Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Barter for Your Larder


   Trading stuff is the oldest form of commerce. My dried fish for your stack of wood, these shells for those strips of venison jerky.  Countryside Food Swaps are the newest local expression of that time tested model. Hosted by the Countryside Conservancy, which also runs multiple farmer's markets in Peninsula and Akron, these gatherings give people an opportunity to exchange foods they make or grow with each other. They're held the third Tuesday of each month, 6-9 PM at various Akron area locations.
   January was the first meet-up. Participants included a few farmers, a  professional baker and numerous home and hobby cooks. They offered fresh produce and eggs, breads and pastries, flavored butters, pickled veggies, kale chips, condiments, honey, guanciale (cured pork cheeks) and even bottles of sweet vermouth and tonic syrup.
     No money changes hands. Swappers make offers to each other and negotiate mutually agreeable quantities; a  pint jar of jam might get you an equal amount of bourbon honey mustard, but you may have to pony up multiple jars to acquire 16 ounces of granola or some of that jowl bacon. If the beekeeper doesn't want your pesto, then you're out of luck. Everyone's free to accept or reject any offer. There's no pressure and no hard feelings. You can bring as much, or as little as you choose; multiples of the same item or a couple of different things. Food should be portioned and packaged for easy trading.

    Products are spread out on tables and attendees have time to browse.Products, which must be labeled with the item name, shelf life and storage recommendations, plus the maker's name, phone number or email, are on display along with an ingredient list. Samples are suggested but not required.
   Erin Molnar manages the program. She's excited about the opportunities its providing to connect with people that share your interests and to stock up on local products."The first swap went fantastically," she told me. "Everyone had a really great time. The atmosphere of the room was energetic and friendly.  We're creating this community of DIYers who can go to one another for advice and to share stories. We have a Facebook group so we can chat, share recipes, give feedback, share what we did with things and feel out the response for what we're thinking of bringing."  
     Feb 19 is the next swap. Molnar's heard that there could be root beer, chai tea concentrate, pimento cheese spread, fermented chutney and "some crazy-delicous sounding cupcakes." She's thinking of making clementine vaniall bean curd.  There's no charge to participate but you can't attend unless you have something to trade and have completed the registration form in advance. Space is limited. Some spots are still available for this month. If you don't get in this time around, be sure and register early for March and beyond.

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