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Family Gets OK to Move Back to Westport Farm

WESTPORT, Conn. – Staples High School teacher Michael Aitkenhead and his family will once again take up residence at Westport's Wakeman Town Farm and Sustainability Center after they had to move out this past August.

"We're very excited to be working with the Aitkenheads and the town to create an educational center that will give kids the opportunity to learn about farming," Elizabeth Beller told the Board of Selectmen Tuesday. Beller is the chairman of the Wakeman Town Farm Committee, which has overseen operations at the farm since it was returned to the town.

Aitkenhead and his wife Carrie had served as resident farmers since last August . They and their two young children had to move out after the Westport-based nonprofit Green Village Initiative, which managed the property for two years, returned the farm to the town . The organization was slated to lease the property for $1 a year for seven years.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously approved an employment agreement between the town and Aitkenhead on Tuesday. Under the agreement, Aitkenhead will once again work as the resident caretaker, as well as the program director in charge of planning and developing programs at the farm and sustainability center, Assistant Town Attorney Gail Kelly told the selectmen.

According to the agreement, which expires June 2013, Aitkenhead will receive $500 per month as resident caretaker and $400 a month for his duties as program director, Kelly said. Aitkenhead may also work as an instructor, for which he would receive hourly compensation. The committee will also be required to submit quarterly reports on Aitkenhead's performance to the town.

Although the farm and sustainability center are under the town's rule, committee member Cathy Talmadge said the town won't have to foot the bill.

"We totally plan to fund this," she told the selectmen. The committee, through various fundraisers, has raised more than $21,000. "That will cover the fixed expenses, like salaries and utilities."

Other expenses, such as farm improvement projects, will be funded by revenue generated through educational programming and workshops at the farm.

The Aitkenheads are planning to return to the farm in December.

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