WHAT IS A PRODUCE SWAP?
Produce swaps are community driven events where growers come together to share excess seeds, plants and produce; they involve no direct exchange, or any form of payment. They are also places to meet and exchange ideas and information and, consequently, encourage and inspire local food growing.
WHY SWAP PRODUCE?
For me produce swapping is permaculture in action, it is: ‘earth care’ by encouraging local food growing; ‘people care’ by bringing community together over good wholesome food; and ‘fair share’ by providing growers with an opportunity to share their excess, without having to organise a place at a market or an honesty box at the front gate.
It’s easy – just a matter of setting a place and a time, and getting the word out to your local food growing community.
We run our swaps in the Old Barn at Fair Harvest, but swaps are run in schools, parks, community gardens, halls and people’s homes and gardens, you just need the following:
protection from the weather – so that people know that you will swap rain or shine
tables – to place the produce on (we generally separate the plant table from the fresh produce table as quite a lot of soil tends to come in with the plants, you may want a separate table for seeds)
parking – people tend to come and go loaded, so they don’t want to walk too far
be kid friendly
Optional extras include things like:
morning tea – bringing along some morning tea to share is also a great way for newcomers to get involved if they don’t yet have productive gardens; this has become quite an important aspect of our swap
gardens – it is always good to meet at a place where people can walk around and become inspired
gold coin donation – to keep the tea and coffee flowing.
The most important thing about time is keeping the event regular. You will always clash with something, but people will make their choice. We hold ours on the third Saturday of every month, between 10 am and noon.
WHAT TO BRING
We encourage people to bring any of the following: fresh fruit and vegetables; eggs; seeds; seedlings; cuttings; recipes; morning tea offerings; ferment starters (e.g. kombucha and sourdough); sprouts; jams and pickles.
We haven’t had anyone bring meat, fish or dairy along yet, but as these are the products that cause most hygiene issues it would probably be best to discourage them.
LETTING PEOPLE KNOW
Use whatever networking works best for you. We have found that social media is an ideal platform for swaps. Not long after our swap started, a local gardening Facebook group started up; this is a welcoming group which encourages discussion about all sorts of food growing – after talking during the month online, people love to meet face to face.
A regular post on a relevant website or email list is also good idea. Or send out a newsletter (collect names at the swap and take photos), or arrange an article in your local newspaper.
Always remember to put out good clear signs. Some people may need to drive past for a few months before being brave enough to join.
A FEW THINGS TO AVOID
Making rules – the best thing about swaps is the lack of rules; it’s simply about bringing produce along, putting it on the table and sharing.
Asking your local shire – unfortunately, once a question is asked, your local shire may investigate, and possibly decide that producers need licences; this has stopped swaps in the past.
LETS – while LETS (Local Energy Transfer Systems) are fantastic, they don’t work with swaps as you will find that people will have to set up and stay with their produce, as well as having to place a value on it; the joy of swaps is the freedom of giving.
Our swap has grown from a handful of people two years ago to an average of around sixty each time, and I am convinced that it has played a major role in the amount of local produce that is being grown in our area. It has given older food growers a new sense of purpose and respect as they share their knowledge with beginners, while giving newcomers an easy way to get started. It is also encouraging seed saving of local varieties of vegetables, and a new range of edible foods to be grown in backyards. Apart from all of this, it is building community where we need it most; providing a positive, useful and healthy pastime that is valued by others. Remember that no matter how many zucchinis turn up at a swap, there are none left on the table at the end.
Jodie Lane … Fair Harvest
Permaculture www.fairharvest.com.au or look for them on Facebook.