Growing in popularity across Appalachia, seed saving has become a necessary form of saving the history of the area. Two informational programs are scheduled at the Murrayville Library for the community to learn about seeds and what the Appalachian Studies Center at the University of North Georgia does to preserve regional culture.
Rosann Kent, director of the Appalachian Studies Center, will share information and stories on Appalachian gardens at the Murrayville Library, 4796 Thompson Bridge Road, Sept 14 and 28.
Appalachian Studies Center garden sessions
When: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Sept 14 and 28
Where: Murrayville Library, 4796 Thompson Bridge Road
How much: Free, but space is limited
Reservations: Call 770-532-3311 ext. 171
“Our essential mission is to preserve the agrobiodiversity of southern Appalachia,” Kent said. “Heirloom seeds are popular now but when we first started, only a few people collected them. People can come whether they have seeds to bring or not.”
The project, “Saving Appalachian Gardens and Stories,” was created in 2007 by Karrie Ann Fadroski, senior lecturer in the Biology Department of the University of North Georgia.
“She realized as a biologists that we have one of the most diverse areas in terms of plants that are still around, particularly vegetables. They still exist and they may only exist in southern Appalachia,” Kent said. “There are still plants and vegetable seeds that have been passed down from generation to generation through communities and they have stories that go with them.”
Kent said Fadroski realized the seeds were not being preserved.
“Often children of elderly parents may not know what the seed in the freezer is and they weren’t being continued. She started this project to gather the seeds and the stories,” Kent said. “The stories are just as important as the seeds because if you don’t know how to plant it, harvest it and then what to do with it, you really just have the germplasm.”
Kent will speak about heirloom seeds and show how to preserve them for gardening at the first of the library events.
“What started as one professor’s volunteer effort, has really turned into a communitywide effort. The whole community is involved in trying to save the seeds,” she said.
The first event is designed for community members to help students collect, bank and share heirloom seeds and their related ethno-cultural memories through the Center in Dahlonega. Kent and her students will discuss the seeds, home gardens and share stories.
“The idea is that it is not just the germplasm, though we do have a seed bank, it is also those ethno-cultural memories that come from the tradition bearers,” Kent said. “That is what we hope to do in Murrayville, to make people aware of this resource that exists where we live and open up some connections and conversations.”
The second program in September will consist of a demonstration on seed preservation and a seed swap. Guests are invited to bring their heirloom seeds originating before 1850 and stories to exchange.
“People bring their seeds that are at least 50 years old, never been bought or sold and have been passed down in your family. We are not looking for seeds that are hybrids or that come from a seed catalog,” Kent said.
Kent said their group will bring seeds from Rabun and White counties.
“We will be giving out seeds called wintergreens in the mustard family. These seeds came from about 1919 when Lake Rabun was flooded, these seeds were brought to White County. They are greens that grow just about all year long and definitely in Hall County,” she said. “It is time to plant them now so those are the seeds we will be sharing.”
The Center has more than 100 different types of seeds, according to Kent.
“Dr. Chris Dockery, the assistant professor of art education at the university, she comes in and helps us make visual art projects to better be able to reach out to the community,” she said. “We have made a large scale map of Lumpkin County to look at how seeds have traveled, garden flags and large posters.”
Kent said this is the Appalachian Studies minor student’s project.
“The primary thrust of the minor is to explore food democracy, preserve and share the heirloom seeds. They are hands in the dirt kind of students which is incredible; they choose to be there,” she said. “They take care of the gardens, harvest the seed and do it all.”
Kent said the project has helped the Center “understand how much more we need to be able to work in the larger area such as food systems and food democracy.”
To donate to or receive seeds from the Appalachian Studies Center, contact Kent at 706-864-1540 or firstname.lastname@example.org from 2 to 5 p.m. Mondays.
“We don’t have a way to mail out seeds, but they are certainly welcome to come and get some. Hopefully we will leave some at the Murrayville Library too that they can get,” she said.
Each event will be from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Spaces are limited. The program is free to the public, though patrons will need to call the Hall County Murrayville Branch Library to reserve their spot at 770-532-3311 ext. 171.
For more information visit www.hallcountylibrary.org/adults/adult-programs.