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  • Writer's pictureMarnie Birch

Swapping Food Gains Popularity

When the home veggie patch produces an abundance of crops, consuming them all can be problematic. Fortunately, an international crop-swapping initiative called, Grow Make Bake offers a solution. Community-based swap groups provide growers and gardeners with an opportunity to share resources and swap excess produce without any money changing hands.

Having left behind a large productive garden and orchard for Deception Bay, Sharon Buchan-Hepburn was inspired by the Grow Make Bake concept operating in Burpengary. Joining forces with local permaculture enthusiast and community gardener, Leesa Cornford, they established a Grow Make Bake group that meets monthly in Deception Bay.

On the last Sunday of each month, locals, creatives and food producers gather at the Deception Bay Neighbourhood Centre to share and exchange homegrown, homemade and home-baked items. Members set up a swap table, browse other products, ask questions and chat before the exchange of goods takes place.

“This is when the magic happens,” says Leesa, explaining there’s lots of kindness and positivity, but a member may decline a swap if it doesn’t suit their needs.

“I love the concept of a village, a place of people with skills, knowledge, and experience with a willingness to share and swap,” she says.

Products swapped include fruits, pickles, fresh vegetables and herbs, a diverse range of potted plants and seedlings, cakes, lemongrass champagne, as well as hand-painted cards and gifts.

Although the group is primarily about edible exchanges, Sharon and Leesa also wanted to offer an outlet for crafters, not just for people growing plants.

“People can bring their craft creations to the meetings and swap,” says Sharon, who brought baked goods, preserves and fermented foods to the meeting. She swapped homemade pesto, pickled carrots in brine, dehydrated lemon slices (for adding to soda water), and a kombucha scoby for cherry tomatoes, a lemon grass plant, a potted lemon balm and a tote bag.

“There’s also a share table where you put things you want to give away,” Sharon reveals. Last month, members helped themselves to complementary sweet potatoes and Black Sapote, a fruit with the texture and taste of chocolate pudding.

According to Leesa, age is no barrier to participation. Primary school children and teenagers have grown plants or made crafts and attended with their parents, who reported it was a fantastic experience.

The concept of swapping means, “People can enjoy their gardening,” says Sharon, “and instead of having excess produce, which often goes to waste, they can swap it for something they don’t already grow.”

In this way, the group reduces food waste and minimises the distance food needs to travel from its source to the point of consumption, maximising its freshness and nutrient content.

What’s more, there’s a social aspect to the meetings.

“Gardeners enjoy talking to fellow gardeners about their patch and produce, and the swap day is a perfect venue for this,” Sharon says, adding this strengthens community connections, friendships and mental well-being.

Michael Cuckson, Community Engagement Worker from the Deception Bay Neighbourhood Centre hosting the swap, agrees.

“With no money involved, it is a truly giving environment,” he says. “More than just swapping products, it is about connecting with your local community, sharing with neighbours, learning from each other and having fun along the way.”

The Grow Make Bake in Burpengary has been operating for seven years. Facilitator, Sarah Heath, first became involved “to swap homegrown items and to surround myself with supportive, creative people.”

She’s keen for swap groups to operate in all suburbs and mentors new groups to get started. Plus, she’s eager to expand the concept by collaborating with and including other community groups like beekeepers, quilters and more.

“I love the concept of a village, a place of people with skills, knowledge, and experience with a willingness to share and swap,” she says.


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