Last fall I read an article in Taproot Magazine about the Portland Preservation Society.  The goal of the society is to provide a forum for swapping homemade food — in their case, mostly canned goods.  They meet monthly; usually in people’s homes, in each other’s gardens,  and even sometimes at local businesses to talk food, food preservation, support each other’s efforts in living sustainably and go home with a variety of things that they probably wouldn’t have made themselves.

It made me want to move to Portland and join.

And since I actually like Minnesota winters and have a community and little piece of land that I am extremely grateful to call home, it seemed like the next best thing to moving across the country to swap homemade food was the start a local group.

Enter the St. Croix Valley Food Swap.

The plan in my mind is to gather a loose collective of St. Croix Valley (eastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin along the St. Croix River area) food/sustainable living enthusiasts to meet monthly to swap homemade goods — though participation is certainly open to anyone who wants to join, regardless of geographical area.  So, if you live in Portland and want to travel to Minnesota to swap, you are most welcome.

Like the Portland group, I see no need for bartering or bidding on items, nor for a cover charge to attend. They’ve encouraged participants to bring up to five items to share at each meeting: sounds like a good model to follow.   Some examples of what people might bring to trade are: jams, jellies, marmalades, chutneys, relishes, pickles, pestos, spreads, sauces, extracts, beverages, infused alcohols, any variety of preserved fruits and vegetables, flavored salts, granolas, breads, eggs, goat soaps, hand knit wash cloths, and more. Seasonal fresh produce from your garden?  Fabulous. A great soup you made too much of?  Awesome. Beeswax candles?  Certainly. Honey from your hives?  Wonderful.  Pre-packaged treats from the grocery deli?  Not so much.

The goal here is to promote and share the energy that builds from making things ourselves from the abundance that can be found in the local community and from sharing the fruits of our labors with each other.   At the meetings, participants will choose one item at a time to take home until all the items are distributed, and each participant gets as many items as he or she brought to share.  Good conversations will be had, ideas will be shared,  knowledge will grow and new friendships will come into being.  Community will be cultivated, and our dependence will shift another inch toward our neighbors instead of what we can buy at the local grocery store.

Sounds pretty good, right?  I thought so.  I hope it works.  I just met with a few others over the weekend to discuss what this might look like, and there are several people who have expressed a desire to be a part of the group.  At the planning meeting we decided that the first swap will be June 4th at 7pm, in my family’s garden.   If you are reading this, and you live in the general area, well, you should come.  We have a huge ‘in need of a remodel’ cabin cruiser that a friend gifted to my spouse sitting in our hay field, next to the garden, so you can’t miss it.

Visit the group’s inaugural Facebook Page to join, learn more, and get directions to the month’s swap location.  And hey, maybe you could even start one of your own if you don’t live in Portland, the St. Croix Valley or somewhere else that has an up and running food swap group.

How can you cultivate community in your local area this week?

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