October third was our fifth annual Food Swap at the Bow Little Harvest Market. I had been anticipating and planning all summer what I would swap, but motherly responsibilities (my eldest son’s first homecoming dance) required my husband, Mike, go without me. He brought home a glowing report along with fingerling potatoes, a giant cabbage, raspberry wine, a screen printed “Big Lebowski” tea towel, coffee beans, a succulent garden, Egyptian Walking Onion starts, hand salve, frozen blueberries, squash, kale, chard, wooden kitchen utensils, and pie pumpkins. The food swap tent was a beehive of neighborly good cheer. Home-brew and wine were shared, while people visited and traded. IOU’s were promised and like the connecting fruiting bodies of a forest floor a culture of mutual support and symbiosis flourishes here within the Samish Watershed.
In contrast, the following weekend, a small group of Transitioners and I packed canopy, camping gear and tradable treasures to drive four hours east over Highway 20 to the Tonasket Okanogan Family Faire, more commonly known as Barter Faire (created in 1974). It was a fun celebration of life, creativity, and an alternative paradigm. The vendors that delighted me were those that used the Faire to showcase the fruits of righteous lives connected to season and land. Jars of layered bee propolis, woven bark baskets, stone amulets, rose potion, rawhide sandals were just some of the many items that contained for me the promise and magic of a world ripe with inspiration and possibility…but the Faire is a sea of humanity that comes from all over the place.
Most of the folks at Barter Faire, although kindred spirits, remained strangers. There were plenty of vendors peddling fresh and preserved food at Barter Faire. I brought back produce like homegrown Willamette Hops, but I don’t know much of their story. I have vague memory of a face, but I don’t know that person, their land or their practices. Furthermore, I’m not a shopper, spending resources, especially time to get things, even if they are beautiful, rarely satisfies me. It is actually the people and experience behind these things that transforms an object into a true treasure, which brings me back to the topic of the Food Swap.
I came home with a different type of windfall than what my husband delivered from our local swap. I had brought home more things than food and inspiration than actual connection. Food is sacred and the relationships made sharing it irreplaceable. We tend to devalue what we have in abundance, but what “one man gathers is what another man spills.” I guess there must be a magic in connecting these dots - rebuilding community - promoting symbiosis - sharing abundance. Consider joining the Chuckanut Transition experience and check out our “Late” Food Swap, Potluck and Fire Sculpture scheduled January 5th, 2016 or our “Early” Seed Swap, Drought Discussion and Bug Show, February 26th, 2016. More details to follow in the coming months.