On Saturday, April 22, 2023, all area gardeners who have saved some seeds, divided some crowns, rooted some cuttings, stowed some bulbs, or otherwise have plant propagation materials to share are invited to the Ashe County Farmers Market Pavilion in West Jefferson, NC for the High Country Seed & Plant Swap. Timed in conjunction with Earth Day this year, 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 PM, gardeners will be able to set out their own surplus seeds and plants 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 PM.
The Ashe County Farmers Market Pavilion in West Jefferson, NC is a recent venue for the High Country Seed Swap, with 2022 being the first year the event occurred at the Market Pavilion. The Market will again offer participants an accessible, comfortable, and well-ventilated environment to gather and swap seeds and plants. Richard Boylan, an Area Extension Agent for Agriculture who has helped organize the regional Swap since the early 2000’s notes that “Holding the 2023 High Country Seed and Plant Swap at the Ashe County Farmers Market makes for 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, and plants 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 and plants from their 2023 harvests to next year’s Seed Swap. Cooperative Extension acknowledges 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 at the Swaps. 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. Man y of these 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 Ashe County Extension Master Gardener volunteers and also the Ashe County Farmers Market (ACFM) which is sharing its pavilion space during the hours following its third 2023 Market Day that morning. Ashe County Extension Master Garden Coordinator Blake Williams notes that Extension Master Gardener volunteers will be on-site with gardening information and available to answer questions, “Our volunteers are ready to help with questions about seeds, varieties, pests, cultivation, and other garden 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. No pre-registration is necessary. For more information, call the Watauga or Ashe Cooperative Extension centers at 828-264-3061 or 336-846-5850.