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Wakeman Farm group plans how to keep goats, sheep down on the farm

Updated 7:20 pm, Thursday, April 25, 2013

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  • Mike Aitkenhead, steward of Wakeman Town Farm, shows committee members the new plots designed for vegetable and flower gardening at the town-owned agricultural center.  WESTPORT NEWS, CT 4/24/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta / Westport News contributed
    Mike Aitkenhead, steward of Wakeman Town Farm, shows committee members the new plots designed for vegetable and flower gardening at the town-owned agricultural center. WESTPORT NEWS, CT 4/24/13 Photo: Jarret Liotta

 

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Spring's season of growth has taken root at Wakeman Town Farm, and the agenda for the town committee that oversees the farm is growing, as well.

The committee met Wednesday evening to talk about, among other things, two goats and two sheep that will become farm residents in a month or so.

"As the farm's expanding, the next logical step is to get some goats and sheep to complete the homestead," said Michael Aitkenhead, steward of the agricultural center on Cross Highway.

He told the committee that once a fence is up, perhaps within the next couple of weeks, an enclosure will be ready for the animals.

"Even if we don't have the full-blown shelter, I think we can still get the animals," he said, "but I think we need the fence."

The committee discussed options for construction of the three-rail, split-rail fence it hopes to build, including volunteers and discounted material.

"We can always upgrade," said member Christy Colasurdo. "We're just starting out."

Elizabeth Beller, the committee chairwoman, said she had worked with a professional fence builder, who, for a stipend, might be willing to oversee amateurs building the enclosure.

"He would love to have a project like that," she said. "He grew up in Jamaica and the farm stuff is near and dear to him."

Wakeman Farm overseers hope that by having resident animals, the center will be able to expand its offerings, including opportunities to teach about sheep shearing and, down the road, goat milking.

"All the animals will be female," Beller said, explaining that the sheep will also help keep the goats warm in cold weather.

She said the group plans to visit a farm upstate in the next couple of weeks to pick out the animals to buy for the farm.

"We won't bring them home until they're completely weaned from their mothers," Beller said, which will probably be toward the end of May.

"I think we can put together a makeshift shelter, which will keep them protected ... but you can't have the goats and sheep without a fence," Aitkenhead said.

Committee member Bill Constantino, whose family had originally owned the farm, said business contacts of his might help secure lumber for the fencing at a discount.

"Whatever relationships locally we can cultivate," Colasurdo said. "You never know who's going to be a friend to the farm."

On Sunday, the farm plans public activities in conjunction with the townwide Green Day environmental program, including farming and gardening demonstrations.

The committee is also looking to construct a greenhouse on the property, but is giving that project lower priority for now.

"While it's a nice showpiece and it'll be great to have it here," Aitkenhead said, it's much more of a wintertime tool for the farm, "so I would say that's the lowest priority."

At its next meeting, the committee will officially receive a $5,000 gift from the Westport Women's Club.

"They're really, really interested in the farm and what we're doing," Colasurdo said, and club members expect to also serve as volunteers at the farm.