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'Cropswap' website takes barter between home gardeners online

Bellamy Pailthorp
A budding friendship between happy traders. Connie Parsons, co-founder of the Cropswap website, and Scott Shaffer expect they'll trade gardening tips via the site as well as continue trading for home-grown goods.

What do you do when you’ve got a bumper crop of zucchini or lettuce? Or flower bulbs that have multiplied like rabbits? Many people give their extras away. And in the down economy, more and more hobby gardeners are trading their bounty at swap meets. 

A new website from a team in Seattle and Tacoma makes those transactions easier.

Radio script:

It’s lunch hour on a recent Wednesday in Seattle and Connie Parson’s is very excited about a blind date she set up online…she’s wearing a colorful scarf with matching ceramic earrings. She arrives at Westlake Center carrying a big bag with green leaves poking out…and is clearly looking forward to meeting a man she knows mostly by his handle, SparkyGlass.

She found him through a website she helped found. It’s called CropSwap.

BP: “What do you know about what he looks like?”

CP: “I don’t. I have his cell phone number….Hi! “

But it’s easy for them to find each other.

CP:” …And I told him I would have a big bag of plants.”

They’re actually two dozen Crocosmia bulbs that already bloomed this season. And she’s also got two purple Hastas from her shade garden, in plastic pots. 

CP: Hello – how are you? I’m Connie!

SG: Nice to meet you…Scott

CP: AKA, SparkyGlass?

SG: Yes. 

On the table next to him is a couple of columbine plants and an open carton of eggs, with pale green shells and dates written on them in pencil.

SG: “…each day that we get them, that’s the day that they were laid, so we know exactly how fresh they are and you’ll know how fresh they are.”

CP: And they’re beautiful eggs….if you bought these eggs at the farmers’ market – that would be...

SG: It’s expensive, they get expensive.”

In this deal, no cash is exchanged – just the eggs and plants these two urbanites produced at their homes in Kent and Seattle.

Sparky Glass says in the past, he’s sold his eggs to friends and used the income to help pay for the upkeep of his chickens.

But this season, he’s also accepted lemon cucumbers from a lady in Tacoma for his eggs. All this thanks to the Cropswap website.

He says once he found the Cropswap website on the Internet, he got hooked right away.

SG: “‘Caus’ it had everything that I wanted to do built into it already. So hopefully we can just keep it growing and getting more and more people involved. Because there are a lot of urban homesteaders out there, who are probably looking for something similar.”

The idea is that because the CropSwap site is searchable, people have a better shot at finding things they actually want, rather than taking what’s available at old-fashioned swap meets.

It has its limits right now, because there are only a couple hundred members so far. In other cities, similar ideas have fizzled in the past.

The site is designed to generate revenue when users pay an annual membership fee. For people who’d rather give their extra food to the hungry, there’s also a “willing to donate” option. 

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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