State News
May 5, 2016

Vermont’s new state vegetable is the Gilfeather Turnip

Vermont’s new state vegetable is the Gilfeather Turnip

On April 29th, 2016 the Vermont legislature voted to designate the Gilfeather Turnip as the official state vegetable of Vermont. Vermont is only the 14th state to name a state vegetable. This came about as the result of a two-year effort by the students in grades 4-5-6 at the Wardsboro Elementary School. The students appeared at hearings at the State House in Montpelier on multiple occasions, expertly testifying and giving illustrated presentations about their hometown, homegrown, humble turnip before both House and Senate committees. For the students, it was a long-term lesson in politics and civics, made possible by their teachers. Once bill H.65 is signed by Governor Peter Shumlin, the act becomes effective July 1, 2016.
The Gilfeather Turnip is an unusual hybrid, created by farmer John Gilfeather in Wardsboro, Vermont in the early 1900s. It’s roots in Vermont’s history are deep and legendary. Seeds are commercially available. Since 2002, there has been an annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival in late October, a one-day fundraising event for the local library.
“It is a pleasure and an honor for the citizens of Wardsboro to have the Gilfeather turnip adopted as the state vegetable,” said the town of Wardsboro Selectboard in a statement. “This not only puts Wardsboro on the map, but celebrates this unique and locally developed turnip… The proclamation will provide an economic boost to the town and to Wardsboro’s awesome Gilfeather Turnip Festival, celebrated late in October. We thank Wardsboro’s elementary school children and the legislature for making this lesson in civic participation a positive reality.”
Wardsboro’s Elementary School teacher Samantha Bovat inherited the project from the previous grade 5/6 teacher, Tina Shakespeare. “I am so proud of how hard these kids have worked and also how they have persevered through this long 2-year process,” Bovat said. “The four trips to Montpelier have all been different and they have been able to see a variety of things throughout the movement of the bill. We are certainly thankful that they have been able to see the voting process in the Agriculture House Committee this fall and the straw poll taken by the Senate Agriculture Committee. That helped them to stay engaged because they could see the results of their work before heading home… This has been a truly hands-on civics lesson for these students… It just goes to show how lucky we are to live in a state where we can walk in to the State House and be welcomed to be a part of the democratic process. I could not be more proud of these students!”
There are currently six sixth-grade students in Wardsboro Elementary School. Last year there were four sixth-graders. These 10 students all had the opportunity to participate in the Gilfeather Turnip Bill effort.
Current sixth graders reflected on the experience. Aryanna Pearson said: “The hardest part of getting this bill passed was waiting so long and practicing for all of the presentations.”
Kendra Boerem said: “It was fun because we got to go into a lot of rooms in the State House. Talking to the Senators was also fun.”
“My favorite thing I learned is that if it passes, Vermont will be the 14th state to have a state vegetable!” added Hayley Hescock.
Wardsboro is a small town, population 850, located on scenic Route 100 in Windham County, a few miles from the Stratton and Dover ski resorts.
This year the 14th annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival, celebrating Wardsboro’s delicious roots, is slated for Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, rain or shine, and takes place on Main Street in Town Hall and under a big tent.

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