Seed swap sprouts
By Scott Nicholson
A new crop of growers are emerging locally, thanks in part to an annual seed swap and rising grocery prices.
The seventh annual Seed Swap and Grower’s School was held Saturday at the Agricultural Conference Center in Boone, with tables piled high with heirloom beans, flower seeds, scion wood, bulbs and vegetable seeds.
The room stayed busy throughout the day and the seed offerings were more diverse and bountiful than ever, thanks to those who brought seeds back to the event that were propagated from seeds originally collected at the swap.
Christof den Biggelaar, a professor who heads Appalachian State University’s Goodnight Family Sustainable Development program, said leftovers and additions from the previous week’s seed swap in Ashe County had expanded the offerings.
He said more people were beginning to see the benefits of home gardening.
From left, India Roseman, Gabrielle Moody and Tabitha Moody browse the flower seeds at Saturday’s seed swap. Photo by Scott Nicholson
“It doesn’t take that much work to put in a garden,” he said. “Rather than go to the gym, they can burn more calories and get something in return, too.”
India Roseman, 11, said she began gardening with her father while in kindergarten. “When my dad went to Italy, he got this type of bean,” she said.
“I also love snow peas. They’re my favorite.”
Roseman was getting flower seeds along with her friend Gabrielle Moody, and while Moody only plants flowers.
Roseman said, “I love growing vegetables because you can just pick them and eat them because they’re so fresh.”
Stephanie Bailey said she’d gardened elsewhere but was planning her first local garden this year.
“I’ve been gardening in other states and order from the seed saver’s exchange,” she said. She said she was pretty serious about gardening, having explored worm casting for fertilizer and recently worked on a farm in Wisconsin.
“I just love it,” she said. “I like to get my hands dirty and I like to get my produce fresh out of the garden.”
Bailey’s roommate, Meredith Casper, said she was looking forward to her first garden, saying she liked the convenience and sustainability of having a garden, and eventually wanted to preserve food through canning.
She admitted she was most looking forward to wearing a dress in the garden and enjoying the summery breezes.
Bonnie Perkins said she had been excited about gardening after a long hiatus.
She and her husband bought property on a wooded hillside that wasn’t favorable to crops, but this year she got a plot in the community garden on Leola Street in Boone.
“I hurt my back digging the other day, I was so excited,” she said.
“I should have used more caution but I just can’t wait to get back out there.”
Perkins said she enjoyed the advantages of a community garden.
“I get to know my neighbors and be out in the sunshine,” she said.
Den Biggelaar said he’d been encouraging his students to pursue gardening outside of class, in addition to cultivating crops grown at ASU’s garden, greenhouse and learning laboratory in Valle Crucis.
“A lot of kids do a little bit of gardening because they don’t want to spend money on groceries,” he said.
“They see the example of saving some of these seeds. Of course, that’s what the big companies don’t want to see because they don’t make money that way.”
He added that the event offered more than just free seeds. “It’s a good way to get started,” he said.
“There’s advice you don’t get in stores where people sell you a pack of seeds. Something that looks pretty on the seed package or seed catalog may not do well up here. And (farmers’) market growers come by to see what is new.”
Susan Pepper said it was her first visit to the seed swap, though she’d been gardening for years.
“I do it for health and for the fun of growing,” she said.
“I think it’s a good thing if people learn how to grow their own food. I didn’t grow up doing it so I’m trying to learn.”
The seed swap was co-sponsored by ASU’s sustainable agriculture program and the N.C. Cooperative Extension Service.