Updates and a call for your ideas!
I have a confession to make: I had no idea this idea would be received so well. I expected a handful of people might be interested in the first swap, and word would slowly spread over many months. Boy, I was wrong. The first event filled to our space’s capacity (30 people) in a week and half, and after the article in The Heavy Table posted our Facebook fan count doubled in 24 hours. I’ve been responding to inquiry emails and Facebook comments ever since, and it is a hot local blog topic. I guess everyone likes this idea!
About two weeks ago, something happened: my excitement turned to anxiety. I become overwhelmed, asking myself questions like “How can I organize this myself?” “How will I meet everyone’s expectations?” “How can I keep the momentum going?” “Where will we have the next one, and the next one, and next one?” and the list goes on.
I’m happy to say that my friend Mandy is now my planning-partner-in-crime and will help me answer these questions. In addition to being super fun, she is a grassroots organizer and an advocate for local and sustainable foods. Perfect! We met for dinner at Brasa earlier this week and talked about all things swap. Now we’re chipping away at planning the next swap, thinking about finding the right space and how things could be improved or changed.
One of the issues that kept coming up is the question of how to bring this event to scale. Most other food swaps around the country limit the number of people that can attend and ask for an RSVP of some kind, as I did for our March swap. Limiting the number of participants ensures that the crowd is proportional to the size of the space and that there will be enough tables for displaying items. It also ensure that when the swap begins, there won’t be utter pandemonium as people try to find eachother via nametags. When talking with other swap hosts, it seems the average is around 30-40 people per swap, with as few as 20 and as many of 50 people participating successfully. My concern is that with any more than 50, and I think that there could be potential crowd management issues and a certain level of intimacy could be lost.
While discussing planning earlier this week, we thought it would be nice to get feedback from you. This is a new event for all of us, and there is a lot of opportunity for learning and collaborating. Mandy and I think this swap is a seed of something really special, a new food system and a thriving, like-minded proactive urban community. We’re excited at the incredible potential and want to make sure that it can grow in a sustainable, smart, and collaborative way.
Please leave a comment below sharing your ideas on any of the questions below, or share any thoughts you have. All of your feedback will be helpful for us as we determine ways to plan and support this growing event.
- How do you feel about limiting the number of participants for each swap?
- How often would you like to see the swap happen? Every month? Every other month?
- What kind of Minneapolis space would you like to see food swaps take place?Please keep in mind that we need a space large that can hold at least 30-50 people and lots and lots of tables.
- If our space doesn’t have tables already, where can we get tables?
- Would you give a voluntary donation to help fund rental of tables/space/etc if expenses were accrued?
- Do you have any other ideas for how the mechanics of the swap could take place? Read our current swapping format here.
- What is your vision for how the MPLS Swappers can grow?
- Would you like to be more involved in the MPLS Swappers? How?
- Would you like to see partnerships with local community leaders, businesses, organizations, or farms? If so, who do you have in mind?
- Do you have any other ideas or feedback?
Thanks in advance for all your great ideas, and we look forward to reading them. And, be sure to mark your calendars for the next swap, which will be held the afternoon of Saturday May 14. We’ll release exact details and registration information soon!