Aside from helping those most in need, there is another way that home gardeners are using their extra produce: they are sharing it with each other. There are a couple of ways to do this; one is through yard sharing.
Yard sharing is basically pairing people without yards with people who have them so they can grow their own food. One of the best places to find information on yard sharing is via “Hyperlocavore” Liz McLellan, who has created the Hyperlocavore web site — a free yard sharing community. As she explains on her site, “yard sharing is an arrangement between people to share skills and gardening resources; space, time, strength, tools or skills.”
A less formal way to share your excess produce with your neighbors is through a produce exchange often called produce cooperatives, or produce swaps. While similar to a yard share, the difference is that in yard sharing there’s an agreement or arrangement to share both the produce and the work, while a produce exchange is an informal gathering of neighbors and the community to share the extra produce that people already have.
It is a simple premise, you exchange vegetables, fruit, herbs, and even flowers that you grow that you don’t want or won’t use, for those that you don’t have, but you do want.
Produce exchanges are a great way to not only try some fresh produce you haven’t grown yourself, but it helps build community and reduces waste.
Here in Los Angeles, cooperatives have been started throughout different areas of the city including in the northeast Los Angeles neighborhood of Glassell Park with the Hillside Produce Cooperative, the San Gabriel Valley Produce Cooperative, Fairfax/West Hollywood Produce Cooperative, and the Westside Produce Exchange.
While it is still spring and your produce is just starting to go in the ground, you can find out if there’s a regular exchange near you and if not, there’s still time to start one in your own area.
If there’s not one near you, Hyperlocavore has a page about how to organize a produce exchange in your own neighborhood offering tips on everything from rules to creating a flyer to promote the exchange.
Whether you become part of a yard share or produce exchange, you can even organize a drive to collect excess produce from your friends and neighbors for those in need.