Even I’m getting tired of repeating the news that this year is all about sustainability, vegetable gardening, and eating local. But what about the stuff we can’t grow in our own backyard? How do we buy or trade with our close neighbors? I’m interested in the next step up from absolute self-sufficiency, a state most of us will never achieve. How do we turn solipsistic sustainability into a community effort, even if that “community” is just:
- a couple of homeowners trading jam across a back fence, or
- a guy at the mushroom festival trading his homegrown matsutake mushrooms, or
- a meal sharing group, or
- a local businesswoman who sells her bread as a cottage industry, or
- a free garden on a sidewalk strip, or
- an owner of an apple orchard who gives out apples in exchange for your help?
As part of an effort to build more community spirit in this year of local eating, I’m currently writing an article on itsy bitsy food exchanges in the Willamette Valley. The stories about how and what we trade/sell to our closest associates are fascinating, and I’d love to hear about yours. I’ll be giving a talk in August on the same topic to Oregon Master Gardeners at the statewide Mini-College conference in Corvallis, so it’s kind of a big project and I could use your help!
I participate in quite a few mini-food networks, and am sure that you do, too. For example, I’m a member of my neighborhood home gardening association (Friendly Neighborhood Farmers), I buy pork from a father-son team with a tiny operation, and I can tuna under the mentorship of a veteran Master Food Preserver.
What do you do? Potlucks? Selling your own chocolates or buying farm-fresh eggs from the lady down the street?
To participate in my fact-finding mission, please share in the comments, and I’ll try to include as many ideas as possible in the story or talk (but I can’t promise to quote everyone). You don’t even have to be local to the Willamette Valley or living in a place where neighbors have their own apple orchards — in fact, I’d really love to hear about unusual exchanges on a very small level from all kinds of neighborhoods and all kinds of people. The only qualification is that I do mean small — I’m talking local food networks even smaller than your CSA or your farmer’s market!
Thank you for your comments. I’m really thinking of this article as one that could do us all good by building community, and I could use your help to make it as diverse and unusual as possible.