VISTA — Thanks to two entrepreneurial moms with a passion for their community and locally sourced food, Vista residents have been enjoying a monthly “Crop Swap” at Brengle Terrace Park.
The “Crop Swap,” which is slowly gaining momentum throughout the country, encourages neighbors to exchange excess produce with one another in an effort to eliminate food waste. Danielle McLaughlin and Annemarie Cox said more than 100 people have participated in their Crop Swap since they launched it months ago.
“For years, I have given away my homegrown fruits and vegetables,” said Cox, a mother of two who has lived in Vista for more than three decades. “However, in the past few years, much of our garden had been wasted and it was heartbreaking.”
Cox, who is active in various community organizations, said she was encouraged to launch a Crop Swap in Vista after meeting McLaughlin at a similar event.
“Since I had event planning experience in the city of Vista, I made a few phone calls and with the city’s blessing, Danielle and I started Vista Crop Swap,” Cox said.
McLaughlin, who has lived in Vista for two years and owns an avocado grove, said the feedback from neighbors has been overwhelmingly positive.
“The feedback has been so positive and wonderful,” said McLaughlin, a mother of four children. “When you are passionate about something, it’s second nature to want to share that passion with others. I feel that everyone who comes to swap shares that passion with Annemarie and I. Our community is so fortunate to still have land where we can cultivate, grow and share.”
Aside from sharing produce and reducing food waste, the Vista Crop Swap has also allowed for neighbors with a passion for growing food to come together, McLaughlin said.
The Crop Swap is simple too. Each “swapper” sets down their goods on a table or blanket to share with others. Anyone who attends is welcomed to take what they want or need and there isn’t a minimum amount of food they need to bring.
McLaughlin said swappers have shared all kinds of citrus, avocados, greens, sapote, guava, persimmons, pomegranates, and kale, among other produce. Neighbors also bring “homemade soap, painted rocks, with some beautiful plants and succulents,” she said.
“We encourage homegrown and homemade items so baked goods work too,” McLaughlin said. “One swapper makes delicious apple cheddar muffins from her apple tree. I started a sourdough starter just for the swap and I bake sourdough breads to share too. Everyone is generous with what they bring to share.”
Each Crop Swap is prefaced with an “educational talk” about growing produce, Cox said.
The two Vista women said they hope their Crop Swap will continue to grow and that they’ll still be “hanging out” at Brengle Terrace Park the second Saturday of every month sharing goods with their neighbors.
“I love our community and we are just so grateful for everyone who comes to participate and swap with us,” McLaughlin said. “Without the support of our neighbors, this would not be possible, so we are thankful for everyone who shows up to support the Vista Crop Swap.”
For now, the two are enjoying the impact they’ve made to the community.
“The best part of Crop Swap is welcoming new participants, reconnecting with returning swappers and watching children eat fresh produce and baked goods with a smile,” Cox said.
For more information about the Vista Crop Swap, go to facebook.com/pg/vistacropswap. The next Crop Swap will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 8 at Brengle Terrace Park at 1200 Vale Terrace Drive in Vista.
Hoa Quach has 15 years of experience in journalism, garnering multiple awards ranging from investigative reporting to feature writing. She’s been named a “Woman Who Means Business” by the San Diego Business Journal, featured in BuzzFeed during International Women’s Day and recognized by the California Legislature for her work. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.