Who says you need money to go shopping?
Imagine driving home with a boot packed with two white stinkwood trees, a few trays of vegetable seedlings, plant bags with herbs, Shasta daisies and artichoke plants, a few lemongrass bulbs, a paper bag containing comfrey cuttings, another with fresh turmeric bulbs, and lots of brown paper envelopes and cellophane packets filled with enough seed to start a nursery. On them are exotic names written by hand: “Moringa from Santa Paloma”, “jelly melon”, “wild rosemary”, “red chicory”, “asparagus chicory”, “scarlet beans”, “Nigerian oil seed sonneblom”…
Moreover, every single item in your overloaded boot was free, as well as the cake, goat’s-milk cheese, bread and coffee you devoured – and most of it was given to you by people you don’t know from Adam. In fact, the only hard cash – forget about credit cards – spent at the seed, seedling and information exchange market held at Picardi Place (home of our cover star, Jaco Brand, and his vegetable garden) was used to pay for two jars of raw honey and a bag of environmentally friendly dishwashing tablets.
Permaculture expert Kobus Kritzinger, a regular Platteland
contributor (read his spinach story on page 122), tells us that, although exchange markets such as this one still have one foot in the “old economy” (a few people who depend on the income sell their products), they are a giant step towards the “alternative economy” where products, skills and services are exchanged without any cash changing hands.
“You bring anything you have in excess, and when sharing it generously with others you’ll get it back twice over,” Kobus believes. He hopes to inspire people to start something similar in their community, thereby making their own contribution to food security.
It’s not only green goods that are swapped here but also information. For example, at the exchange market you could get conversations going and ask for advice on topics as diverse as organic vegetable gardens, companion plants, natural cleaning and body products, beekeeping, grey-water systems, irrigation systems, dairy cows and goats, free-range chickens, permaculture and soil enrichment.
Two hours later, just before noon, the 50 members of the green-finger brigade leave for home – all richer in plants, hearts and minds. At this exchange, everyone’s a winner.