Westport’s Wakeman Town Farm might be considered the epicenter for revitalizing Fairfield County’s agricultural roots. Toward that mission, it hosts many activities and opportunities for local residents to learn the skills required to produce one’s own food. It also recently served as the venue for a potluck buffet of delicious dishes made from locally produced ingredients, followed by a lively dialogue among area farmers, farm-to-table restaurateurs, and local consumers.
“The Farmer-Chef Connection” drew a crowd of more than two hundred, eager to hear Westport's Le Farm and The Whelk owner and chef Bill Taibe, Boxcar Cantina's Nancy Roper, head grower at Gilbertie's Herb Farm Renee Giroux, Westport Farmer's Market manager Lori Cochran, and resident Wakeman farmer and Staples HS science teacher Mike Aitkenhead.
Moderated by Wakeman Farm committee chair Liz Beller, the group voiced their commitment to fresh, locally produced food and to the farmers who provide it. Since many of the farmers who raised the ingredients for the evening’s varied menu were present at the event, there was also the opportunity to connect face to face with people who grow our food — something that, in an age of overnight shipping and worldwide markets, has become increasingly elusive.
The garden at Wakeman Farm, with a small group of the June 17th crowd in the background.
Expanding consumption beyond the 1% of food in our agricultural chain of production that is grown locally requires some commitment, however. Farmer’s markets, local farm stores, and patronage of retailers and restaurants who source their produce, baked goods, meats, fish and dairy locally is how the movement spreads.
Bill Taibe, who has run Le Farm and then opened The Whelk over the past four years, has seen the change in the food culture and keeps trying to move it forward. With others who are committed to the locavore culture, one initiative, called CropUps, offers food businesses the opportunity to order fresh and local via an online platform and a delivery system that brings farms together with food marketers and restaurants in a more efficient way. While it’s still a project in its infant stages, more participants are on board since the Connection event on June 17th and, hopefully, more will follow.
Wakeman Town Farm
134 Cross Highway
Westport, CT 06880