High Country Seed and Plant Swap

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On Saturday, April 9, 2022, all aspiring and practicing area gardeners are invited to the Ashe County Farmers Market Pavilion in West Jefferson, NC for the High Country Seed & Plant Swap. The event features an afternoon-long open exchange of seeds and plants, with plenty of space to gather, show what you brought, and browse the offerings of others. Beginning at 2:00 p.m., gardeners will be able to display their own surplus seeds and view the offerings of others on tables set up in the Farmers Market shelter and (weather permitting) adjacent outdoor areas. The Seed Swap will continue throughout the afternoon and conclude at 5:00 p.m.

The Ashe County Farmers Market Pavilion in West Jefferson, NC is a new venue for the High Country Seed Swap, which will hopefully offer participants an accessible, comfortable, well-ventilated, and covid-safe environment to gather and swap seeds and plants. Richard Boylan, Area Extension Agent for Agriculture, who has helped organize the regional Swap since the early 2000s notes that “Holding the 2022 High Country Seed and Plant Swap at the Ashe County Farmers Market should make an even better location for dividing roots and plants like ramps, irises, and bee balm.”

Gardeners are encouraged to bring any surplus seeds, root divisions, bulbs, corms, cuttings, plants, and fruit scion wood they wish to share. 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. Cooperative Extension recognizes that certain plants and seeds are valuable enough that growers may wish to formally barter them for other plants and seeds, but many growers also bring quantities for a “take what you need” free offering. Over the years, some extraordinary heirloom vegetable varieties have been shared. Ashe County Extension Director Travis Birdsell recognizes these contributions, saying, “There are unique cultivars of beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and other staples that do remarkably well in our region that have fallen out of catalogs, but are still saved and shared by amazing gardeners in the region.”

North Carolina Cooperative Extension sponsors the event, with support from the Ashe County Farmers Market (ACFM), which is sharing its pavilion space a week ahead of its formal Market opening date, and Ashe County Extension Master Gardener volunteers. Ashe County Extension Master Gardener Coordinator Blake Williams adds that Extension Master Gardener volunteers will be on-site with gardening information and available to answer questions, “Our volunteers are happy to help with questions about pests, cultivation, and other gardening matters during the Swap.” The Seed Swap runs on community involvement, from the many gardeners who bring heirloom seeds and plants from their gardens, to the assistance from Ashe County Extension Master Gardener volunteers who help it all happen smoothly. The more participants who bring seeds and other materials to share, the better the Swap will be. The event is free and open to all gardeners and farmers in the area. For more information, call the Watauga or Ashe Cooperative Extension centers at 828-264-3061 or 336-846-5850.