Apples for Oranges at CropSwap

A Tacoma-based produce-trading site hopes to sprout nationally.

Tacoma's Kevin Freitas doesn't have a green thumb, but he has a web developer's brain, which is why he believes his new produce-swapping site, CropSwap.me, will be the first such online endeavor to succeed on a national stage.

"We're doing it well," Freitas says when asked what distinguishes CropSwap from other online exchanges. "I think there's a disconnect where a lot of groups that want to do good don't have that technical skill."

The website, which launched on June 1, is organized so participants can buy, sell, or barter for other home gardeners' unwanted bounty. Freitas proudly describes CropSwap's layout as "clutter-free," and the adjective is accurate: A mostly white home page prompts users to select a "want" or "have" tab. A keyword search for "lettuce" reveals a Seattle gardener trying to unload eight large heads of red and green lettuce. "Will consider any and all offerings in exchange," melanyrae62 writes.

Yet the site's newness means the selection is slim. CropSwap couldn't find any available rhubarb, kale, or radishes around Seattle, although many local gardeners are likely confronting surpluses. Still, Freitas maintains that the tipping point at which his site will become reliably useful isn't far off. "I don't think it takes many people," he says. "It's amazing how poundage adds up."

That's the revelation which sparked Freitas' interest in creating an online trading program: He's been mulling over the idea ever since his garden yielded too many carrots. "I could take them to work, but I thought it would be great to get fresh food back," he recalls. So in true techie fashion, rather than ask his officemates for tomatoes or onions, he built a website.

Freitas envisions the site invigorating a grassroots (or kohlrabi-roots or onion-roots, depending on the participant's leanings) economy, in which gardeners can convert their backyard hobbies into profitable businesses. "They might start specializing," he says. "They might say, 'I'm awesome at carrots, I'm going to go crazy with carrots.' That's what I'm hoping." Freitas says he and co-developer Connie Parsons may eventually introduce a $20 annual membership charge, but currently the service is free.

hraskin@seattleweekly.com

 
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