Port City Swappers
June 24th, 2 p.m.
Castle and 4th streets
Free, with homemade food items brought to swap.
If such connectivity through food can be had among family and friends, can’t the same be made true with an entire community? Such is the question Andy Myers asked himself when he stumbled upon the latest nation-al and worldwide movement of food swaps. What has taken off in larger cities is now landing along the quaint, historic streets of Wilmington, beckoning foodies, food-lovers, gardeners, farmers and DIY movers and shakers to its common ground.
“A food swap works by having people in a community bring anything homemade, home-brewed, foraged or homegrown, and use their products as currency as they trade and barter with each other,” Myers, a campaign coordinator for Working Films, says.
After assessing the passion and energy permeating our town of activists and like-minded individuals, Myers will hold the first Port City Swappers (PCS) meet on June 24th at 2 p.m. near the Working Films site, at the corner of Castle and 4th streets. The swap begins with participants filling out a sheet and explaining what they brought to barter before setting up their items for display on a table.
“The first half of the swap will be devoted to all participants walking around the tables, sampling products, and writing on the blank lines what they are willing to swap for the item,” Myers explains.
After 30 minutes or an hour of tasting and deciding items of interest, everyone will go back to their tables—provided by Southeastern Alliance for Community Change—to review the offers. If they like what is suggested, they’ll make the swap.
“Of course, no offers are mandatory and the real bartering begins now as folks try and sell others on why their cheese or carrots are the best in the world,” Myers says of pre-registration at portcityswappers.eventbrite.com. “If it sounds intimidating, people should know that everyone will be super friendly, and it’s all done in the spirit of fun.”
Already, through word-of-mouth and Port City Swappers’ Facebook page, numerous folks have signed up to attend the meeting. Promises of cheese, jerky, homegrown mushrooms and veggies, among bread, cookies, farm-fresh eggs and more are on the swapping block. Myers will bring his specialty, kombucha, a fermented tea which he began making recently.
“I like to experiment with flavors and try to get the tea as carbonated as champagne,” he says. “I’ve also been into making kimchi and sauerkraut, and have recently began brewing beer and mead. Those won’t be ready until next month, but [folks can] definitely expect lots of sauerkraut and kombucha.”
His kombucha can be accredited to Myers’ love for food stuffs and homemaking. After realizing the amount of money he was spending on buying Kombucha, he began making the tea himself. The ease of it and economical viability astounded him. “I started fermenting everything in my kitchen!” he says. Sharing his concoction with favorable results led to a host of gratitude and perpetuated the idea to continue spreading its wealth without monetary value dictating it. In fact, money isn’t a factor in the food swap movement; nary a dollar will be exchanged, only trading goods. As well, regulations and health codes aren’t in effect as PCS is a private club, wherein participants must pre-register. It’s the fundamental way to make the event lawful: take money out of the equation.
“All swappers agree to using the highest cleanliness standards in their own kitchens and gardens to prepare their items,” Myers says. “Additionally, they must agree to assume all liability. Basically, we feel that all of the requirements to get your food or beverage out of your kitchen and into the community is a bit overkill, and you should not have to go into debt just to get your pickled beets on the market.”
Here, makers can troll their product and wares on a smaller scale and see what sticks before attempting a larger market. Or they can come simply in the spirit of sharing and enjoying food and good company—the essence of the club.
“People can bring a lot of one thing or small amounts of many things,” Myers explains. “We definitely encourage creativity and hope the event can either be an avenue to take your treasured items out into the community, or an opportunity to take a crack at that recipe or project you’ve been avoiding.”
Perhaps one of the most exciting fundamentals coming from PCS and its monthly meetings will be the continuation and endurance of the locavore and slow food movements. People can revel in knowing their food is coming from their own backyards—or at least their neighbors’. Myers admits to being a champion for organic and non-GMO foods. “It wasn’t really until this year that I actually put my jars where my mouth is,” he admits, “and started cranking out all of the things I’ve been enjoying for years.”
Knowing folks who live by the same framework, PCS will serve a passionate group of foodies, gardeners, foragers and home-brewers. “There is a sense of pride and pleasure to have someone really dig your product or get a chance to taste something after hours of labor,” Myers says. “There is definitely more of a mindfulness that persists while you are enjoying something homemade. You’re not just woofing something down, but actually appreciating the time and energy that went into creating it.”
A natural community organizer who found his footing at UNCW when he did environmental campaigning and volunteering with Greenpeace, ECO and Stop Titan, Myers has been active in Wilmington for years. Recently, he did work fighting Amendment One and running Reel Equality, which focused on documentaries on gay rights throughout NC. Port City Swappers is a continuation of Myers’ passion to wield and unify commonalities.
Aside from being environmentally friendly, the potential of truly interacting with the community excites Myers and his PCS team, Brent Dober and Stephen Katulak. “By participating, everyone has common ground,” Myers says. “Despite whatever boxes they have been put into by society, they are able to connect with everyone present and share food and skills. They not only get to know that the random guy they always pass on the street makes amazing rosemary bread, they also get to divulge trade secrets and share tips and learn from other’s experiences.”