A group of local farmers plans to swap their surplus bounty Sundays beginning this week at the Schenectady Trading Co.
The swap, in its third year, is centered around the concept that small farmers and gardeners will bring products of which they have excess, and trade them with other farmers.
“It’s really not just for farmers,” said Mike Nally, local beekeeper and president of the Schenectady County Farm Bureau. “It’s for backyard gardeners and it’s for anybody who has a surplus of what they produce.”
The swap enables small-scale farmers in the county – who make up most of Schenectady county’s agricultural community — to gather products they do not normally grow themselves and trade their surplus, said Jeff Klein, vice president of the county Farm Bureau.
“It’s like a social hour with veggies,” said Klein, who owns a farm in Rotterdam Junction.
One “aspiring farmer,” Kyle Schleffer, who attended the vegetable swap regularly in its first two years, said he typically brings to the event whatever produce he has available at the moment. This Sunday, Scheffler plans to bring garlic, lettuce, bok choy, squash, and cucumbers.
The swap has allowed him to network with other small-scale farmers, and pick up new tips and tricks about farming, Schleffer said.
The swap is a good way to encourage small farmers and backyard gardeners to build camaraderie since that community isn’t very strong locally, Nally said.
“There’s a lot of information exchange” too, Klein said. “Everybody’s happy. Some people come and just give stuff away.”
The event was relocated last year to the Schenectady Trading Company on Union Street in downtown Schenectady from the 1st National Bank in Scotia to attract farmers with leftover produce from the Sunday Schenectady Greenmarket, Klein said.
Caroline Bardwell, the owner of the store, is donating the front porch of her store to the farm bureau to host the weekly event.
“I have been glad to support [the veggie swap], Bardwell said. “Balancing home gardens is a challenge sometimes for the home gardener, so to reduce waste and get something for it is a great idea.”
Hosting also gives her store more exposure and the potential to increase traffic there, she said. Farmers may also have the opportunity to trade their produce for items sold at the store, Bardwell said. “Depending on what the individual brings, there might be an option for something in the store.”
The first two years of the swap attracted between five and 10 farmers on an average Sunday, Klein said. He expects an increase in participation this year because of the pandemic winding down, the downtown Schenectady location, and a growth in gardening while people were stuck at home.
Klein emphasized, though, that the veggie swap is meant to supplement the farmers’ market for small farmers, and not take business away from the Sunday market. “Our aim is not to compete with farmers who are selling at the markets. They have to make a living at it. We don’t want to hurt them,” he said.
The swap, organized by members of the Schenectady County Farm Bureau, takes place each Sunday through Sept. 19 from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Schenectady Trading Company at 609 Union St. in Schenectady.