Friday, April 8, 2011

The Farmer Within

Brie and Mike Inspect the Newly Planted Seeds
You know it's springtime when people emerge from hibernation and attend workshops on gardening. I just returned from a delightful, informative session on organic gardening at Wakeman Town Farm, hosted by Mike Aitkenhead, Staples High School AP Environmental Science teacher, winner of 2009's Teacher of the Year award and recently turned farmer.

Until last year, Mike never imagined picking up a shovel, or worm castings, let alone raising chickens and going so far as to build his very own chicken coop. All that changed when the fate of a beautiful, historic property became the subject of debate at Town Hall.

Mike and his lovely wife, along with their two young children, now reside at Wakeman Farm, after he was instrumental in working with the GVI (Green Village Initiative) to retain the farm as a sustainable education center. Using his prowess as a dynamic educator, Mike recruited his students to attend multiple town Board meetings in order to persuade the powers that be to preserve Wakeman Farm for this purpose. After accomplishing this task, Mike and his family were invited to live at the farm, and manage it year-round.

Now an official homesteader, Mike has put his passion for the environment to practice through cultivating multiple gardens, providing free community workshops on gardening and internship opportunities for middle and high school students. The farm is also a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) drop off and pick up point for Westport.

Brie is as enamored with Mike and his family as I am, and has faithfully attended the workshops with me each weekend. They will run throughout the growing and harvesting seasons, complete with sessions on homemade jams and jellies, and even making your own tomato sauce. We can hardly wait. This past weekend we learned how to plant from seed.

Brie is Careful Not to Plant the Seeds too Deep
Our Girls' Bounty
After helping fellow students plant mini seed pots for the workshop garden, we proudly carried home an egg carton-turned-greenhouse, each cup hosting a seed tucked safely inside. Perched on our South facing window sill, we hope to see baby seedlings peek out from the soil in about a week.

We can hardly contain our enthusiasm, as our vegetable garden will be built at the end of the month, coinciding with the arrival of our new "Barn Coop" for the hens, and the baby chicks as well. A very exciting and industrious month, indeed. And we have Mike to thank for connecting us with our inner farmers, inspiring us to take the next step in sustainable living, right in our own backyard.