Crop Swap: Free Food in Hard Times

Blueberries, Tomatoes, Blackberries, Peppers at Farmers Market Photo

Image via: rk_pix on

I don't know about you, but here in Sacramento the zucchinis are huge and they've all ripened at the same time. I've pretty much had my fill and can expect that every barbeque I go to will try to serve me up some grilled zucchini. Now nothing against the zuke, but is there anyone who has something besides zucchini who would be willing to trade? Enter the Crop Swap.Reported by the Sacramento News & Review, the Oak Park neighborhood came up with a quick and easy solution - the Crop Swap. Every Monday evening, at the same time, in the same place, throughout the summer, neighbors meet up and share with each other all of the fruits and vegetables that their little backyard gardens have "overproduced."

No money ever exchanges hands and the only requirement is that all produce be grown organically. The Little Red Hen would be thrilled! Everyone who puts in a little work and grows their own food gets to benefit by all of the food grown by everyone else. During the first year, over 363 pounds of food was traded among the roughly 25 households involved.

So How Does a Crop Swap Work?

Granted, some items are going to be more "valuable" than others, so the organizers came up with a system. Each item is weighed and then assigned a value, say 3 units, which can then be traded with someone who has produce of an equal value. Though the organizers said that by the end of the night there is always leftover food that gets distributed among participants. Items exchanged last year included chard, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, eggplant, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, herbs and flowers.

The crop swap trend is catching on and now several more neighborhoods are starting a swap this summer. In addition, a group called Harvest Sacramento is working to make sure no food goes to waste. Members of the group knock on neighbors doors and ask if they can harvest any fruit that would normally fall off the trees and rot. All produce harvested is then either used or donated to area food banks.

Neighbors in Oak Park say that one of the best things is that this has brought the community together. It has educated households on growing their own food and eating a more varied diet, as well as allowed neighbors a chance to just hang out, outdoors, even if they aren't directly doing any gardening. This even went so far as to include a volunteer day at the beginning of the season to build raised beds for an elderly neighbor. The Little Red Hen would be proud, indeed.:Oak Park Crop Swap :Sacramento News & Review
More on Eating Local
Enjoy Local, Farm-Fresh Foods All Year Round
Enjoy Local Food: The Movement, Locavores, and More
Green Eyes On: Your Doctor Says, "Eat Local, Eat Organic"
Live Green. Think Local First.

Related Content on