“A wise man will grow more opportunities than he buys” – Francis Bacon
Okay, Francis Bacon didn’t say that exactly, but he was known for extolling the benefits of creating your own successes over simply chancing upon them.
Melbournite Natasha Kuperman grows her own opportunities, and her enthusiasm for connecting other like-minded individuals has resulted in Swap Shuffle Share – a flourishing community of people exchanging their know-how and know-what in their efforts towards achieving self-sufficiency.
Since January this year people have been swapping, shuffling and sharing ideas and homegrown goods in both their virtual and real neighbourhoods. Based in Melbourne, the majority of meet-ups take place in Victoria, though the idea is pollinating across Australia, with groups sprouting up in Adelaide, Perth and other regional cities. We spoke with Natasha about how and why it all works.
GH: What inspired you to start Swap Shuffle Share?
NK: My inspiration was my own need to connect with people, local to me, who knew about growing their own food. And the more I spoke about it with people around me, the more I discovered they knew something that could help me – planting advice, recipes, people to talk to.
I reflected on the huge potential of unlocking the knowledge of people around me to help, and how great it would be if I could build this to be a resource for others needing answers to similar questions. There was no central place for people to interact, ask the questions and find the resources. That's when I started mapping out the project.
GH: Who makes up the Swap Shuffle Share community?
NK: Swap Shuffle Share is primarily an online community. We help facilitate meet ups, including food swaps, and build awareness of projects, courses and places that would be of interest to people who grow their own food. Members can join or start their own group. Groups can be based on a geographical area or a special interest.
Our membership ranges from people who are interested in planting a few herbs and edible plants through to permaculture enthusiasts, urban farmers and niche specialists in areas such as bee-keeping and backyard poultry.
Growing edibles is not an 'all-or-nothing' idea, it's about giving it a go, getting involved and discovering why it's great to harvest your own produce
GH: What are the most popular themes and ideas you’ve seen appear so far?
NK: Many of our members are starting out, looking for ideas and wanting to know where to start. The recipes of meals and preserves made from home-grown produce are always well received and there is even a recipe sharing group on the site.
There is a strong interest in starting and attending local food swaps. We have provided articles explaining what a food swap is, and also ideas on how to start one. Some of our groups are set up purely to seek interest in meeting up with other nearby members to swap excess produce on a regular basis.
GH: What do you think draws people to Swap Shuffle Share?
NK: They love being able to converse and connect with people interested in the same topic. I think it's being able to discover and learn in a friendly and informal environment. We're not a community of experts (though there is plenty of expertise amongst us), so it's okay to ask basic questions.
GH: What have been some of the surprises in the journey of Swap Shuffle Share so far?
NK: What continues to surprise me is the number of passionate gardeners who have become a part of our community. On a weekly basis I receive emails of support, offers to promote the project and ways to improve the site. It reinforces that our members feel a real ownership and that they see the value of building the site to reach more people who can become part of Swap Shuffle Share.
GH: What are your hopes for the project’s future?
NK: We want to encourage, inspire and motivate more people to grow their own food. Growing edibles is not an 'all-or-nothing' idea, it's about giving it a go, getting involved and discovering why it's great to harvest your own produce.
We want to provide the connections, resources and enthusiasm needed to build the 'grow your own' movement in Australia. We want to find new homes for excess food, reduce waste, and help build local communities around sharing bountiful harvests.