“The only rule of the [food] swap is that there is no exchange of money,” said Marianne West.
On Saturday (May 27), she met with about forty other San Diegans at the Spring Valley East County Community Center (3845 Spring Dr.) parking lot, and traded food and homemade goods with one another.
“[Before the food swap] I walked through my garden and harvested what looked good,” West said, “[and] I brought blackberries, a variety of cut flowers, fresh herbs (such as mint, lemon verbena and more), greens (collard and other greens), veggie plants, seeds … [and] edible flowers.”
The event went from 10:30 to noon, and some of the swappers hauled their trade-bait around with their wagons and picnic baskets. Others displayed their goods on blankets, small tables, and inside their car-trunks.
“I brought [homemade] bread to the last swap and I was very popular,” said Arianne, “until the loaves were gone.” She’s been coming to the event for the last couple months (which is held on the last Saturday of every month), and came home with “fruit, veggies, and homemade items like bread and jam.”
Arianne said that most trades of strictly homemade or homegrown items are smooth, but has heard of some that did not go too well.
“Participants decide among themselves what they like to trade for, or not,” said West, “[and] an offer does not need to be accepted. It helps to have a value for your item in mind.”
This day, oranges and lemons were the least traded because they are “a dime a dozen in San Diego,” said Arianne, and eggs were plentiful because “chickens are very busy in spring, but still trade OK because many people don’t have chickens.”
Both West and Arianne agreed that homemade items (kombucha, jams, bread and granola) are the hottest commodities at these events.
“Food swaps have been going for a long time now,” said Knikki Royster, 47, “both of my grandmothers food swapped back then.”
Royster modernized the old-school way of food trading and took it to the Facebook platform. “I started the community page (San Diego Backyard Food Exchange) in 2012, she said, “it started with 50 members and now we have about 3300 members … oh look, I have seven more that want to join.”
Melodie Tao is active on the page. Last Sunday (May 28) she posted a photo of her scores at a North Park food swap and captioned it: “thanks for another fruitful afternoon at the Sunday JinBuCha swap! I scored peaches, lemons, salad greens, dark leafy greens and basil!”
Tao owns a social media marketing company and said that “the old-school barter concept is something that I enjoy doing as a hobby.” She traded her homemade veggie lentil soup and oatmeal cookies because she does not have a garden to plant her own stuff.
“I started out bartering when I was making kombucha,” said Jing Chen, the owner of JinBuCha at 3620 30th St. She has a weekly food swap (on Sundays) at her venue, but “don’t allow kombucha trade on my site … but other fermented foods are fine.” Chen does it because she loves homegrown veggies and backyard eggs— and also posts about it on Royster’s food exchange page.