Garden Swap

Eating plants isn’t just ‘veganistically’ hip these days – countless studies have determined that things that grow in the ground really do wonders once they’re inside our body. Among their many virtues, veggies bestow the habitual muncher with enhanced longevity and immunity, super-fly cholesterol levels and positively radiant skin… plus when prepared with a little panache, they are delicious like none other.

Now the real trick is incorporating a lot more of them into your diet without suffering from wallet shock, a legitimate disorder resulting from wild-n-wacky global warming-triggered weather patterns and recession-induced ka-ching, both of which significantly affect the bottom veggie line that you cough up at the grocery store.

That’s why garden swaps are pretty much the greatest thing ever (aside from dipping anything edible into melted dark chocolate…). Instead of rueing the day that your awesome garden gold yields you 16 extra pounds of zucchini, give it to other eager eaters in exchange for more diverse produce offerings. Here’s how to jumpstart your very own veggie swap with fellow green thumbs in your neck of the woods:

REACH OUT TO NEIGHBORHOOD GARDENERS

This first and most crucial step isn’t as hard as it sounds, especially if you have a computer. All you really need to do is utilize an online forum such as Craigslist, Facebook or even Meetup where you can post a message about your interest in organizing a garden surplus swap event with other like minded neighbors. Then, sit back and see how many people say, ‘Count me in!’

ESTABLISH A CORE COMMITTEE

Seemingly eager participants can then be invited to attend an in-person planning session – at a local coffee shop, park, library meeting room, etc. – where it will soon become apparent who the mice and the men really are. Make the most of everyone’s apparent strengths and be sure to create a back-up plan in the event that one or more of them ‘flake out’ at the last minute. Frankly, you don’t even have to go all wackadoodle with an in-person pre-swap committee, especially if you prefer flying solo. In many cases, an event can actually run far better if one reliable person handles all of the ifs, ands and buts.

IRON OUT THE DETAILS

Whether you work with a team to establish exactly how your garden swapping event is going to play out or you decide that the whole kit-n-caboodle is best left in your capable hands alone, make sure that you figure out these basic points:

  • When is your garden swap happening? Create a consistent date/time and be sure to let attendees know if it will be a recurring event.
  • Where is the whole freebie produce-fest going to be held? Establish an easily accessible meeting site and stick with it because consistency is the key to a successful event.
  • Create basic ‘swap’ rules so people behave in a civilized manner. It might help to weigh every contribution with a scale and/or assign higher monetary value to specific edibles such as asparagus and raspberries. The last thing you need is that one person donating 10 pounds of weed-like (and typically cheap) cucumbers cursing you up and down because you insist they’re not entitled to 10 pounds of truffles (selling at roughly $400 per pound).
  • Instruct participants to bring their own reusable totes for ease of veggie transportation, but more importantly to make this a zero waste affair.
  • Advertise the heck out of your garden swap using freebie social media, online gardening forums and flyers posted on community bulletin boards (libraries, supermarkets, natural food stores, garden centers, universities, etc.).

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If all of these steps seem just a liiiittle too involved but the idea of swapping fresh grown goodies with other neighborhood green thumbs still appeals to you, chin up. Here’s just a small taste of the seemingly infinite, formally organized garden trading events cropping up around the globe:

Oak Park Crop Swap (United States): Organic gardeners living in the Sacramento, California area, take note – every Monday throughout the entire growing season, your plant-based surplus is fair game at this popular swapping event. Making it even more appealing, officials weigh contributed bounty and then offer participants the equivalent value in “Crop Swap Dollars,” eliminating the haggling temptation altogether.  

VegSwap (Great Britain): This free UK-based website makes working out all the pesky details of swapping garden jewels with your neighbors a lot easier since they’ve pretty much thought of everything – all you have to do is hunker down in front of your computer, click and type.

4th and C Produce Swap (United States): If your ‘hood is in the Petaluma, California area, you’re in luck – a whole bunch of your neighbors can’t wait to swap their surplus garden goodies for yours on Saturday afternoons.

Nana’s Backyard (Melbourne, Australia): Billed as a garden produce swap with heart, this monthly event – held in honor of a perpetually generous green-thumbed granny – welcomes individuals from all different backgrounds to share their veggie wealth and homesteading skills.

Clovis Produce Swap (United States): Earning the distinction of being the very first city-sanctioned garden surplus market in the central San Joaquin Valley, this free Saturday event – located right outside of Rosetti’s Biscotti House (Clovis Avenue and Sierra in Clovis, California), encourages participants to share veggies as well as plants and flowers. Contact (559) 323-6450 for more details.

Koae Community Association Crop Swappers (United States): Hawaii’s sprawling nine acre Kumu ‘Aina Organic Fruit Farm serves as the idyllic backdrop for this cash-free community event which urges participants to cultivate their traded treasures without the use of laboratory-concocted pesticides or petroleum-based petrochemicals.

Image: B.D.’s world

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