One of our favorite aspects of living in Portland is the sense of community found almost anywhere we look. If you have an interest or hobby, no matter how obscure, there’s a good chance you’ll find others who share it and want to band together to celebrate it. The PDX Food Swap, a large-scale event to trade handmade items, is a perfect example of this. Portlanders who have an affinity for canning, pickling and preserving will feel right at home at the PDX Food Swap. If things in jars are not your forte, baked goods and other non-food items like soap and lip balm are also accepted. Regardless of what you bring, the events are a great way for people to mingle and share in the collective joy that comes from trying new things.
We chatted with co-organizer, Lindsay Strannigan (remember her?) to learn more about how the whole process works and what the future holds for the PDX Food Swap.
E+E: How did you get involved with the PDX swap?
Lindsay Strannigan: The swap was founded by Bethany Rydmark (of Sustainable Food For Thought). I found out about the swap via twitter and attended the very first swap at Branch and Birdie. I had no idea what to expect, but I absolutely loved my first swap experience. I started coming to all the swaps, and in the process became friends with Bethany. She and her husband went on an epic trip around the world for a year, so I volunteered to organize and run the swap while she was away. (She is back from her epic adventure and we are going to co-organize all future swaps.)
E+E: Tell us a little bit more about how the swap works.
LS: Really, it’s pretty simple. You bring your homemade goods to the swap—you can bring as much or as little as you like, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a food item (people bring soap, lip balm, etc.). The process of swapping is relatively casual, and I suppose it can best best described as a quasi-silent auction. People write down their offers/bids for your items and then you decide which trades you want to accept. (For example: I’ll trade you a jar of my peach jam for a jar of your mustard!) The bids are just a jumping-off point, however (it’s all about getting creative and offering trades to others). I never know what to expect, and always come home with such an amazing array of goods. No one ever leaves the swaps empty handed. It’s awesome.
E+E: What are the most common items that people bring? What are some of the more unique items you’ve seen?
LS: In the summer, you see a lot of jams and jellies. In the fall, there’s a lot of apple and pear butter. I’ve seen quite a few drinking vinegars at the past few swaps, and there’s always a few people who bring Kombucha and/or beer. As for unique items, I’ve come home with homemade harissa, chipotles in adobo sauce, radish kimchi, pickled green figs, dragon fruit jelly, and coffee liqueur.
E+E: Yum! What goes into the planning process? How often do the swaps take place?
LS: In the past, we’ve typically held the swaps once a quarter. The swaps don’t require a ton of planning; really, we just need a location with a good amount table space! Once a date and location is locked in, I then post a blog with a registration/sign up form and promote via social media (via Rosemarried, the PDX Food Swap Facebook, etc.). We do require people to sign up to attend the swaps, and we usually end up with a waiting list! I manage the RSVPs and send out swap information and email reminders. And, on the day of the swap, I get there a bit early with a stash of pens, swap sheets, name tags, the registration sheet, etc. I briefly explain the process to all attendees, and then the swap pretty much runs itself!
E+E: Any exciting plans for the swaps in the future?
LS: Since Bethany, the PDX Food Swap founder, is now back in the United States, we plan to host the swaps more often. With our powers combined, we hope to have a swap every other month (or more). In addition, we are looking into new locations in new neighborhoods, and are always open to ideas. We really hope to branch out this year, and reach a whole new crowd of swappers, canners, and preservers.
Written by: Lauren Kodiak
Photo Courtesy: Bethany Rydmark