Any produce left over at the end of the exchange is dropped off at food pantry
Now in its second year, the Home Gardener Produce Exchange returned to the Sebastopol Grange at the end of May — and like everything else in the county, the produce exchange has a new set of rules to follow to comply with the county’s health order. But the new rules aren’t stopping more people from heading to the Grange to pick up and drop off their extra produce and starts.
Sebastopol gardener Dena Allen said that the exchange is following similar rules that folks would find at the farmers market or while they’re out shopping. Though the exchange has been outside thus far this year, they’re asking that folks wear masks and make sure to wash their hands before heading over.
Allen said that in its first two Tuesdays of operation (the exchange runs on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month), the number of people showing up has doubled, something she attributes to both the natural growth of a new program and to an increase in people gardening.
“I estimated 20 to 25 people each time, and we saw some new faces — they weren’t all Grangers. We had people from Community Seed Exchange as well as people who heard about us from word of mouth,” Allen said.
The produce exchange began last year as a way to redistribute home-grown produce and help eliminate food waste.
While the nature of the produce exchange involves helping people limit food waste, Allen said that they’re encouraging people to grow more produce than they think they’ll need — if they bring a bunch to the exchange and there are leftovers, she’ll take them over to the food pantry.
“Carol Henderson (co-creator of the exchange) and I have really tried to encourage anybody that has extra room in their garden or too much of anything to really bring it to the exchange,” she said. “When we have leftovers, we take them to the food pantry. We’re trying to really talk about that a lot — if you have extras, let us take them to the food pantry or take them yourself.”
She noted that it’s especially important right now, when so many people in the community have lost their jobs or have limited ability to purchase food.
In a time where in-person socializing is scarce, Allen said that the Home Gardener Produce Exchange has also become a place to socialize with fellow gardeners and have a good time. During the June 9 event, some people brought instruments and there was outdoor music and dancing.
“It’s such a positive experience dropping food off at the food pantry … it’s a win-win situation,” she said. “You’re building a community of other people that love fresh food … and you’re reaching out to your wider community by trading food and donating food.”
The produce exchange is held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of each month from 5 to 5:45 p.m. It runs from May 26 to Oct. 27. Since the window is short, Allen suggested that folks come closer to 5 than 5:45 p.m.
“We view it as a way for home gardeners to connect and learn from each other and, if you end up with too many tomatoes or zucchinis don’t just let them get bigger or rot in your garden or compost them, come trade with somebody,” she said.
The Sebastopol Grange is located at 6000 Sebastopol Road, just east of Sebastopol out Highway 12. You can find more information about the Home Gardener Produce Exchange at its website.