HIGGANUM – What started as a family tradition of planting daffodils in their yard has bloomed into a pick-your-own experience that draws people from all around Connecticut to Halfinger Farms. And with a newly awarded state grant, the owners hope to attract more visitors in coming years.
Now in their fourth year running Dancing Daffodils, the Halfingers have grown their crop of the vibrant daffodil each year – with just under 100,000 of the flowers dancing in rows on the hilltop farm this spring, Jen Halfinger said.
Jen and John Halfinger have been growing in their greenhouses in Higganum’s Candlewood Hill Valley for 28 years, known especially for their fall crop of Belgian mums, pumpkins and decorative corn. In 2017, they bought an overgrown piece of land up the road from their greenhouse, which they’ve since turned into rows of daffodils.
“As a family, we always planted daffodils in our yard every year,” Jen Halfiner said, sitting at a picnic table in the shade of a tall tree surrounded by the first few rows of daffodils the family planted on the property. “Every fall, we would get a bag, even if it was a bag of five bulbs, and we had this tradition of planting them yearly.”
Halfinger said the characteristics she loves about daffodils – blooming early in the spring and making for excellent-cut flowers – are what inspired her to take the family tradition and expand it into a pick-your-own experience.
“There were so many benefits, and one of them is just bringing new people to the farm, and them discovering the greenhouses and making a little day trip out of it,” she said.
The daffodil farm opened for the season on April 1, and the plan is to stay open until the end of April, Halfinger said. Though they may decide to close sooner if the flowers aren’t up to their standards. Located up the street from their greenhouses, the pick-your own farm is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The farm is active on weekends, but there is ample parking available. Halfinger said there’s enough space that groups can take their time among the rows of daffodils without worrying about being in anyone’s way.
“We’re not insurmountable, but we’ve got some places to spread out,” she said. “I’ve seen lovely scenes of people sitting amongst these rows and at the tables.”
Halfinger said the name of the farm, “Dancing Daffodils,” comes from the William Wordsworth poem, “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” in which Wordsworth describes, “A host, of golden daffodils; beside the lake, beneath the trees, fluttering and dancing in the breeze.”
The “dancing,” or bouncing, of the daffodil bulbs is an effect of the “joints” they have on their stem, beneath the sheath just below the bulb, Halfinger said. It allows the flowers to move and sway in the breeze without being damaged, and turn away from strong winds to protect their petals, she explained
“These are getting ready to open, so these will be really nice and fresh,” Halfinger said, showing a daffodil bud with its stem bent horizontally at the joint. “If you pick this right now, this will open for you in water really nicely.”
Halfinger said she encourages people to pick a few buds along with open flowers. Both will be fresh, but the buds can last for almost two weeks if kept in a cool area without direct sun, she said.
“You can even put them in the fridge if you’re going away or if you really want to stretch them,” Halfinger said. “If you’re having company in a few days but have to pick them today, no big deal. Just don’t put them in the sun, and maybe put them in the fridge at night, and it’ll help them stay stronger and fresher. They like the cold treatment.”
Halfinger said she wants to keep growing the daffodil farm so the entire hill is filled with the flower. A new planter the couple bought for the farm this year should also help make planting in the fall less labor intensive and speed up that process, she added.
Halfinger said they are preparing to expand from a strictly pick-your-own farm to harvesting and selling dried daffodil flowers. Halfinger Farm was one of 30 small farms awarded a Farm Transition Grant from the state Department of Agriculture in February, which will help them outfit a barn to process daffodil bulbs.
She said she wants the daffodils to be something that people identify with Higganum, and growth is part of that dream. The first few years have been promising, she said, with people traveling from around the state to pick her flowers.
“They’re really coming from all over the state, it’s amazing, really,” Halfinger said. “You wouldn’t think one flower would have so much capacity to draw and provide so much happiness. They do represent joy and new beginnings, and they’re called the ambassadors of spring.”