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« Root cellaring onions and garlic | Main | What's on your kitchen counter? »

I'll trade ya

The principles behind food swapping are at the heart of my mission in all the things I do. What better way to build community, strengthen local food systems and return to some of the things that worked really well for people farther up our family trees?

Over the course of the past year a friend in LA has helped me launch what was a great idea turned fabulous model between a Brooklyn pal and me into a cultural movement sweeping across communities in the US, Canada and even abroad. The network we created, Food Swap Network, is essentially a network of community-based food sharing groups.

So, my point in talking about this is not to relive the spread of the modern food swap movement, but to say that maybe setting up a larger swap where others can join you is not feasible for you at the moment. If that’s more like it for your life, try starting small. Find one person to trade with, something you each make or grow or raise or cook.

I met a friend after returning to Austin who has chickens (and now rabbits and ducks!) on her property just outside of town. She’s a busy working lady and was thrilled at the prospect of trading eggs for ready-to-eat homemade things. We turned our swap into an eggs for what’s-cooking-in-Kate’s-kitchen-this-week kind of thing.

Our weekly trade inspires me to cook a little extra when it comes to the savory things and expand my reach with new dishes, and, of course, there’s never a shortage of sweet, jammy, frozen ice-creamy things around here. Case in point: yesterday’s super-small batch of mulberry jam.

For the two dozen eggs she brings me (the perfect quantity for a baker, ice cream’er and breakfast maker), I typically reciprocate with a pairing of things like:

  • buttermilk cake
  • jars of fermented and fresh pickles
  • spare local produce from my pickling/preserving classes
  • fresh-cut kale, chard, lettuce, beet greens, or other veg from our cooperative garden
  • jars of jam or other sweet preserves
  • a half-pint of homemade ice-cream (this week it’s French-style vanilla bean)
  • extra soup stocks or jars of soup
  • single servings of workday lunches to take on the go

It’s not hard to portion off bits of what I’m already doing in return for these.

What do you make, grow, cook or raise that you could trade? Start talking about it and I bet you’ll soon find an ear (or a friend of a friend’s ear) this will inspire.

Reader Comments (8)

I just made a post Monday night on my FB page similar to this. Great minds think alike.:) I was commenting on loving the fact that I live in the country & was able to share things with my friends. Over the weekend I went to my mom's & my cousin gave me 2 cases of tomatoes. Monday I took some tomatoes to a friend & she gave me corn. Monday night I took some tomatoes to another friend & picked up fresh eggs & fresh milk (for my little kittens) from her. It is just such a natural thing around here to go visit & take a little treat along with you.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGayl

There's definitely been a bit of food swapping happening in our group of friends--sourdough, marmalade, various schnappses, and baby spider plants (why not?) have all made a few rounds. As the harvest rolls in, there will probably be even more. :)

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEileen

I've started swapping a dozen eggs a week for an evening of babysitting once a month. Makes everyone happy.

I love food swapping! We have too many eggs and poultry so we trade for other foods - I've even traded for Zumba classes :?

This is such a great idea. I love baking breads, cookies, muffins, etc. and it would be such fun to trade with people for stuff they love to make, or grow. I will have to be on the lookout for some chicken owners around here! Thanks for the idea.

May 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlynn

We are lucky that my husband is a winemaker and home brewer. We trade wine and beer for haircuts, duck and duck fat and farmer's market veggies and fruit. We also let a friend with a farm keep two freezers in our garage, and in exchange we get lamb, pork, goat and beef. I have a backyard flock of chickens for eggs, but for some reason I tend to give them away... It's the same with my baked and canned items... I wonder who wants to trade some more?

May 21, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarla

Wow what a fun idea! I do this with my eggs and sometimes one neighbor gives me a pack of her blackberries for a cup of my sugar. I know a lot of people who love to make bread and others that love it but never make it. Bread would be a good trade too!

August 13, 2012 | Unregistered Commenteramy

Wow- that's keeping it local and neighborly for sure! I love it! What a great trade off for both of y'all.


June 13, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterPreppy Pink Crocodile

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