Updates and a call for your ideas!

Food Swap table at the March 2011 food swap

Hey Swappers!

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!

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Comments
5 Responses to “Updates and a call for your ideas!”
  1. Melissa H says:

    How do you feel about limiting the number of participants for each swap? I think it should be limited to avoid chaos but maybe we could try to up the number, like try to do 50 and see how it goes.
    How often would you like to see the swap happen? Every month? Every other month? If it was every month I could see myself not feeling as bad if I missed one, either by my choice or because I did not get signed up before it was full.
    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. I think it would be fun to have at a restaurant or natural foods store. I unfortunately don’t have a certain place in mind, but will keep my eyes and ears open.
    Would you give a voluntary donation to help fund rental of tables/space/etc if expenses were accrued? Yes, but I would hate to see this get expensive, I think the whole point of it is to be frugal and exchange no money.
    What is your vision for how the MPLS Swappers can grow? I could see us splitting into more groups, like for instance a western suburbs group, a metro group, etc.
    Would you like to be more involved in the MPLS Swappers? How? I am involved in so many things but yes, I would maybe think about being the “lead” on a split off group in my area.
    Do you have any other ideas or feedback? Last thing is, I hope I don’t miss the next sign up!!! I am already fretting about that…..I loved the first swap. Thanks so much!!

  2. A-K says:

    I thought the swap went really well, particularly for a first-time event.

    I like limiting the number of participants. Chances are, friends/family will come together anyway and there will be more people than registered (this happened at the first one for sure!), perhaps with extra goods. I wouldn’t want it to be more than 50, but 40 seems like a good upper number to strive for next.

    I think every other month sounds like a good idea; it takes the pressure off of the organizers and some of the participants, and lets people make more stuff to bring!

    I like community spaces being used; I wonder if even community spaces at the various parks around town could be rented? I’m not really sure about the logistics or possibilities of that. You are of course welcome back at Madame anytime, which is improving its facilities this month and next. (we know more tables are needed for sure!)

    I know buffet tables are generally not very expensive to rent (about $8-10 apiece), but I hope that we’d be able to find spaces that would be free or very inexpensive as to not deter people from attending. I would certainly donate toward the cause.

  3. Trinity says:

    Oh, my! Kim, I am sorry you felt so overwhelmed by the great response. But, you have started something great here and I am glad you have help to keep you going. I’ll share my thoughts about your questions as briefly as possible:
    For logistic purposes and to keep it small enough for people to get to know each other, I think limiting it to 30-50 is ideal.
    I’d like to participate quarterly or every other month.
    I enjoyed the space we used last time. I could also see this at a community center/park and rec space like the Powderhorn Park building or maybe an art studio like Tarnish and Gold. The place doesn’t really matter to me, except for that I would like it to stay in Mpls.
    I have a 6 foot table and am willing to lug it with me each time to help with the table solution. A BYOT strategy could work if enough people have tables and a way to transport them.
    I’d be willing to chip in a few bucks to help fund a meeting space.
    The only thing I would adjust about the swap format is to just divide it into 2 sections: 1 for setting up, browsing, chatting and making offers and 1 for swapping. I don’t think it is necessary to break up the first parts of the event into set-up, browse and offer times as they all seemed to meld into one chunk of time anyway.
    I would love to see the swappers format grow to allow for resident experts/specialists to be established as resources for other swappers. For example, if someone’s specialty is sauerkraut and I really needed to pick someone’s brain about kraut making, I could check out our group and identify someone to get in touch with.
    I’d also love to see a swapper resource for posting recipes of things swapped.
    I would happily get more involved in making the swap happen. I am willing to help with set-up or clean-up and open to helping with other aspects as well.
    I enjoy the swappers group as it is, without any special affiliation, but I could also see the fun and benefit of partnerships.
    As far as general feedback, I think you did an excellent job pulling together the first swap and I look forward to many more! Please feel free to let me (and the swapping community) know if/when you need help. I am sure this is a big task!

  4. sdmusich says:

    Keeping the number of participants lower seems sensible to me, have you looked into community center buildings at the parks? I don’t think they charge a fee for community groups and usually have tables available for use. Happy planning!

  5. Lacey says:

    Hi-
    I feel like limiting the number of swappers might make things more sane. I’m sure there are tons of people that want to swap, and maybe they could go on a list for the next swap. I think an every other month swap would be awesome!
    Anything to make the organizers more sane, I can get behind.
    I think limiting the cost all around is a good goal–since swapping is free, people might feel weird having to pay, but I totally understand why. I know that the Powderhorn Park building has a space to use with tables, but you do have to pay, less if you register under a non-profit.
    I really want to participate and see this grow, so let me know what I can do!
    Also, did you know about this?:http://foragesf.com/

    They’re doing really cool things with local food.

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