Communities Conservation

Regional Seed Swap Honors World-Renowned Seed Activist’s Visit

Cherokee Trail of Tears heirloom bean seeds

By Belle Crawford

Seed saving and seed exchanges among farmers are crucial for the conservation of crop biodiversity and heirloom plant preservation. On Tuesday, October 17, from 3–7 p.m. at the Stephens Lee Recreation Center in Asheville, several local organizations, nonprofits and businesses concerned with sustainability and food security will come together to present a regional seed swap in honor of world-renowned biodiversity activist Dr. Vandana Shiva who will visit the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) for a three-day residency October 17–19.

Organizations involved in implementing the seed swap include Bountiful Cities, Sow True Seed, Slow Food Asheville, Organic Growers School, Southern Seed Exchange, Appalachian Institute for Mountain Studies, Asheville Buncombe Food Policy Council Resilience Cluster, Southern Seed Legacy and UNCA.

“Seed swaps are a fantastic opportunity for a community to share seeds, explore new varieties and strengthen our food systems,” says Chris Smith, Sow True Seed community coordinator. “This exchange is a chance to really shout about our regional seed heritage.”

Seed conservation, seed exchanges and seed banks (facilities used to store genetically diverse seeds for preservation and scientific research) are increasingly important for generating information about crop resiliency in the face of climate change as well as for increasing yield and maintaining nutritional value and disease resistance in plants.

The seed swap will include demonstrations and workshops about how to save the seeds of various fruits and vegetables. Workshops will be presented by seed-saving experts, including Shiva, an Indian environmental activist and scholar. Shiva is well known for her support of traditional agriculture and indigenous farming practices. She is an outspoken advocate of non-GMOs and seed sovereignty. Her visit to Asheville from Delhi, India where she lives is an important and unprecedented event for small-scale agriculture in our region.

“Shiva is a powerful voice on the side of the small farmer and has campaigned throughout her career for secure food systems,” says Smith. “The seed swap is intended to celebrate local diversity and offer Shiva a glimpse of WNC’s regional seeds and stories.”

The seed swap also honors the hard work of seed savers by being mindful and respectful of their craft. Everyone, from beginners to experts, is welcome and encouraged to attend. Participants without seeds to swap are asked to bring small denomination cash to support the region’s seed savers with suggested donations.

“We hope that this event can become an annual seed exchange and that every year more and more people will have seeds to swap,” says Carolina Arias of Bountiful Cities Community Outreach.

“Seed saving is culturally and ecologically important,” says Smith. “Nothing honors that more than a traditional seed swap.”

The Stephens Lee Recreation Center is located at 30 George Washington Carver Avenue in Asheville. Seed savers with a lot of seeds to offer can reserve a table by emailing There will also be space for smaller direct trading and swapping.

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