Adults dismiss them as weeds; children, as things to pluck and blow away for a wish. Local biodynamic farmer Ira Haspel sees dandelions differently.
“Dandelions are extremely beneficial,”says Haspel, owner of KK’s Farm in Southold. “They’re so important when it comes to biodynamic preparation. We put dandelion in our compost pile to enhance our microbial activity and the difference it makes is amazing.”
Amazing, too, are the effects of the sunny-colored wildflowers on the human body. Dandelions contain potent antioxidants, are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber, and have, for centuries, been used to treat innumerable physical ailments, ranging from digestive disorders to acne. They’re also the preferred food of pollinators.
So how did these super flowers get such a bad wrap? Haspel would rather educate than speculate.
“We hosted our first Dandelion Festival four years ago,” he says. “We wanted to celebrate the dandelion and extol its virtues. So we put together a line-up of educational lectures, live music, activities for kids and other dandelion-inspired fun to bring people out and start spreading the word.”
Since that first Dandelion Festival, the event has become an East End institution, drawing over 700 people last year. This year’s festival will take place on Sunday, May 5 at KK’s Farm in Southold from noon to 6:00 p.m.
“We really make it fun,” says Haspel. “Matchbook Distilling Company, for instance, will even be serving a spirit they made just for the festival at this year’s event. It’s a Dandelion Amaro; how cool is that?”
Similarly exciting is the festival’s culinary line-up, which includes the 1943 pizza truck, which will be serving pizza with a topping of dandelion greens, North Fork Roasting Company, and Grace and Grits, which will serve dandelion-topped tacos.
“This festival, like the dandelion itself, is a symbol of spring,” says Haspel. “We bring together distillers and chefs, local farmers and beekeepers, nature organizations and herbalists to really celebrate this special plant. It’s one of the first foods for the bees each year, so we really want to reach out to people as early as we can and impart this information. People spray their lawns with toxic chemicals to kill these flowers and we want them to understand not only why they shouldn’t want to kill dandelions in the first place, but also what those chemicals do to our soil and water. On the East End, we’re working with a single source aquifer. That means that there’s no alternative if that aquifer becomes contaminated. So the last thing we want is for people to put toxic chemicals on their lawns and poison our water.”
Guest lecturers at this year’s Dandelion Festival include Sarah Shepherd of The Island Herbalist, Stephen Storch of Natural Science Organics, Leigh Merinoff of Meadow Bee Farms, Taylor Knapp of PawPaw and Peconic Escargot, and more.
The festival’s line-up also includes plenty of fun activities and workshops for kids of all ages, including face painting, dandelion crown making, hula hoop lessons, and tours of the farm.
“I’m just happy to be educating the community,” says Haspel. “That’s what the Dandelion Festival is all about.”
Admission to the Dandelion Festival is free. Organizers are asking attendees to please park on Bay Home Road, across the Main Road from the farm, not on the Main Road. For more information, call 631.765.2075 or visit kkthefarm.com.