Strange IndiaStrange India

If you’ve ever pondered how to make new friends as an adult, I have an off-the-wall suggestion for you: Find a local food swap. Food is the great uniter: Everyone, regardless of political status, gender, or sexuality needs food, and the food you make or grow provides a perfect launch point for a conversation and connection. A food swap is just a place that’ll handle the intros for you.

What is a food swap?

Direct trading with other people allows you to barter in a fun, non-stressful way. You sign up for one of what is usually a limited number of spaces or tickets, and bring with you as much homegrown, homemade, or foraged goods as you like. Canned goods, garden veggies, foraged mushrooms, homemade soap—some swaps even accept booze (the homemade or infused kind). You lay it all out like a swap meet at a table, put on a name tag, and meet the people setting up around you. If you can, offer samples or tastes of what you’ve got, and everything needs to be well-labeled.

Then the entire group breaks so you can roam around the swap, see what others have to offer, and do some tasting. This is where the bartering happens: You’ll make an offer on paper, like a silent auction, and instead of bidding money, explain what you have to trade.

Everyone returns to their station, and it’s up to you to see what offers you got and decide which trades you want to execute. As others are doing the same, and letting you know what they’d like, you find out what swaps you’ll end up with. You execute the trades, and go home with all kinds of fun new jams, sauces, soaps, and bread—and you’ve found a great way to dispose of the bumper crop of apple butter.

Food swaps aren’t just an extrovert event. You only have to talk or interact as much as you’d like to, but the events lend themselves to meeting other people. You ask questions about what kind of chickens someone’s rainbow eggs come from, or how they make their soap, or how they get their lingonberry jam to be so spicy.

How to find a local food swap

There are swaps all over the country, and a good place to start is the Food Swap Network. It also offers you the chance to start your own food swap, with lots of advice. If your town doesn’t have one, find the closest big swap so you can see how it works before you start one.

Most swaps happen routinely throughout the year, but summer’s end swaps are (quite literally) the most fruitful.

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