A monthly homemade food swap takes root in North Oakland

Kiwis, oyster mushrooms, and piles of dried parsley and coriander seeds were among Saturday's food swap offerings.

Kiwis, oyster mushrooms, and piles of dried parsley and coriander seeds were among Saturday's food swap offerings.

Oakland resident Kendra Poma said she noticed food swaps—local bartering meetups for gardeners and cooks—sprouting up all over the country.  “I couldn’t find one happening in Oakland,” she said. So she started one.

The East Bay Homemade Food Swap started in February as a quarterly event. It was an immediate success, said Poma. “Both [seasonal] swaps I’ve had, I’ve had to turn people away,” said Poma. Seizing an opportunity for growth, she teamed up with Phat Beets Produce, who hosts farmers markets throughout North Oakland, and The Victory Garden Foundation, a group that supports home gardening, to turn food swaps into a monthly event.

The swaps will take place every first Saturday at the North Oakland Farmers market at 5715 Market Street. Last weekend’s trial run had a relaxed, open market feel. Venders pre-registered to reserve table space to display their bottles of honey-colored kombucha tea, homemade ales with Sharpied labels and Ziploc baggies of snack bars, among other goods.

It was a chilly afternoon and the event was sparsely attended, but Poma said she was hopeful it would catch on quickly. She relies heavily on social media and word of mouth to advertise: “Basically, as many free ways as possible,” she said.

The most popular station was a sort of “free box” exchange where growers could leave their excess seeds or vegetables. “We brought lemon cucumbers and spaghetti squash” said recent Bay Area transplant John Evanofsky. He left with fistfuls of green chard.

Poma’s seasonal events are more organized, and are run as silent auctions. “You put in bids and everyone chooses which bids they want to accept,” she said. “So there’s not a lot of face-to-face rejection.”

Check Ebcaswaps.blogspot.com for scheduling updates regarding next month’s North Oakland Food Swap. 

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