So, some time mid-summer, I had this great, new idea! Um, well, not true, this is not new, and it certainly wasn’t my idea. BUT! While I was hanging out with Facebook I happened upon an article and started reading about these Food Swaps. They are happening all over the states (think BIG cities – Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis), Europe and … well, ALL OVER! WHY hadn’t that happened in my town? We’re the PERFECT place and people for it! (university community, large supporters of eating and supporting the EAT LOCAL movement, people who preserve, grow, distill …). I’m an owner at our local food co-op, I’m a member of a church that is one of the larger ones in the community. I’m around people, ya’ll! and I’ve never heard of it happening here! I HAD heard of, hosted, and participated in Cookie Exchanges around Christmastime. You know, when everyone brings so many dozens of home baked cookies and go home with a variety of others’ cookies. It’s great during the holidays, but only if you’re having or going to parties. These hips don’t need those kinds of things laying around the house tempting me. They sure are fun to go to, but not nearly the fun of a Food Swap.
It’s a Swap. An Exchange. A Trade. Your goods for theirs.
Here’s how it works: whatever it is that you make (i.e. cook, preserve, grow, forage), you bring them packaged, wrapped, bottled (depending on what you’ve made) and you have it at a table with a card for interested traders to ‘bid’ on it. Instead of bidding with money, they bid with the food they brought to trade. You both have to want one another’s items. You take in to consideration your likes, your needs, your food allergies (if any), and make your decision if it was a yes or no. The biggest thing I worried about was that someone would get their feelings hurt. Well, that and if anyone else would be interested in participating in it. So, I began by asking people who cooked, grew, preserved, foraged, if they would be interested. When it seemed that a few would be, I scheduled it. I printed up information sheets, sample exchange cards, started a group on Facebook with a link to a Food Swap that had a few pictures as examples. I invited twice the people I thought we needed, which was good because not everyone can make the same date, and there are always a few that cancels out the last minute. So, if you ever want to host one, plan on no shows and cancellations. It happens. I had it at my house, it was only 2 hours long, and when it was over it was, as one person said, like leaving a gourmet food store with an amazing bag of goodies. I invited people to decorate their space, if they wanted. To keep it simple if they wanted. There was one guy, and I was so glad he came (I think he was, too), and the rest were women. The array was wonderful! We tasted, mingled, asked questions, and began to swap. So, sit back and and feast your eyes …
There were lots more items, but some of the pics were blurry. And I need to start asking permission before I post pictures of my peeps. So, how do you get started in planning your own Food Swap?
- Research what you want it to ‘look’ like. If you’re interested, you can check out my Pinterest page here. You can even follow me, if you’d like. I’d love the company.
- Talk to friends and tell them about it. Get them excited!
- Pick a date! I chose a Saturday morning. 10am – Noon. It gave me enough time to get the room ready and have the rest of the day for whatever!
- Put together ‘packets’. Have a Q&A sheet and perhaps a sample or two of swap cards. I found The Food Swap Network most helpful with all of this.
- Some people charge a fee ($2-$5-$10). If you have to pay for your space, to cover your expenses for advertisement, paper and copy costs, etc. Try to get someplace free – like the library, a local church, etc. I hosted mine in my home, but I knew everyone. I don’t know that I would have if it was mostly strangers.
- Get a friend to help. It’s always more fun and it’s half the work.
- Start up a group page someplace like Facebook. You can send out reminders, teasers, and give them a forum to ask questions.
- Wear your big girl (or guy) pants. People will cancel, there will be no-shows. You might question whether it was a good idea, if you were the right person, if you even have any friends at all. Nonsense. Keep asking until you’re sure getting the number of people that feels right. My goal was 8-20. Less than 8, I would’ve been disappointed. More than 20 and I would’ve been a nervous wreck.
- Make some of your awesome goodness. Do you preserve? Make butter? Bake breads? Make herb wreaths? Flavored oils? Whatever is ‘your thing’, make a few to swap. You don’t need to make enough for everyone who’ll be there, just make ‘a batch’. You can always take more one thing. I made three (mustard, marshmallows, and vanilla extract). Do not ‘mess yourself up’ by doing too much. Tell others that, too. Don’t exhaust yourself so you won’t want to do one again.
- HAVE FUN! These are awesome, great ways to enjoy wonderful foods without all of the cost and work.
So, what do you think? Have you been to one? Would you like to plan a Food Swap in your area? If you do, I’d love to hear about it. I’m already planning the next one – maybe you’d like to come.