By Peter Ruddock
Dec 29, 2012
The South Bay Local Garden Share kicked off at Common Ground in Palo Alto in the summer of 2010, a joint project of Transition Palo Alto, Slow Food South Bay and other community organizations. It was consciously modeled after the existing garden exchange at Transition Albany and intended to kick off as part of Slow Food’s Dig In! National Work Day, shepherded by Peter Ruddock and Jan Butts. There was so much enthusiasm, that it actually had a couple of trial runs before the National Work Day. Despite some qualms during slow periods during the first winter, Peter and Jan were patient with the event, nursing it at its weakest points. By the spring of 2011, it had become a monthly gathering with a loyal group of regulars. In fact, it excited folks enough, that in the summer of 2011, Victoria Armigo and Michelle Philips decided to replicate the event at Full Circle Farm in Sunnyvale. Since that time we have had Garden Shares twice monthly, on the second Sunday at Common Ground and on the fourth Sunday at Full Circle Farm.
By the spring of 2012 we were talking with Rani Jayakumar who coordinates a similar event for sharing craft material, the Craft Swap. We decided to occasionally combine the events, and began to add other opportunities for sharing. We have now done this three times, the last two of which have attracted about 100 people. We have had bike repair, a soap making demonstration, a cookie decorating demonstration, clothes, books, toys and more to swap, video tales of Transition, and our own unique event, scrapophony, the brain child of the unique Herb Moore, where he teaches people to make instruments out of scrap material.
We consciously chose the word “share”, rather than “swap” or “exchange” to emphasize that we do not place a specific value on any given item. All items are placed on a table. People tend to stay for most of the hour or so that we run. There is a great chance to talk to other sharers and so build the Transition community. People often talk about the source of the things being shared, be that someone’s garden, someone’s kitchen or somewhere else. It is particularly nice to know all about something that you are going to take home. You take home what you want – no one counts (although everyone keeps an eye out for someone who overdoes things, which has only happened once). In the rare event that we have leftovers, we donate them to a local food bank. And don’t fret if you do not have anything to share in a given month: share yourself, take something home, and come back with things when you have them.
The future looks bright for the Local Garden Share. We will continue our monthly sharing events at Common Ground and Full Circle Farm throughout 2013 and beyond. We are looking into adding a third monthly event. We will plan to have a few joint events with the Craft Swap and others. And we are looking forward to the Great Reskilling Expo, a full day of sharing skills with each other, which is being planned for the spring of 2013. Garden, kitchen and other skills will be well-represented at that upcoming event.
I’m thinking about starting a garden share in my local community (San Mateo coast). Any tips?
Come visit one of our Shares. 2nd Saturday in Palo Alto, at Common Ground Garden. I’m not always there, but if you are coming, let me know and I’ll try to get there.
You want a core of regulars. There will be people who come and go, but you want regulars.
Get your message out and be consistent: community building, long-term sharing with no value assigned to any particular piece of produce – sharing, education of each other – sharing skills. These, at least, are the reasons for the existing Shares.
Then it’s promotion. Google Group, Facebook, Meet-up. Use a variety, and be very consistent about posting.