Dedicated Kāpiti Crop Swap participants Mavis and Roger Smith with organizer Jessica Keltie. Photo / Rosalie Willis
A walk around her neighborhood in lockdown got Jessica Keltie thinking.
Surrounded by neighbors with beautiful fruit trees, full of fruit, Jessica wanted to put some in her daughter’s lunch box for school.
Earlier this year, when fruit and vegetable prices started to rise, Jessica decided to put her thoughts into action and create a space where the Kāpiti community could come together to share surplus produce or anything food-related to share that others could benefit from.
“I thought about starting a fruit and veg collective in my neighborhood just with my neighbors, but I figured I needed to look bigger,” Jessica said.
“So I decided to start a crop swap, where the community can bring and exchange anything food related.”
“I made a post on Facebook saying I wanted to start this food revolution and called it the Kāpiti Crop Swap.
“I had a great response and now Kay Fechney and Heather Horswell are helping me run it.
“In this way, people have access to fresh fruit and vegetables.
“No koha or money can be requested or received, it is a cashless event, especially now that we have received a subsidy to cover rent for the hall.”
A crop swap is not a new idea, but it is new to Kāpiti.
It is now supported by funds from the Paraparaumu/Raumati Community Board, who have given them $1,000 to rent the Kāpiti Uniting Church hall.
Jessica has established a strong chewing papa and values for exchange.
“Our values and Kaupapa are meant to bring together the beauty of mindful exchange and sharing, reminding people of the beauty of Papatūānuku and the gifts Papatūānuku offers us.
“You trade everything you have for what you need.
“We bless our Kai in ter reo, but we want all factions of the community to come – especially people who are struggling, you can just trade what you have.”
It doesn’t have to be fruit or veg, anything related to food or produce can be traded.
There is also soup and fresh bread on arrival.
The first three harvest swaps featured jam, eggs, bread, baked goods, herbs, kombucha scobys, sourdough starters, seedlings and more.
The whole hall was filled with food and everything was free – firewood, kawakawa plants, bread, harvested watercress, kiwis, oranges, apples, lemongrass and jams.
Around 25 people took part in the first harvest swap, 50 in the second and around 45 in the fourth.
“It’s so amazing,” Jessica said. “Everybody share, it’s beautiful. It brings people together.
“We’ve got the artichoke people, the worm wee lady, the duck egg people — we’ve got all these cool people, these characters who come over and enjoy it.”
Roger Smith was one of the first participants. “It’s nice to walk in on a cold winter Saturday and be greeted with a cup of hot soup and fresh bread,” he said.
“It’s a great time to meet like-minded people and exchange ideas.
“Everyone has the same kind of positive vibes, everyone is excited and very happy to contribute and be a part of it.
“It’s an event where we all benefit from everyone’s input.”
A year ago Roger and Mavis Smith got six Jerusalem artichokes, planted them in their garden and forgot about them until they grew into plants about ten feet tall.
“We waited for them to die before getting the crop, and I got half a barrel of artichokes from the first plant,” Roger said.
“We were standing in front of this embarrassingly large barrel of artichokes before we saw Jessica post on Facebook about conducting a crop swap.
“We looked at each one and knew exactly what to do with it.”
Roger rinsed them with a water jet, found a recipe for artichoke soup, and bagged the remaining artichokes with the recipe attached.
Each bag had the right amount for a soup recipe.
“So after the first week, Jessica decided we were the artichoke people.”
Mavis Smith agrees it’s a great initiative. “A lot of people have fruit trees, you can just bring what you have and trade it for something else,” she said.
The harvest swap isn’t just about sharing the fresh produce in the community, it’s also an opportunity to try new produce and learn from others how to use it.
Each crop swap starts with a briefing where Jessica gets everyone talking and introduces her plants and how they can use them.
The next swap is held every second Saturday of the month at Kāpiti Uniting Parish, 10 Weka Road, Raumati Beach on September 10th. Doors open at 1pm. The event begins at 1:30 p.m.