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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Selectmen: Aitkenhead to Return to Farm

By James Lomuscio

Westport’s Board of Selectmen today unanimously approved an 18-month employment agreement between the town and Michael Aitkenhead, who will serve as the resident caretaker of the Wakeman Town Farm & Sustainability Center.

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Mike Aitkenhead addresses a pancake breakfast last month at the Wakeman Town Farm. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

The vote brought cheers from members of the Wakeman Town Farm Committee that over the past several months has raised $22,000 to keep the environmental education facility self-supporting and open to the public at no cost to the taxpayer.

According to Assistant Town Attorney Gail Kelly, Aitkenhead, his wife Carrie, and two small children, will take up residence at the old Wakeman homestead in late December. The employment agreement will run through June 30, 2013.

“We talked to the Aitkenheads, and they’re excited about it, and I’m excited about it,” said First Selectman Gordon Joseloff, noting that the farm will also offer a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

CSA is a program whereby those who pay into it can buy regionally grown produce at a farmers market-type setting.

Committee member Cathy Tallmadge noted that the year round demonstration farm will also offer summer programs for students, administered trough the town’s Parks and Recreation department.

Committee member Elizabeth Beller said that the farm would foster “education for sustainable living,” offering not only demonstrations and classes, but high school internships.

Aitkenhead, a Staples High School advanced science teacher, had previously lived with his family at the farm when it was operated by Westport’s Green Village Initiative (GVI).

The Aitkenheads left the farm after GVI did not renew their contract to operate it, a move that provoked widespread unhappiness among Town Farm and Staples supporters.

Effective Aug. 22, the selectmen voted to terminate their $1-a-year, seven-year lease with GVI after only two years.

Their vote followed an announcement from Dan Levinson, GVI chairman, who said that the nonprofit group preferred to “dedicate our efforts to other community-building and environmental projects in Westport and surrounding towns.”

Following GVI’s departure, strong public support for the farm and Aitkenhead, prompted Joseloff to launch a six-member Wakeman Town Farm Committee. Among its members is Liz Milwe, a GVI founding member who later left the organization.

The committee has since raised funds via a cocktail party and a pancake breakfast.

At the Oct. 2 breakfast that drew 150 attendees, Aitkenhead said he was overwhelmed by such strong community support.

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Posted 11/15/11 at 11:31 PM  Permalink



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This is terrific news!

Posted by Morgan Patrick on November 16, 2011 at 04:14 PM | #