Wardsboro Students Promote State Vegetable for Vermont
The Vermont legislature voted to designate the Gilfeather Turnip as the Official State Vegetable of Vermont on April 29. Vermont is only the 14th state to name a State Vegetable. It came about as the result of a two-year effort by fourth, fifth and sixth graders at Wardsboro Elementary School, who went to hearings at the State House in Montpelier on multiple occasions to testify and give illustrated presentations before both House and Senate committees. For the students, it was a long-term lesson in politics and civics. Once the bill is signed by Governor Peter Shumlin, the act becomes effective July 1.
The Gilfeather Turnip is hybrid created by John Gilfeather of Wardsboro in the early 1900s. The town has held a Gilfeather Turnip Festival in late October since 2002 to raise funds for the local library. For the history of the Gilfeather Turnip, visit wardsborovermont.com.
Wardsboro resident Mike Cooney, chairperson for The Friends of the Wardsboro Library, said, “We’re so proud of the Wardsboro Elementary School students who worked so hard to bring the Vermont Legislature’s attention to this truly unique heirloom vegetable from our town. They did just great at the hearings in Montpelier. For the past 13 years, the Friends have so much fun with the Gilfeather Turnip Festival and it’s been a great fundraiser. This group owns and pays the bills for the building that houses the library, so you could almost say that without this event and the crowds that it attracts to Wardsboro, there might not be a nice warm and well-lit library in our town.”
Now that the Gilfeather Turnip is officially the Vermont State Vegetable, Cooney expects that the news of the Gilfeather Turnip Festival will spread far and wide, and that the fundraising from the event will exceed previous totals. They also gain revenue from the sale of their Gilfeather Turnip Cookbook, now in its third edition, and turnip-themed merchandise sold at the festival. This year’s event is planned for Saturday, October 22.