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Comstock, Ferre & Co. to host 4th Annual Heirloom Festival

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Comstock, Ferre & Co., 263 Main St. in Old Wethersfield, will hold their 4th annual Heirloom Festival, a celebration of spring and the beginning of planting season this Sunday, May 25, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (rain or shine)

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Storied History

On September 25, 1811, Joseph Belden printed an advertisement in the Hartford Courant listing the various seeds he had for sale. This simple act proved to be the start of an agricultural business that has remained a stronghold on Old Wethersfield’s Main Street for over two centuries, under the direction of various presidents and owners. Following his older brother Joseph’s lead, James Lockwood Belden took control of the business in the 19th-century, selling seeds out of his colonial home, which still stands on the company’s property today.

Heirloom Seeds

A recent resurgence in home gardening, sparked by public interest in fresh, local, and healthy food alternatives, has resulted in a renewed emphasis on what are known as heirloom seeds and plants. The term describes a seed from a plant that is of particular value, and recognized as worth preserving from one generation to another. Such plants, nurtured through careful growth, are usually selected for their value in terms of flavor, productivity, hardiness, and adaptability. In some cases, certain seed histories can be traced back 300 years or more.

New beginnings

In June 2010, Jere and Emilee Gettle, owners of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, purchased Comstock, Ferre & Co. with the intention of restoring the storied business’s rich agricultural heritage. To achieve this aim, the Gettles have been working to find and preserve seed varieties included in Belden’s original catalog, and have successfully restored the grounds and antique equipment from the business’s early days.

Heirloom Festival

The festival will feature a number of fun-filled family activities including a variety of musical acts, engaging speakers, dancing, children’s activities, and food demonstrations. For a complete schedule of events, see below:

Schedule of Events

Speakers – (Located in the Red Barn behind the Greenhouse)

10:00 a.m. Representative Philip Miller – (On how Connecticut became the first state to mandate labeling of genetically engineered ingredients)
10:45 a.m. Jack Algiere – ‘Growing a New Generation of Farmers and Seed Savers’
11:30 a.m. Nicholas Mancini – ‘Starting a Garden the Correct Way’
12:15 p.m. Brenda Sullivan - ‘Starting a Business in Agriculture, an introduction to SPIN (Small Plot Intensive Farming)’
1:00 p.m. Dr. Marie Mammone – ‘What is the Healthy Diet for You!’
1:45 p.m. Lawrence Davis Hollander – ‘Growing a Three Sisters (Native American) Garden’
2:30 p.m. Scott Chaskey – Author of Seedtime: On the History, Husbandry, Politics, and Promise of Seeds
3:15 p.m. Adam Fuller – ‘Beekeeping: Then and Now’
4:00 p.m. Joseph Simcox – (On the preservation of plant species and varieties in danger of extinction)
4:45 p.m. Zen Honeycutt – ‘GMOs, Glyphosate, and Their Impact on the Health of America’
5:30 p.m. Mark Rutkowski – ‘Four Seasons Growing in Greenhouses and High Tunnels’

Music – Located in the Outside Gazebo

10:30-11:30 a.m. –Ruth George and Nathanael Rocha (Folk)
11:30-1:30 p.m. – ShoreGrass (Bluegrass)
1:30-3:30 p.m. – The Please and Thank You Band (American Country)
3:30-5:30 p.m. – The Sky Blue Boys (Folk/American Country)

Music – Located In Store

1:00-2:30 p.m. – Judith Milardo and Philippa Dunne (Music from the British Isles)
4:00-5:00 p.m. – Zack Bergstedt (Acoustic)

Children’s Entertainment – Located In Store (Classroom Space)

10:00 a.m. – Grian MacGregor and The Ivy Vine Players Puppet Theatre
10:45 a.m. - Jackson Gillman, ‘The Stand Up Chameleon’
11:30 a.m. – Grian MacGregor and The Ivy Vine Players Puppet Theatre
12:15 p.m. – Jackson Gillman, ‘The Stand Up Chameleon’

Family Entertainers – Located Under Tent

12:00 p.m. – Cooking Demonstration (presented by Lucky Lou’s Tavern)
1:00-2:00 p.m. – Horizon Wings Raptors Display
2:00-3:00 p.m. – The Royal Scottish Country Dance Society of New Haven
3:00-4:00 p.m. – Horizon Wings Raptors Display

Film – Located In Store (Classroom Space)

2:00-3:00 p.m. – The Farmer’s Voice by Sean and Beverly Corvino

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