The do-it-yourself trend sweeping the nation has brought back something once popular in the earlier part of the 20th century: the community swap. People with food they’ve grown, crafts they’ve made or other goods meet and trade for items they’re interested in — with no money ever changing hands.
Kate Payne, New York-based author of “The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking,” planted the seed for bartering goods and hosted swaps in her urban setting. On her website, hipgirlshome.com, she gives a step-by-step guide for hosting a swap with a list of all the swaps found around the country.
Locally, a spate of swap groups formed this spring. The primary one, Pikes Peak Community Cupboard, was created by Kathya ("Kat") Ethington, a freelance photographer and blogger for Edible Front Range, a magazine by the same name that features locally produced food.
“I have always been interested in anything to do with food, and I went to some events (similar to swaps) around Denver and Boulder, but they all involved money,” she said.
She started networking with friends to figure out a way to get a true bartering-type swap started here.
“Things started falling into place when a couple of farmers I knew started a small swap,” she said. “I attended and was immediately addicted. A couple of swaps after that ... I decided to branch off and start my own and make it a little different.”
On the website, pikespeakcommunitycupboard1.weebly.com, Ethington lists many of the same steps that Payne lists, as well as suggestions such as listing ingredients on homemade products, taking a cooler to the swap, making sure canned goods have dates on them and reminding everyone that no money is to be exchanged.
Wendy Carson, a like-minded friend of Ethington and stay-at-home-mom, is a co-organizer of the Pikes Peak Community Cupboard Swap.
“She helps me get the word out,” said Ethington.
The gatherings are held at various places, including the Coutura Design Inspirations store and the Rustic Sunflower Farm in Black Forest. Although the idea of swaps came from days-gone-by groups, as Ethington has pointed out, today they rely heavily on social media, especially Twitter, to get the word out about where and when the next swaps will take place.
Visit the website to find links for Twitter and Facebook.
Generally, there are about 20 people who will sign up to participate at the Community Cupboard swaps.
So, what exactly happens on the day of the swap?
During the first hour, everyone who has signed up for the event displays the goods they want to trade. It’s not a requirement, but pretty packaging helps in the marketing of your goodies, especially baked goods. A carton of fresh, naturally multicolored organic eggs pretty much sells itself.
Ethington has slips of paper available for potential traders to sign up for what they would like to trade their stuff for.
For instance, say you brought baked bread and would like to trade it for a dozen eggs. You’d find a person with eggs and sign up on one of their slips that you’d trade a loaf of bread for a dozen eggs.
About an hour into the setup and sign-up stage, Ethington announces, “It’s time to swap!”
There’s not a mad rush between swappers, but there is an organized, friendly trade of products. Generally, everyone gets what they have signed up to trade for. It helps to have several items to offer for swapping, which will expand the chances of getting what you’re seeking.
What types of goods can you expect to see at a swap?
Lots of baked goods: cookies, granolas, breads, cinnamon rolls, cakes and even trail mix. One of the days we attended, Ethington had come up with a way to bake cheesecake in little jars so they were easy to take home.
There were also fresh eggs, fresh goat milk and homemade jams and ice cream. There were herbs ready for planting, and one swapper had fresh quail eggs. There were some craft items, too, like homemade soap and knitted goods. Also old cookbooks. In other words, a little of this and a little of that.
At the end of the two hours, everyone went home without what they had brought and with something they might not have made for themselves.
“I’ve been coming to several of the swaps,” said Elaynne Indermuehle, who brought ground corn, soap, old cookbooks and knitted goods to one of the swaps. “I love the great sense of community. I’ve become friends with Kat and Wendy. I like to trade for eggs because I like to know where they come from.”
It may sound cliché, but with community swaps, what’s old is new again.
It’s “nothing new,” said Jim Moore, the 70-something president of Texas-based ABC Banks.
“When I was a kid on the farm in West Texas, we traded our milk with the lady down the road for her vegetables. That was a way of life in the farming community. You traded what you were making at your place for what a neighbor was growing or producing that you were not doing.”
How to Prepare
• List ingredients on the homemade products
• Take a cooler
• Date canned good items
• Package your items in a usable size
• Label your items with your name or twitter handle
• Fresh and homemade items are easier to exchange than store-bought items
• Remember that no money is to be exchanged
What you'll find
Cookies and cakes
Visit pikespeakcommunitycupboard1.weebly.com for more information about etiquette, events and how to get involved.
Call Farney at 636-0271. Hear her “KVOR Table Talk” radio show noon to 1 p.m. Saturdays on 740 AM. FRIEND HER ON FACEBOOK.