On Sunday afternoon, a handful of local farmers gathered in the parking lot of the 1st National Bank of Scotia, each bringing a supply of homegrown or homemade goods that when sold, would bring in a profit to their businesses.
However, this wasn't your typical farmer's market; in fact, participants weren't even purchasing each other's goods. They were bartering with each other instead.
Sunday's event, organized by the Schenectady County Farm Bureau, was the first of its weekly summer produce swaps. Participants, ranging from professional farmers to backyard gardeners, may bring whatever goods they want to the swap -- vegetables, meat, or other goods -- with the goal of sharing their bounty with their peers. Any excess produce will be donated to the county's food bank, while any unusable produce is collected for the Biosoil Farm worm-powered composting operation.
Swaps will be held in the bank's parking lot on Sunday afternoons from 3 to 5 p.m. through mid-September.
While Farm Bureau members direct traffic on site, the organization is still seeking volunteers to assist with traffic control.
Participants are not only asked to contribute a donation of at least $1 help defray insurance and other expenses, but also expected to bring their own tables and containers. They are also asked to sign in upon arrival and complete a liability waiver.
While the swap started off quietly on Sunday afternoon, with a few people on site preparing to barter off their goods, hopes were high that more people would stop by.
“It’s a beautiful, sunny day,” said Mike Nally, president of the Schenectady County Farm Bureau. Nally was there with his wife, Patty, and the two came armed with a variety of different homegrown products to barter, including honey and beef.
The point of the swap, Nally explained, was fundamentally different from the objective of a farmer’s market.
The idea came to the Farm Bureau while the organization was attempting to create a new way in which both farmers and beginning at-home gardeners could get access to community goods without the for-profit model of a farmer’s market, get rid of excess produce, and swap not only goods but tricks of the trade as well.
“What happens if I have extra? I just give it away anyway,” he said.
Jeff Klein, a Schenectady County Farm Bureau board member, was hoping to swap away some of his extra eggs.
“You can just show up with what you have. It’s all about supporting the community and building relationships,” Klein said.
While the point of the swap is not to generate income, organizers did say that it would be a bonus to have at least some money coming in from donations that could be used to fund a learn-to-garden program at an area school.
The art of bartering home-grown goods, Patty Nally said, comes from experience in growing those goods and knowing the time and effort that went into them.
For example, Patty Nally is acutely familiar with the hours and months it takes to produce her grass-fed beef, because she's been involved with farming since she was growing up. Another farmer, also familiar with the time and effort it takes to produce grass-fed beef, would most likely offer her a fair swap.
“You work it out with whoever you’re bartering with,” Patty Nally said. “I know the effort that went into creating this beef, and this honey.”
Another goal of the swap, Mike Nally said, is to emphasize buying local produce and goods as opposed to purchasing goods grown by large factory farms, a practice prevalent in supermarkets.
Shopping and swapping local will not only make sure that consumers are getting less artificial goods and products, but will also create a cushion and extra income for area farmers who might be struggling.
“If we could rely on buying more of our food from local farms, it could go back into the community,” Mike Nally said. “It’s about looking forward, and looking out for our community.”
For a complete list of swap dates, visit https://www.villageofscotia.org/events/veggie-swap-sundays-3-5pm-1st-national-bank-of-scotia.