Crop Swappers – rebuilding communities and sharing resources

Filed in Blog by on May 8, 2009 10 Comments
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Sophie Greenyer - cropswappersI’m delighted to welcome Sophie Greenyer to myzerowaste today. This gorgeous lady is the passion and brains behind cropswappers. Cropswappers is a new website dedicated to rebuilding simple community sharing.

Sophie has a 9 month old daughter who she wants to grow up in a more environmentally aware society. In a world that can seem so solitary, Sophie’s vision is to bring back sharing and caring about our neighbours.

Without further ado, I’m handing over the reigns to Sophie to tell us about her inspiring story and the concept behind crop swappers. I hope you will all join up and support her venture!

Crop Swappers

I had just returned from a holiday at my parent’s house in France when I came up with the idea of Crop Swappers.  I had always been passionate about using my skills as a web designer to bring about change in a time that is dominated by the internet.

My parents and brother emigrated to run a fishing holiday business in the depths of the French countryside in 2006 and are fully immersed in ‘real’ country life there. It is an area that seems untouched by the hustle and bustle of modern living and many of the locals are still passing down self sufficiency skills to their grandchildren who are actually interested in hearing about it!

Pikes and pate

My parents traded a freshly caught Pike to Françoise, a neighbour, friend and organic growing expert, who made it into Pike pâté in exchange for apple sauce preserved from the previous years crop.

She would also regularly visit with baskets of yellow courgettes, cherry tomatoes and lettuces which were gratefully received by my parents who hadn’t yet been able to start their own vegetable patch. Françoise also made her own vinegars, preserves of all kinds as well as sausages and other pork cuts from butchering her own pig.

Sharing land

A short walk away lived Isabelle and Ian who had moved from Edinburgh to a small, very French, village for a quiet retirement. They had bought a property that had no garden to speak of and so it came about that my parents offered them a section of overgrown land to turn into an allotment and chicken coup.

In exchange they gave back eggs, fruit and vegetables all through the year and my family helped with the physical labour of clearing the land and creating a pumping system for watering the allotment with stream water.

Fruit trees

My family also befriended another local couple who comprised of a French native with impeccable English called Nadeg and her husband, Will, a Scottish artist. When my parents needed some help with complex French paperwork Nadeg always stepped in and in exchange my parents would buy her fruit trees.

Money never changed hands between friends and when one household needed help with DIY, heavy lifting work, coppicing trees, clearing land etc., all the other household would band together and make a day out of helping in what they called ‘work parties’.  I was totally inspired by their acts of community spirit, passion for the environment and self sufficiency.

Home made goods

I came up with CropSwappers to create a forum where people in the UK can meet on regional boards and organise exchanges of produce, ‘green’ services and all manner of other home-made goods. The site also offers seasonal recipe ideas submitted by our members, news articles and general chat about all things Green.

It’s a not-for-profit site, which is entirely self funded, to generate a new awareness of bartering and a type of self sufficiency that doesn’t mean having to sell up and buy a farm to achieve.

Community living

One major benefit of swapping produce is people can grow produce, home-make all manner of goods, and offer services within their personal means whether it be growing herbs in your window box in your town house, helping the old lady next door to make something out of her overgrown garden, keeping chickens in your yard, keeping a fully fledged allotment or knitting some socks out of local wool.

Crop Swappers, right now, is a new site with a small amount of passionate members who are excited about the prospect of the idea taking off. With just 150 members so far, we need more people to sign up for free and post what they have to offer on their regional forum board.

Swap and exchange

It’s been wonderful to see the first signs of people swapping, even by post! One member offered rabbit droppings for manure (not sent by post I hasten to add!), and another makes her own felt socks, preserves and knitted goods. You can literally swap anything as long as no money changes hands and it is classed as produce or handmade.

Crop swappers can only work and can only grow into something that changes society if you make it happen so please spread the word, join up FREE to and start posting on your regional board.

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (10)

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  1. Sal says:

    yippee this is a wonderful site idea. I so wanted to set something up like this but my technical skills are somewhat limited. I have signed up and will put some posts on soon with what i can offer.

  2. just Gai says:

    What a brilliant idea. It’s very similar to our Grow Zones which I blogged about earlier this week (see for details). I don’t see us growing enough to trade but I wish Sophie well. It’s great to seeing community projects such as this and the compost bins sprouting up all over the place.

  3. Layla says:

    Great idea!! 🙂

    We do something like this here informally – with neighbours & friends, Dad went to help my cousin clear a pasture & got this winter’s worth of wood in return!

