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November 11, 2011 > Harvest Food Swap a successful exchange

Harvest Food Swap a successful exchange

Story and photos by Julie Grabowski

We've all heard of the exchange of good ideas, but how about the exchange of good food? Local Ecology and Agriculture Fremont (LEAF) brought that tasty notion to reality by hosting their first food swap. The October 9 event brought out close to 20 members and their garden grown delectables to the historic California Nursery Rose Garden in Niles.

Farm-to-table living has become an increasingly smart and appealing option to many, and a lot of sharing and bartering of fresh, locally grown food is happening throughout the U.S. and right here in the East Bay. Event co-organizer and self proclaimed "locavore" (one who buys organic foods, supports local growers, shops at farmers' markets, and plants a garden) Margery Leonard researched models of swaps in Australia, Portland, Oakland, L.A. and Santa Monica, choosing ideas that were most workable for LEAF. The two-hour event was broken down into three segments: register and set up; mingle, bid, and visit; then swap.

Items must be home grown or made from garden-grown ingredients. No money is exchanged; swapper cards are employed instead, which lists the food item and name of its donor on the front. Five available spaces are on the back of the card for bidders interested in the item to sign their names and list what they have brought. After the options have been examined and the bids made, swappers then look at their cards and the available choices and make a swap with the person who has the food item most appealing to them.

Choices, choices, indeed! Organic tomato sauce, pumpkin bread, honey, heirloom tomatoes, winter squash, lemons, organic chili sauce, a fruit tart, raspberry jam, gingered pear/pluot chutney, figs, pesto, fresh French bread, and spices were all on offer.

"It fits perfectly with what we're doing today," says Leonard of LEAF's mission which states: "LEAF's purpose is to provide environmental education to the Fremont community about sustained and ecological practices, including local food production and organic gardening, waste reduction, green building, and resource conservation, and to build community among the diverse residents of Fremont, California."

It is all about like-minded people coming together to enjoy each others' company and work toward a common good. "It's been really exciting just to find people in the community with common interests," says event co-organizer Mia Mora.

All are welcome and encouraged to bring along their ideas. "We're really open to projects generated by our community," says LEAF founding board member Bruce Cates, who calls ideas "the synergy you need to make things happen." He feels the food swap is just a small look at what could be possible for Fremont. "This is what they did hundreds of years ago and this is what we have to get back to."

The group is also trying to cultivate more membership and participation; the great benefit of membership being the "interchange of information," according to Cates. LEAF has over 405 members, all with various types of knowledge and experience. From gardening problems and information on growing to volunteering and finding various classes, LEAF offers many enriching options, whether for your garden or your spirit.

"We love to have events, and all of us on the board are really sociable," says founding board member Justine Burt. She says they aim to "build a robust local food economy," but also to bring people together and build community. She calls sustainable gardening a "real and tangible" activity which she believes people are hungry for, providing opportunities for kids and adults alike to learn and discover what it takes to grow food. "It's not rocket science," says Burt, "but there's a lot to it."

The food swap certainly had no one going hungry, either in spirit or stomach, attendees exclaiming over the food, sharing recipes, and joking about forgetting the swap and having a banquet instead. "There were whole meals that were developed!" says Leonard of the conversations going on about the food.

When asked about plans for future swaps and extending involvement beyond members Leonard says, "We're interested in seeing how it evolves." But if this first event is any indication, it would not be a surprise for more to follow.

The great variety of food, exchange of people, and the smooth running of the event made for a clearly successful day, as evidenced by the co-organizers' faces. "There were no wallflowers here," says Mora. "I'm pleased, more than pleased," beamed Leonard.

LEAF is a non-profit organization dedicated to environmental education. They are funded by private donations and a grant from StopWaste.org, and run four community gardens in the city of Fremont. To learn more about LEAF, visit www.leafcenter.org.

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