Dena Allen

GREAT IDEA — Is your garden producing more fruit and vegetables than your family can eat? Sebastopol gardener Dena Allen has started a Home Gardeners Produce Exchange at the Sebastopol Grange to curtail food waste, build community and solve a common gardener’s dilemma: what do with all that extra produce?

Most home gardeners are familiar with the creeping sense of panic that comes when you realize that you have planted many, many more things in your garden than your family can possibly eat.

You could leave anonymous care packages of produce on your neighbors’ front porches — a common tactic come zucchini season — or you could show up at the next Home Gardeners Produce Exchange at the Sebastopol Grange on Tuesday, June 18.

Inspired by the produce exchange that used to be held at the Hessel Grange, Sebastopol gardener Dena Allen had been thinking of starting a similar exchange at the Sebastopol Grange for about a year.

“Being a gardener that can’t stop planting more and more plants, I always have more than enough to share so I thought a produce exchange would be a great idea,” Allen said.

She and fellow gardener Carol Henderson held the first exchange at the end of May. About a dozen home gardeners showed up, exchanging different types of greens, peas, chives, herbs, tangerines, as well as assorted vegetable starts. She expects there will be more and different kinds of produce as the summer growing season continues.

Allen would love to see more home gardeners participate and said anyone with homegrown or gleaned-with-permission produce is welcome at the produce exchange. 

“Anyone can participate,” Allen said enthusiastically. “We would love to have other gardeners in the community come and join us. Just look at the Sebastopol Grange website for upcoming dates and, between 5 and 5:45 p.m. on those select Tuesdays, come early and put down your extras, see if there’s anything you want and chat with some other home gardeners.”

Allen, who volunteers with several environmental organizations and focuses most of her activism around food, said the produce exchange is a great way to prevent food waste.

At the end of the food exchange, she gathers up all the produce that hasn’t been taken, boxes it up and takes it to the food pantry in Sebastopol.

“The last two weeks I’ve gotten to bring fresh produce to the Sebastopol Inter-Church Food Pantry,” she said. “They are so nice there, and they’re always so excited whenever they get fresh produce.”

The Home Gardeners Produce exchange is scheduled on the first, third and last Tuesdays of the month from 5 to 5:45 p.m. at the Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Road (Hwy. 12), just east of Sebastopol. The next exchange will be held on Tuesday, June 18. See other dates on the grange website, sebastopolgrange.org.

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