    When we or Dad go to help Uncle or other relatives, Dad often brings home a sausage or something like that! 🙂
    We also have half the garden at Uncle’s farm, & half the potato & beans (small) field. (And of course help with his share of the crop & other work too!)

    It would be great if this spread into urban areas as well!!
    Basically to have a tightly-knit community of friends & volunteers..
    A network of volunteers is in plan at the local church too, this is a bit similar.. so maybe you guys over there in UK could connect with church communities and non-profit organisations as well?

    Another idea I really liked at a Slovenian forum on gardening was a ‘seed bank’ of sorts: seeds and plantlings were exchanged Slovenia-wide.. People volunteered seeds & plants & asked for them at the forum, & then transport was arranged (by car) so everyone could get what they ‘ordered’ 🙂 a map was drawn, with approximate times & places of stopping marked!

    The driver also got to meet the fellow forumers & see their garden, which she was very happy about! (& she had volunteers in each region taking some stuff for other people in the same region)

    So.. wishing Sophie & the forum lots of luck!! Not sure, can a non-UK person register? 🙂

  4. Sophie says:


    Hi Layla,

    Thanks for the comment.

    Right now Crop Swappers is just for the UK but if it is successful then I intend on expanding the site to include the rest of the world with a more detailed search options and database with mapping. We can see how it goes!!



  5. Layla says:

    Hi Sophie & thanks!

    I understand the wish to start local..
    Was just wondering if there was a possibility to eg just register at the forum & see what others are doing & be inspired.. maybe an option for non-natives could be a good thing? (eg to put in ‘non-UK’ on the registration form & then be exempt from trading & bartering.. just a thought.. for maybe a next site ‘renovation’)
    even internationally, we could inspire & learn from each other..
    /otherwise will just resort to lurking occasionally, hope that’s okay! :)/
    some very creative things are offered on your board indeed!! 🙂

    For trading, I think local forums are probably better in native languages.. I really love your idea of database with mapping though!! (well, maybe people can exchange like intellectual services or recipes anyway..)

    Wishing you good luck with the site!

  6. Mrs Green says:

    @Sal: So glad you like it Sal – I hope the membership grow sin your area so you can swap to your hearts content. Let us know what you swap!

    @just Gai: Hi Just Gai – I missed your post; I don’t think it came through on my RSS. So great to hear of schemes coming up all over the place and I too hope that there is enough interest to generate some real use from cropswappers. Fingers crossed and good luck with grow zones! I’ll go along and have a read in a moment 🙂

    @Layla: Oh my – a winters worth of wood; that makes me envious! I think sophie’s vision is that we would all do as you do – just help out anyway, but unfortunately, we sometimes need a push in the right direction. We’re very lucky around here with our neighbours, but it’s not like that for every one. Love the sound of things that are going on in your area – it sounds very caring.

    @Sophie: hi Sophie – great to see you here 🙂 I hope we manage to increase interest for you. I have a couple of other places to write about cropswappers too 🙂

  7. Sarah says:

    Off to take a peek…..

    I already do a fair bit of swapping with a couple of friends as inevitably one of us has gluts of things when others haven’t, and we help out in each others gardens when we visit too.

    The latest for me was passing on 4 surplus blackcurrant bushes to a friend and her Mom.

  8. Mrs Green says:

    How envious am I, Sarah – 4 blackcurrant bushes; I would have snapped those up in a second. I’ve just bought one in Lidls and I’m really looking forward to planting it and harvesting my first crop. I’ve been reading scary things about transplanting it though; this one already has fruit and it looks like I need to cut it right down before planting it deep in the ground. Any advise?

  9. Sarah says:

    @Mrs Green: I planted mine somewhere far too shady at first, and too shallow as well. It didn’t do well at all. So last Spring I dug it up, trimmed back all the stems, losing all the flowers/fruit buds for last year and replanted it in a better position and deep enough for the soil to be at the lump where the roots have been grafted on.

    I stuck the trimmed stems in the ground and some took root and these are the ones I gave away.

    Plant yours nice and deep, at least up to the root graft lump and with plenty of compost round the roots. It’s a bit late to be moving fruit bushes so you may lose the crop but it’ll come back next year.

  10. Mrs Green says:

    @Sarah: Thanks for your advice, Sarah. I was considering keeping it in the post until Autumn and doing the planting then. I’m not sure what to do, but I’ll definitely learn from your mistake and make sure I plant it deep 🙂

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