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High Country Seed Swap & Growers School

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Article Published: Mar. 13, 2013 | Modified: Mar. 17, 2013
High Country Seed Swap & Growers School

On Saturday, March 16, all aspiring and practicing area gardeners are invited to Ashe Family Central (the former Ashe Central High School in Jefferson) to the High Country Seed Swap and Growers School.

The event features a daylong open exchange of seeds, plus workshops on vegetable growing and grafting apple trees taught by area experts.

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 cafeteria space. The seed swap will continue throughout the day.

A seed-saving workshop led by professional seed-grower Holly Whitesides will run from 9 to 10 a.m. Coffee and light fare will be available for purchase on-site at Family Central throughout the morning and early afternoon.

A grafting workshop and fruit-scion-wood exchange will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., led by nationally known apple experts Ron and Suzanne Joyner.

Gardeners are encouraged to bring their surplus seeds, bulbs, corms, plants, and scionwood to exchange. However, people do not need to bring seeds to participate. Seed swaps operate on the honor principle that gardeners will grow what they take this year, and bring seeds from their crops the next year. North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s New River Headwaters Alternative Agriculture Program sponsors the event, with support from the Ashe County Farmers Market and Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture.

Whitesides of Against the Grain Farm will lead the Seed-Saving Workshop. She and her partner grow seed for the regional seed catalog, “Sow True Seed,” and recently completed a Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture grant-funded project to retrofit a wood chipper for purposes of seed-cleaning.

The Joyners, of Big Horse Creek Farm in Lansing, will teach the grafting workshop. They are nationally known for their conservation and propagation of old Southern apple varieties. The grafting workshop taught by the Joyners will be hands-on, with participants able to learn with the actual tools of the trade. Apple rootstocks will be available for purchase at the workshop, so if participants choose, they can graft several trees to then bring home and plant themselves (a flat fee of $10 will allow participants to graft up to three fruit trees). Information about collecting scion-wood samples for grafting can be found at

Area extension agent Richard Boylan coordinates the seed swap, with assistance from Blue Ridge Women in Agriculture and Ashe County Farmers Market volunteers. He said the venue has been perfect for past seed swaps, but participation is always crucial to make the event a success.

“Ashe Family Central’s Community Space (the old school cafeteria) is the perfect spot to meet up and swap seeds in an open exchange,” Boylan said. “It’s big enough that folks can spread out, browse seeds and talk. The more participants who bring seeds to share, the better the swap will be.”

The Seed Swap takes place in the Community Space of Ashe Family Central, located at 626 Ashe Central School Road in Jefferson. The event is free and open to all gardeners and farmers in the region.

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