henhouse, the Cadillac of chicken shacks, and the coop de ville.”

Not your father's -- or your grandfather's -- chicken coop. Hey, this is Westport.

Egg-regious puns aside, the event should be great. Starting at 10 a.m. at the farm (134 Cross Highway), participants pay just $10 for a self-guided tour map. They also get a snack bag and optional scavenger hunt.

The map offers a route for a wide range of tricked-out coops. At most stops, homeowners will be available to talk turkey chicken and show off their birds.

Then, back at WTF, there are ice cream sundaes made with milk from The Farmer’s Cow cows.

Proceeds support WTF educational programming. Perhaps one of those classes will answer the age-old question:  “Which came first…”

(Admission to the May 5 event — $10 per person — includes a tour map, snack pack with granola and yogurt from local companies, and a sundae. RSVP to wakemantownfarm@gmail.com, or call 203-557-9195.)

Meanwhile, Back At The Farm…

The holiday open house is over. The Aitkenheads are back home.

But Wakeman Town Farm is hardly settling down for a long winter’s nap.

There’s plenty going on at the sustainability center on Cross Highway.

For example, registration has just opened for the “Farm Apprentice” program. Middle schoolers learn all about organic farming and gardening through hands-on instruction — from seed to harvest.

Spring session activities include garden planning, seed starting and planting, garden preparation and maintenance, and composting.  Students also help care for chickens, rabbits and bees. (Enrollment is very limited — for more information click here, call 203-557-9195, or email wakemantownfarm@gmail.com)

Orders are still being taken for the winter Community Supported Agriculture program. Run through Winter Sun Farms, the CSA works with small local farms to distribute to distribute delicious frozen and preserved vegetables and fruit.

Members pay in advance for “winter shares.” Pickup is the 2nd Thursday of every month (1-7 p.m.), now through April. (For more information or to join, click here.)

Also in the works: a new WTF website. And a membership program, offering advance sign-up privileges for programs and events, plus discounts.

Finally, this news: Carrie Aitkenhead has ordered 7 gorgeous baby chicks — all different breeds. They’ll arrive in April.

There is indeed plenty new under the Wakeman Town Farm sun. Even if, in winter, it’s up for only a few hours a day.