One gardener’s weeds are another’s gardener’s vibrant flowers and food source.
Ira Haspel falls decidedly in the latter camp on the subject of dandelions. And he wants Long Islanders to accentuate the positive when they think of the yellow flowers, too.
Haspel, owner of The Farm in Southold, will host the third annual Dandelion Festival on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. to celebrate the much-maligned flower. The free event at 59945 Main Rd. aims to educate people on dandelions’ benefits: They are one of the first food sources for pollinators in the spring, and have long been used in medicines and tonics. Haspel also hopes people will rethink applying synthetic herbicides to their lawns, and learn to live with the prolific plants.
“My purpose is educational. To inform people of the beneficial aspects of dandelion — the root, the leaf and the flower, both as food and medicine,” Haspel said. “And to encourage people not to put any toxic materials on the ground.”
Synthetic chemicals can make their way into the groundwater, he said, and because Long Islanders live above a single source aquifer, this means those compounds could affect drinking water. Dandelions, which are loaded with calcium and other nutrients, can be used in salads, tea and even to make wine, he said. Though there is little scientific evidence of the plant’s benefits, many herbalists vouch for its healing properties and use it as a diuretic.
The Farm follows a biodynamic philosophy, meaning it embraces an organic and holistic approach to farming. Haspel stressed the importance of healthy soil in growing food and said he feeds his crops only with compost made on the farm. He employs techniques like dense plantings to crowd out weeds — or what he calls unwanted plants — rather than applying herbicides.
Haspel and others will deliver dandelion-themed lectures during the event, which has drawn several hundred people in past years. Also expect face painting, dandelion poems, a dandelion crown making station, food vendors, live music and more.