Gardeners have long shared the fruits of their labors with others - ripe tomatoes given to friends, excess zucchini presented to neighbors, even planting an extra row of produce in the backyard vegetable plot to donate to the hungry via food banks.
But what about trading your extra sugar snap peas for another grower's carrots? Or a couple of your cantaloupes for a few ears of someone's corn? That takes finding another gardener who grows something you want and is willing to trade for whatever you have that he or she doesn't.
And, not surprisingly, some have turned to the Web to help make those connections. A notice on Craigslist, a Facebook page, or even MySpace has been known to help. But organized groups are also beginning to appear. Veggie Trader, for instance, a free service. Here's how it works:
You post a listing describing the excess produce you have and what you'd like in return, and then you wait for a response... Or, if you're looking for local produce, you simply enter your zipcode and see what your neighbors have available. You can also post specific produce you’re looking for in our Wanted section and see which of your neighbors answers your request.
At Neighborhood Fruit, which is new, you can find public fruit available free when ripe, locate others in your town or neighborhood who have fruit to share, or announce the fruit that you have available.
In the food section of today's New York Times, Kim Serverson writes about fruit-trading groups in California and elsewhere in the US. The simplest form is: You have too many lemons and barter some to a person in your city who's overrun with ripe persimmons. But there are plenty of variations:
– Fallen Fruit is an activist art project which began by mapping all the public fruit available in one neighborhood so all who needed or wanted it would know where to go.
– The Backyard Harvest collects fruits and vegetables from individual gardeners and small growers in three states for donation to food banks or soup kitchens.
There are many more options in a number of communities around the country, reports Good, which has compiled quite a list of them.
Even though there are occasional problems -- people taking fruit that hangs into public space (legal some places, not in others) or taking much more than they can use (and. sometimes, selling the free produce), this is a great idea, worth spreading to every community.
Do leave a comment if you know of other organizations that are doing this.
Note: The first Monitor gardening photo contest will end Monday (June 15). Photos that have been uploaded to the Gardening With the Monitor group pages on Flickr will be judging by our photo staff, and at least two prizes will be awarded. Don’t miss out!