July 9, 2014
3 Ways to Swap Garden Extras - Photo courtesy Susy Morris/Flickr (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Susy Morris/Flickr

As we move into peak harvest season, items on our July to-do list are piling up: process pickles, blanch greens for spanakopita and for freezing, and shuck a big container of peas that’s hogging space in the refrigerator. As our chores begin to accumulate, we’re reminded to step back and hold on to a simple truth: We don’t need to do it all.

The best part of living in a supportive farm community is that with a little creativity, you can “have it all” without having to do it all yourself.

We’ve already discussed how to manage your personal harvest-time workload, so let’s take it a step further this week by tapping into the oldest form of commerce: exchange. When you can offload that pile of okra you don’t have time to pickle, and in return, get a supply of sweet corn you didn’t have space to grow, it’s a win-win for everyone. Plus, you build friendships in the process.

While it’s always great to put cash in the hand of your local farmer, bartering is a great option for stocking up on the food you need this season. Getting into a swap mentality can be intimidating, but once you get used to the concept, you’ll be hooked. Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Post Online
Most communities today, even small rural ones like ours, offer ways to quickly connect with others. While gone are the days of paying for classified ads, online exchanges are plentiful and free to use.

Start by seeing if there’s a Freecycle or Craigslist (Craigslist has a “free” section) for your community. Freecycle, in particular, brings together community members who are interested in exchanging things for free.

Your local newspaper or a community group might offer a listserv where you can post. Lisa organizes a community listserve connecting other sustainably minded, women farmers in our area, and lots of items get traded back and forth there. Many groups also set up accounts on Facebook.

Once you find a way to connect, share something you have to offer in conjunction with asking for an item you need. Offer up 5 pounds of zucchini for a bushel of tomatoes. We’ve often found, however, we don’t need to ask for anything in return. Call it the good karma of gardening, but even if we just offers free zucchini to anyone who can use it and don’t ask for a specific barter in return, someone else will serendipitously offer something we need. Be generous and goodness will come back to you.

2. Partner to Fill Needs
A simple but astute observation saved Jen Riemer, of Reimer Family Farm, a diversified livestock operation, a lot of time and energy come growing season:

“I started thinking, why do I need to grow every vegetable when our best friends run Sandhill Family Farms, an amazing organic operation down the road,” she says.

The Reimer family focused on raising quality meat, which they shared with the Sheaffer family in exchange for what they do best: vegetables.

3. Host a Food Swap

3 Ways to Swap Garden Extras - Photot by Maris McClellan (HobbyFarms.com)
Courtesy Marisa McClellan/Flickr

Next Sunday, we’re hosting the annual summer potluck for the women-in-agriculture group Lisa organizes, and she added a “food swap” to the event. At a food swap, you bring multiple items of something you have in abundance or something you’re an expert in making. Then you trade those items with others. For example, you might attend a food swap with a dozen jars of your strawberry jam and go home with twelve different items, anything ranging from fresh bread to eggs to beer. It’s an easy and social way to trade your abundance for a diversified array of products.

If you’re already hosting an event on your farm this, a food swap is an easy element to add on. For a step-by-step guide on organizing one, check out Lisa’s article.

Try one of John and Lisa’s favorite recipes to cook up your harvest:

Savoring the good life,

John and Lisa's Signatures

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