High Country Seed Swap and Growers Exchange

— Written By and last updated by

On Saturday, March 14, 2020, aspiring and practicing area gardeners and vegetable farmers are invited to Ashe Family Central (626 Ashe Central School Rd, Jefferson, NC) to the High Country Seed Swap. The event features a day-long open exchange of seeds, plus hands-on workshops taught by area experts on apple tree grafting, and fermented foods. Beginning at 8:30 a.m., gardeners will be able to display their own surplus seeds and view the offerings of others on tables set up in the community space. The seed swap will continue throughout the morning and wind down in the mid-afternoon.

Gardeners are encouraged to bring any surplus seeds, bulbs, corms, cuttings, plants, and fruit scion wood they can to exchange. Seed swaps operate on the honor principle that gardeners will bring what they can this year, grow what they get from this swap and other sources, then bring saved seeds from their crops to next year’s seed swap.

The grafting workshop will be held from 10 a.m.–12:30 p.m., led by nationally known apple experts Ron and Suzanne Joyner. The grafting workshop will begin with a classroom session from 10–11 a.m., followed by hands-on practice from 11:00 a.m.–12:20 p.m., with participants able to learn with the actual tools of the trade. For a flat fee of $10, participants can graft three apple trees. All the necessary tools and equipment, choice of scionwood for the apple variety, apple rootstock and instruction will be provided. Additional rootstock will be available for participants to take home to use. Information about collecting scionwood samples for grafting can be found on their website.

The Seed Swap takes place in the Community Space (former cafeteria) of Ashe Family Central. North Carolina Cooperative Extension sponsors the event as part of N.C. A&T State University’s Small Farms Week events across the state, with support from the Ashe County Farmers Market (ACFM) and the Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Ashe County.

North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the High Country Commercial Kitchen will also offer a Fermentation Workshop from 1–4 p.m., covering the basics of making yogurt, kombucha and sauerkraut. Growers who have an interest in fermenting their harvests into probiotic goodness can add to their knowledge and skills in this area the same day they share and receive seeds. Advance, pre-registration is required for this afternoon class, with limited seating available. Last day to register will be March 11, 2020. Cost is $20 per person. If you have further questions, please contact Jill Cockerham at jccocker@ncsu.edu. Eventbrite registration for the Fermentation Workshop begins February 19.

The Seed Swap runs on community involvement, from the many gardeners who bring heirloom seeds from their gardens, to the assistance from Master Gardener℠ volunteers of Ashe County and Ashe County Farmers Market volunteers who make it all happen smoothly. The more participants who bring seeds and other materials to share, the better the Swap will be. The Seed Swap itself is free and open to all gardeners and farmers in the area, even if you have not yet saved seeds from past crops (just bring more to share in future years!).

For more information, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Watauga or Ashe Counties at (828) 264-3061 or (336) 846-5850.

Concurrent with the Seed Swap, the Ashe County Farmers Market membership gathers to register and prepare for the season. This year, the Ashe County Farmers Market welcomes farmers from adjacent counties (Alleghany, Watauga and Wilkes, NC, Johnson, TN, and Grayson, VA). Growers producing homegrown edible farm goods (fruits, vegetables, meats, cheeses, eggs, etc.) may apply during the Seed Swap. For more information on joining the ACFM, email farmersmarketashe@gmail.com.