On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the Art Produce Garden in North Park is full of vibrant colors, laughing children and smiling community members enjoying the monthly Food Currency Trade.
The Food Currency Trade was created about a year ago to connect like-minded individuals who want to share and trade homegrown fruits and vegetables with others in the community. It has become a social network, bringing neighbors together for an open system of bartering and trading fruits and vegetables.
Each month, local gardens host the Food Currency Trade where locals mingle and trade produce with one another. Food is the currency in this market. No store-bought food or money is used. The idea is to bring carrots and trade them for tomatoes or to exchange extra eggs for honey and strawberries. The trade is open to everyone and aims to provide people in the community with access to local, fresh and organic produce.
“The benefit of doing this is you could buy things from the store or from the farmers market, but it is expensive,” trade creator Daniel Geb said. “If you’re trading homegrown food, you’re trading very organic food and it’s not expensive.”
The Art Produce Garden hosts the trade the third Thursday of every month. The quaint garden is located on University Avenue, nestled among buildings and the busy city bustle. New trade attendees quickly realize the event is more than just grabbing produce. In the garden, some traders plant new seeds while children excitedly learn how to harvest. The Food Currency Trade is about fostering culture and education within the community.
“It’s really great to see these children getting so excited about harvesting things like a carrot,” San Diego State student and garden regular Erica Cunningham said.
In addition to trading, this event offers attendees a platform to learn and exchange ideas. Children and newcomers can learn about the value of healthy food and the process of cultivation in a more hands-on way. Cunningham recalls one of her best memories was teaching children how to make hummus from beets just pulled from a garden bed at one of the trades.
“The first day I put my hands in the soil it was just like … ahh. It’s been just over a year now and it’s been life changing,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham has been visiting the Art Produce Garden for about a year and participates in the food trade with what she plants there. She and other members at the food trade encourage others to get involved and experience the benefits of homegrown produce.
The Fairmount Aqua Farm, the Vera House Community Garden and the Mission Hills Nursery also host the Food Currency Trade once a month for groups in the area. Upcoming events and more information can be found on the organization’s website at foodcurrencytrade.com.