Pearl S. Buck House In Hillsboro Hosts Seed Swap Workshop
Hillsboro, WV – On a sunny Sunday afternoon in March, about forty people, including farmers and gardeners from both Pocahontas and Greenbrier counties, gathered at the Pearl S. Buck House in Hillsboro for a Seed Saver’s Workshop and Seed Swap. Joe Heathcock is a local farmer who helped organize the event.
“Most of the Seed Swapping was centered around vegetables and herbs and flowers, and things that people had been saving, so like, if you grow a tomato, it’s knowing how to process the seeds so you can plant them again the following year,” says Heathcock. “The first part of the workshop was exchanging ideas about how to effectively preserve the seeds, what varieties to choose, how to select for traits over time and then the second part everybody had seeds that they brought and so they opened up their envelopes and gave a little bit to whoever was interested in the different varieties.”
Heathcock explains why the preservation and distribution of these “local” seeds is important to our particular communities and what are the long term goals of the workshop.
“It seems to have become a given in farming that you have to buy seeds every year, and that doesn’t have to be the case,” he says. “It’s become that way because companies have licenses on seeds, but this meeting was definitely put together by people that believe that the seeds should be shared; you shouldn’t have to have a license in order to grow something. What’s happening right now is we’re losing a lot of genetic diversity, that the types of crops available out there are decreasing every year because people aren’t growing the wide varieties , they’re growing the one thing that gets to be the National Corn, you know, the round-up ready corn product.”
“And people aren’t taking the time, so a lot of these seeds that have been saved in family’s gardens for generation after generations, if you don’t grow those beans for five years, the seeds are no longer viable. So every year you have to preserve these heirloom varieties and we’re losing them at an astounding rate.”
So what exactly are the traits that veggies and flowers of our area possess and what are the factors that created them?
“One of the big focuses is on developing seeds that are acclimated to this specific area” he says, “and uh, the climate is the biggest factor and because we have a short growing season; a lot of times there’s a late frost in the spring and early frost in the fall, developing stuff that’s cold tolerant and matures in a short season are really the two most important characteristics we’re selecting for.”
Joe says a database of local heirloom varieties is also in the works. He says there will deffinetly be workshops and swaps in the future because of the importance to not only those involved with the Workshop and Seed Swap , but also to those “Good Earth Gardens” Grow Appalachia participants and individuals throughout our region who wish to preserve our local fruits and veggies, or are just looking for a healthier diet consisting of organic foods.