I had a great idea! If I have too many avocados and my neighbor is swimming in oranges, we should swap! That way nothing goes to waste and we both get some variety in our families diets – all without spending a penny at the market. It sounds simple enough, however I am attempting to do it on a very grand scale. Think hundreds of swappers!
I officially launched the Garden Angels Produce Cooperative in February of 2011. My idea is that sharing what we grow makes sense – nothing is wasted and everyone benefits. I began by sending out a few emails and it snowballed from there. Emails are forwarded to a friend of a friend of a friend. We have 55 official members and would love to increase our cirlce of swapping. You can become a member and participate only when you have an overabundance of the fruit or veggie you grow. It's very laid back and keeping it simple is key! Some members bring tree fruits, some produce, flowers, herbs, and even yummy baked treats. We've had some very unique offerings indeed, ranging from berry cuttings to be replanted to organic worm juice for fertiziling our gardens.
All this takes place at my home near the Traffic Circle, the same neighborhood where I grew up. There are anywhere from three to eight people counting and sorting all sorts of garden treasures. We've had mom's bring their kids to volunteer time at the exchange, and dad's dropping off veggies and picking up a big gorgeous bag of farmer's market style FREE community grown garden goodies for their families. We've had members drive up in cars that run on reuseable oil and give info to an interested crowd on the vehicle details while parked in my driveway. Where else do you get that?! A few members have been volunteering their counting skills for us from the beginning, while some are people I'm meeting for the first time. The kitchen and dining room are always full of excited energy, it's been a great source of networking! This is my favorite part of what I have created. I am hoping that by volunteering at the swap or in the garden, people will connect and maybe help someone else to that place where they can do what they love.
Everyone is there for a different reason, however it is clear every member has a lot of passion for local and organic foods, cooking, and community. We're opening our hearts to bigger causes as they are presented to us by collecting items within the group for needy families; supporting member endeavors, networking about jobs, sharing info about events - all in honor of and with a true love of sustainable eco-forward living!
What exactly is a garden angel? It is anyone growing something in their backyard and willing to contribute or to lend a hand and volunteer their time to help count and sort contributions. I call them angels because of the way our spirits are lifted when we work together in community. I truly believe “the more, the merrier” and would love for more families to join this community exchange with us.
Yes,it's true that I broke into a joyful song at the first exchange, “only the beginning.” I have high hopes for expanding the co-operative to include hundreds of local members who bring the fruits of their garden to exchange with others. I would also love to form a group of volunteer harvesters who would be willing to glean the fruit trees of the elderly, the vacationing, or the disinterested, and deliver a bag of swapped items in return, so nothing goes to waste.
I believe that working together is good for the soul. So if you are interested in joining the Garden Angels or learning more about the produce swap, please email Shannon Nakamura at email@example.com.