This month BRWIA hosted a very informative seed saving workshop, led by our Watauga County extension agent, Richard Boylan. Richard covered a lot of ground about the seed saving difficulty for various herbs, flowers, and vegetables and some of the best practices to avoid cross pollination and to select the truest, strongest seeds. For example, he explained that one of the advantages of our mountain terrain is that hollers are often surrounded by trees or shrubs, which allows you greater assurance saving air pollinated seeds within a shorter distance of neighboring plants because they are physically isolated by their surroundings. Richard pointed out that the working with other seed savers in your community to swap varieties is the greatest, and cheapest, form of seed insurance. If one year, your crop is bad, hopefully your friend or neighbor will have grown your variety and they can give it back to you. There were about 20 people in the room, enough people to save a huge amount of biodiversity, according to Richard.
The workshop also included hands on demonstrations, led by local gardeners and long-time seed savers, Marilynn and Debbie. Debbie is one of the garden coordinators in the Community of Gardens (responsible for the ASU Sustainable Development Garden and Bethel School). Debbie gave a lot of information, including demonstrating how easy it was to save flower seeds and how to test a seed to see if it’s dry enough to store.
Marilynn brought a special heirloom pepper that her and her partner, Rob, got 15 years ago from an 80 year old seed saver, who had been growing the same pepper in her family, in the mountains, for decades. The pepper is affectionately known as the Ashe County Pimento, it’s very sweet and does surprisingly well in the colder climate of the High Country.
BRWIA is hosting more seed saving workshops in the coming weeks, including a workshop for more experienced seed savers on “Saving Seeds as an Enterprise.” The workshops are in part a lead up to the new seed library that BRWIA is helping to open this Spring at the Watauga County Library.
Earlier this month, BRWIA was excited to host the grand opening of our High Country Food Hub! We worked closely with the Town of Boone, the Watauga County Commissioners and the Health Department to create the space, which is already being fully utilized! The grand opening was a celebration of the collaboration within our community to create greater food security for everyone and increased markets for our small farmers. The Food Hub serves as a collection site for vegetables grown in community gardens, before they are distributed at local food pantries, and a market that small farmers can store products and eventually sell online. Many other partners joined us at the grand opening, including the Hospitality House, Hunger and Health Coalition, and some of our Community of Gardens folks, including Zan from Leola St. and Matt and Jaimie from the Blackburn House.
Through the Food Hub project, we worked with the Community Health Team at the Health Department to get funding for food dehydrators, a vacuum sealer, and food processor. Now, excess produce from farms and stores that would be composted or fed to pigs will be dehydrated or frozen at the FARM Café’s commercial kitchen, then stored at the newly established High Country Food Hub’s freezer for later distribution to low-income residents. We are also excited to offer more in-depth food preservation classes with these materials next season!