Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Food on the Barter System

by Jesse Hirsch
Tue, Apr 17, 2012 at 10:22 AM

In the East Bay barter economy, eggs are the hot ticket. “Everybody must be doing the backyard chicken thing, because we’re seeing tons of eggs right now,” said Kendra Poma, founder of East Bay Homemade Food Swaps. “Last fall I think everyone was making home-brewed beer … You start to notice trends.”

Poma started these swaps last February after reading about similar events happening all over the country. The premise is simple: 25 to 30 food artisans and backyard farmers meet up at a pre-ordained East Bay location (past swaps have been in Emeryville, North Oakland, and Golden Gate). Each swapper keeps a sign-up sheet in front of his or her goods, and other participants write down what they are willing to trade, e.g. “four muffins for one jar of salsa.”

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This Saturday was the first food swap since the event took a winter hiatus, and 25 people descended on an undisclosed Oakland location (“drop-in swappers” are discouraged due to space constraints). Poma always gets well more applicants than there is space for; participants are chosen on a first-come-first-served system unless there’s a glut of certain items. This month she had to turn away some egg swappers in the interest of variety.

There was certainly a range of options Saturday, from home-brewed ginger beer to quiche to backyard-grown tea blends. Every swapper received offers, but it’s hard to say how many were accepted. The silent auction-style system was chosen to avoid the awkwardness of face-to-face rejections.

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Poma’s main income comes from selling handcrafted jewelry made out of recycled bicycle tubes (welcome to Portlandia), but swapping has become her passion. She loves the idea of a cashless economy; she also runs periodic clothing and crop swaps. “It’s all about cutting out the middleman,” she said. “I think you can live richly without needing a lot of money.”

To learn more about the East Bay Food Swaps, and to sign up for info on future events, visit EBCASwaps.Blogspot.com.

Comments? Tips? Get in touch at Jesse.Hirsch@EastBayExpress.com.

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