Commissioner Scott Soares
Commissioner, Department of Agriculture Resources (DAR)
Recently, our colleague Rick LeBlanc staffed the MassGrown tent at West Brookfield’s 9th Annual Asparagus and Flower Heritage Festival on the town common. Asparagus is one of the first harvests of spring and is much enjoyed for its delicate flavor. Studies have also shown that the stalks are high in antioxidants and a good source for folic acid and potassium.
What started out as a small event with a dozen or so vendors in 2003 has now expanded to more than 100 local growers and artisans participating this year. Festivities included performances by local musicians Dick Chase and Samantha Gillogly, a frog jumping contest, children dancing around a May pole, and most importantly – lots of asparagus along Asparagus Alley including asparagus chowder, asparagus wrapped in prosciutto, and asparagus chicken wraps.
Many people in the know associate asparagus with the Pioneer Valley, but when you look at the history, its roots are in West Brookfield. It’s said that a Dutch Consul, Diederik Leertouwer, came to Massachusetts and New England in 1790 to promote trade. After making his home in West Brookfield, Mr. Leertouwer purportedly had asparagus roots shipped from Europe so he could grow and enjoy one of his favorite vegetables. Every year since, asparagus patches crop up each spring around the Foster Hill area of West Brookfield.
This festival is among many of its kind that have an agricultural theme and which are popping up across the state.
June 4: Dairy Day at Drumlin Farm
June 4-5: 9th Annual Apple Blossom Bash
June 18: Strawberry Soiree at Red Fire Farm