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Westport Green Group Cultivates Farming Know-How

WESTPORT, Conn. – At Westport's Green Village Initiative, a nonprofit organization aiming to foster environmental change through local action, reaching out to youth is essential. Its internship program, which sponsors more than 30 internships per season, provides high school and college students with the opportunity to learn about and contribute to improving sustainability.

From May 17 through June 16, the initiative opened its doors to 13 high school seniors from Westport's Staples High School and Fairfield Ludlowe High School.

Monique Bosch and Mike Aitkenhead, two of the group's key influences, took the interns under their wings, exposing them to the ins and outs of environmental sustainability. Bosch worked with 10 of the interns, taking them to farms and gardens throughout Connecticut. Aitkenhead and the other three interns focused on preparing and maintaining Westport's Wakeman Town Farm for the season.

Emma Axthelm, one of Bosch's interns from Staples, said she and the other interns worked five to six days a week, focusing their attention on two to three farms per day. Their experiences included building and designing edible gardens and learning about the principles and best practices of farming. Among their many projects, the interns completed two gardens — one at Blackham Middle School in Bridgeport and the other, named Three Sisters' Garden, at Westport's Sherwood Island.

While recapping her month with the Green Village Initiative, Fairfield Ludlowe's Alanna Fitzpatrick described one of her highlights: The Farm Olympics in which their interns competed against interns from the Hickories, a certified organic farm in Ridgefield, in games of egg tosses, egg slings, chicken catches and other farm-related contests.

"We beat Ridgefield 4-0, just in case you were wondering," Fitzpatrick said with a victorious grin.

At the Wakeman Town Farm, Aitkenhead's three interns worked four days a week after fulfilling a good chunk of their hours during spring break. "Spring is a pivotal season for farming and their help was indispensable," he said.

Aitkenhead refers to seniors Gabe Block, Jesse Sussmane and James Cawley as his "right-hand men," illustrating how well each worked independently, permitting Aitkenhead to attend to his own projects and not have to look over their shoulders constantly.

Among their responsibilities were building composters, weeding, planning and planting the gardens as well as digging irrigation trenches. Added on to the end of their days were water fights with Aitkenhead and teaching his 3-year-old son, Ethan, their motto of "Sun's out, guns out."

Summer Green Village interns are set to pick up where the senior interns left off.

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