Nosh

Heads up homesteaders: Crop swap launches in Berkeley

It’s that time of year when the abundance from a backyard vegetable garden can be a tad prolific. How many zucchini squash can one family eat? Or perhaps your produce problem comes from human error: you simply planted way too many onions and not enough greens.

Help is on the way. Beginning next Monday night the people behind the newly formed grassroots group Transition Berkeley invite residents to share their harvest at a Crop Swap in the public park next to the Ohlone Greenway on Sacramento Street.

It couldn’t be simpler: you show up with your freshly harvested lettuces or lemons and share or swap them for some plums or potatoes. That’s it. No money changes hands.

Berkeley is just one of a grassroots network of more than 300 transition towns around the globe organizing their communities to become more resilient, self-reliant and sustainable. In keeping with that philosophy, the Berkeley coalition, which numbers 80 members and counting, encourages locals to lower their carbon footprint, grow food close to home, pool resources, reduce their use of fossil fuels and foster community. Such behaviors are critical, transition advocates say, to facing challenges such as climate change, oil dependency and depletion, and a persistent economic downturn.


The nascent group, which held its first meeting at the Ecology Center in February, has already co-sponsored a garden building day, conducted an emergency preparedness workshop, and hosted a potluck film screening. Members hope to work with local government, business, and community leaders to achieve its mission. One defined goal: to help the city cut greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050, as mandated in the Climate Action Plan.

But back to the far easier matter of exchanging excess fruits and vegetables. Gardeners who grow their own food have always shared their surplus with neighbors. Who among us hasn’t been the beneficiary of spinach, rhubarb, or cucumbers from the avid grower next door? Or, as Leah Garchik recently noted in her Chronicle column, arugula and cilantro, the Berkeley equivalent of summer surplus.

The Crop Swap simply invites fellow urban food farmers to trade kale or carrots beyond their block. Similar swaps are already under way in Albany and Oakland.

“We hope this will be a forum for people to get to know others in the community who grow produce and exchange ideas about growing food,” said co-organizer Carole Bennett-Simmons, a retired public school teacher, who tends a plot at the Peralta Community Garden, where she’s currently harvesting Swiss chard, bok choy, and beets.

Folks are encouraged to walk, bike, or catch public transit and come share their homegrown, ripe goods, including fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers. Plans are to run the Monday meet-up through October and then return in the early spring with seeds and starts for garden planting.

Share food, save money, eat well. Sounds like a Michael Pollan-inspired recipe for success.


Crop Swap takes place on Mondays, starting July 18, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., in the public park next to the Ohlone Greenway on the east side of Sacramento Street at Delaware, across from the North Berkeley BART station.

Sarah Henry is the voice behind Lettuce Eat Kale. You can follow her on Twitter and become a fan of Lettuce Eat Kale on Facebook.