ROCKINGHAM — Laurel Green and Steve Crofter of Singing River Farm welcome the community to their second annual Pansy Festival on Saturday, April 30, from noon to 3 p.m.
"Looking into the bright face of a pansy can bring happiness to anyone," said Green.
For three years she has been cultivating an heirloom variety of field-grown pansies. Last July she saved enough seeds to start about 1,000 plants for this year. In September she transplanted them into growing beds where the young plants overwintered with only a thin blanket of pine needle mulch. As the days lengthened, each pansy plant put on a burst of growth and they began blooming in early March.
Unlike most pansies which are grown in commercial greenhouses, these field-grown pansies have root systems that are substantially more developed. Their root clusters are usually six to eight inches long and eager to be transplanted to the location where they will continue to bloom and grow all season.
In order to offer the freshest and healthiest flowers, Green will only dig the pansies the day before and the morning of the festival. She'll pack them carefully with their soil, five plants to a box. Last year many people were disappointed that the pansies sold out in the first hour, but this year there will be approximately 200 boxes for sale, so hopefully no one will go home empty handed.
Besides the sale of pansies, the festival will include a variety of entertainment, facts about pansies, and activities for all ages such as face painting and a chance to take your photograph posing with the giant pansies.
New for this year's festival, the Putney Mountain Morris Women will perform ritual spring dances to bless the fields and farm, in an ages-old tradition from the Cotswold region of England. This form of dance celebrates the return of the growing season and ensures good crops for the coming year. Dancers wear a "kit" or costume that includes bells on their shins. The dancers accentuate their movements with large, white hankies or clashing sticks. Between the dances, everyone can join in singing seasonal songs and playing cooperative games.
Also new this year, the festival will feature a "Cause Way" where several organizations from the region will provide educational activities and materials related to social justice, environmental restoration, and community resilience. Singing River Farm has recently registered with the state as a low-profit limited liability company (L3C) with goals of furthering environmental and social justice, and this "Cause Way" will be a way of showcasing some of these goals.
The Pansy Festival is also an opportunity to enjoy a picnic. Folks are welcome to bring their own food, but a lunch will be available for sale by the farm's neighbor, María Valadez. She and her husband, Miguel, have lived in Vermont for 17 years, but she still cooks in the traditional style of her native Mexican state of Michoacán. Valadez, is experienced as a professional cook and caterer, and has aspirations of opening her own restaurant in this area. At the Pansy Festival she will be offering burritos in two styles, a meat-free option for vegetarians and carne asada for meat eaters.
The event will take place outside in a meadow so it is suggested that you wear sturdy shoes and dress for the weather. There is no smoking or use of alcohol on the property. Singing River Farm also has a "no dogs allowed" policy for the safety of their guests and farm animals. Because parking is in the sun, for your dogs' sake it is best to leave them at home.
"This celebration of spring will happen rain or shine because our heirloom pansies herald the season of hope whatever the weather," said Green. "And we hope the Pansy Festival will bring happiness to our neighbors as they gather together on a beautiful spring afternoon."
"We've designed the festival to deepen our collective sense of community," said Crofter. "We're aware that the word 'pansy' is sometimes used as a derogatory term for a gay boy or man, but we're proudly using the word, not only to refer to our flowers, but to emphasize that all kinds of people are welcome here."
The Pansy Festival will take place at Singing River Farm, on Brockways Mills Road. For more information call the farm at 802-275-4646 or email Laurel@SingingRiverFarm.net