Tag Archives: Wakeman Town Farm

Wakeman Town Farm Raises The Roof

Pancake breakfasts and harvest dinners. Summer workshops and apprenticeships for kids. Chicken-keeping and cheese-making classes for adults; Family fun days, barn dances and holiday tree lightings.

With all that — and much more — Wakeman Town Farm provides a space for Westporters of all ages to connect with the land, learn about our past, and create a sustainable future.

Now, the space that serves so many of us so well needs us to serve it.

Wakeman Town Farm: the front view... (Photo/Peter LaMastro/LincLine Photography)

Wakeman Town Farm: the front view… (Photo/Peter LaMastro – LincLine Photography)

The farmhouse needs a new roof. The near-century-old structure’s leaky roof won’t last another winter. It’s jeopardizing the health and safety of its stewards — Mike and Carrie Aitkenhead — and their 2 young children, as well as the summer campers.

A new roof will make the house more energy efficient. It will also allow Farm Board meetings, community-supported agriculture storage and classes to take place safely and dryly.

Adding cisterns to downspouts to collect rainwater will save both money and water. (A 60-gallon barrel can consistently irrigate a 100-square-foot garden.) The cost for those improvements is $25,000.

...and the rear. (Photo/Peter LaMastro - LincLine Photography)

…and the rear. (Photo/Peter LaMastro – LincLine Photography)

Wakeman Town Farm also hopes to turn existing space into a multi-purpose classroom/kitchen. Year-round cooking classes can teach kids to turn the vegetables they’ve grown into great meals. There will also be farm dinners, featuring local farm-to-table restaurants and food purveyors.

Students of all ages (including those at after-school and summer programs) can attend old-school homesteading classes to learn skills like making cheese, plus preserves, jams, pickles and sauces using the bounty from Wakeman’s organic gardens.

With a large community table, the classroom can convert into a lecture hall, movie venue and community-meeting spot. Those improvements will run $70,000.

Fun with plants and chickens, at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Peter LaMastro - LincLine Photography)

Fun with plants and chickens, at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Peter LaMastro – LincLine Photography)

Wakeman Town Farm has created an easy-to-use online fundraising site. Clicking it — and donating any amount — is one way to “Raise the Roof.”

Another way is to purchase the ever-popular (ask your kids why) “WTF” t-shirt. Just email the color (gray, Nantucket red or green) and size (men’s or women’s S, M, L or XL) and quantity to: wakemantownfarm@gmail.com.

There’s also a PG-version, in white, for kids’ S, M or L sizes.

Wakeman Town Farm is a fantastic town resource. We’ve always shown it lots of love.

Now let’s pony up some bucks.

 

GreenDay Comes To Westport!

Uh, no, not that Green Day.

Still, if we can’t have a 5-Grammy-winning, 75-million-album-selling punk band, we’ve got the next best thing: a 2-day, Staples-student-spearheaded, townwide event celebrating the environment, sustainability and related life-affirming causes.

It aims to counter (obligatory Green Day reference here) “21st Century Breakdown.”

GreenDay replaces EcoFest, the music, food and vendor-filled event. But the renovation of Levitt Pavilion meant EcoFest needed a new home, so the organizers — Staples’ Club Green — gave it a totally new spin.

Staples High School Club Green

Staples AP environmental studies teacher and Wakeman Town Farm steward Mike Aitkenhead says, “I’m always overcome by the fact that so many groups are doing amazing innovative work in town — but these groups rarely work together. And so few people outside of these circles know about the incredible work in sustainability that’s happening right here in Westport.”

Rather than a single, localized “festival,” GreenDay (this Saturday and Sunday, May 3 and 4) highlights innovative work being done all around town. Westporters can pick and choose among many family-oriented, free events.

They include:

  • Clean up Dead Man’s Brook (Saturday, May 3, 9 a.m.-noon). Park at the Westport Woman’s Club lower lot, 44 Imperial Avenue; wear hiking or rubber boots and work gloves. Sponsor: Westport Parks & Rec Department and Builders Beyond Borders. Click here to sign up.
  • Tour the water pollution control facility. (Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., 4 Elaine Road). Find out where Westport’s waste water ends up. See the process and technology, in a guided tour. Sponsor: Westport Public Works Department. 
  • Nature walks and pond science. (Saturday, May 3, 10 a.m.-1 p.m., Earthplace, 10 Woodside Lane). Includes crafts and Long Island Sound touch tank. Guided nature walks at 10:30 a.m. and noon; animal encounters at 10 a.m., 11 a.m and 12:30 p.m. Sponsor: Earthplace.

GreenDay collage

  • Spring Fun at Wakeman Town Farm. (Saturday, May 3, 134 Cross Highway). 1-2:15 p.m.: farm tours of gardens and animals; square foot garden workshop; help plant vegetable and lower gardens; children’s activities and games. 2:15-2:45 p.m.: sheep shearing, goat grooming and wool spinning demo. 2:45-3:15 p.m.: Greenhouse dedication ceremony. 3:15-4 p.m.: Traditional Maypole dance and drum circle. Sponsor: Wakeman Town Farm.
  • “Chasing Ice” documentary and panel discussion on climate change. (Sunday, May 4, 4-6 p.m., Town Hall). The story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Sponsor: Westport Cinema Initiative. Cost: $10 per ticket, available For more information, click here.

Aitkenhead says that many Westporters want to contribute to the town’s environmental movement, but don’t know how.

“Greenday is about letting the entire community learn about and share in the excitement of many different initiatives. It’s a day to take part in the great environmental work that Westporters are doing, and help us all work toward a better, more sustainable future.”

 

Click here if your browser does not take you directly to YouTube.

 

 

B3, BSA And WTF

Wakeman Town Farm was buzzing today.

Nearly 200 high school students spent 2 shifts working on 9 team projects. One of the most impressive: building a beautiful trail, linking Wakeman Farm to Bedford Middle School.

This was the 2nd year Builders Beyond Borders helped. Several Eagle Scouts joined too.

It’s amazing what some kids do with their free time.

Building a trail at Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Robin Tauck)

Clearing up Wakeman Town Farm. (Photo/Robin Tauck)

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.