Produce overflowing as crop-swapping takes root

Abountiful array of seeds and home-grown veggies, pickles and chutneys, bliss balls and “life-changing” bread overflowed the trestle tables set up in the Raglan town hall supper room last Sunday morning – yet not a single item was purchased.

That’s because the event was all about swapping, not shopping.

Thirty-odd locals with carry bags and baskets browsed, chatted and carefully selected just what they wanted to take home, having meandered along half an hour earlier with their own produce for exchanging.

This was Crop Swap Raglan’s third monthly gathering, and the relaxed and colourful affair was about double the size of the group’s first foray into sharing goods back in April.

There were oohs and aahs over red – and purple – hot chillies, the bread made of oats and seeds, the persimmons, cucumber pickle, organic rose tea, home-made kombucha, macadamia nuts, avocados, the celery and oversized cucumbers grown from “sheep shit”.

A small potted passionfruit vine in need of some TLC attracted interest, as did the coloured fleece for felting from Vera van der Voorden’s property in Te Uku. Bags of her home-grown wool spilled onto the floor in a corner of the room.

There was even worm wee available for avid growers to take home to fertilise the garden.

Swappers were encouraged by Suz Hall to move slowly around the laden tables – once everyone had pointed out exactly what they’d brought – taking what was needed. “Be grateful for the abundance and generosity,” she reminded them.

Suz is one of Crop Swap’s six local organisers or guardians who got together one weekend in April with Franziska von Hunerbein from New Plymouth to learn how to “build community” around moneyless exchanges of home-grown and home-made food and garden produce.

Franziska has set up six Crop Swaps around Taranaki since 2013 and, with the help of a YouTube film to illustrate the concept, set a “blueprint” for the Raglan group to get started.

Another Raglan Crop Swap guardian, Lisa James, told the Chronicle swapping was really all about sharing, and said how “exciting” it was for the group to have such a huge array of goods to choose from on Sunday.

She likened the movement to a renaissance of sorts in which people wanted to get back to that “old-fashioned, over-the-fence” exchange of produce which in turn created a sense of community.

“We want to get past the idea of scarcity and send a message of abundance,” she said.

Lisa’s also a committee member with Whaingaroa Environment Centre, which she said backed the local Crop Swap and the whole idea of sustainable living.

She added the centre would like to include Crop Swaps as part of its ‘Backyard Bounty’ project, which took in both the community garden at the police station and the planting of gardens and fruit trees with the kids at Waitetuna and Te Uku Schools.

“It’s about teaching people how to live well,” she reckons.

And while the variety of home-grown produce available may “taper off” over winter, say organisers, making and baking things like preserves and muffins at home could well take over.

Edith Symes

*Crop Swap Raglan happens at the town hall supper room on the first Sunday of every month. Meet at 9.30am, start swapping at 10am.