by Nikki Brighton. First published on Midlands Mosaic
It’s a big job saving the planet, but starting small, with bite size chunks, can really make a difference. This is exactly what Karen Zunckel has done by initiating the Hilton Produce Exchange.
Making compost and growing vegetables comes naturally to Karen. With her family, she has created a resilient oasis in Hilton, with beans trailing through fruit trees, artichokes in the borders and lots of kale. Recycling grey water from the house into the garden means that even during these dry times there is an abundance of food. “Too much for us, actually,” says Karen, “so we need to give lots away.”
For years, she wondered if there were other gardens nearby with excess and, a few months ago, popped something on Facebook suggesting a barter market and was astonished at the response! “I am delighted to discover many people are growing an amazing variety of things.”
Once a month, on the last Saturday, everyone is welcome to come along to the sunny James Craib Park next to the Hilton Tennis Club to trade whatever excess they have. “It’s fantastic – people have been so creative. We’ve had someone bring a trailer load of horse manure, others ginger bread, kumquat juice, carrot soup and books.” Karen hoped to inspire people to grow some food, but she is doing more than that. Clearly, a barter market is about building community as much as sharing. Lots of folk come especially to catch up on local news, going from stall to stall with their tray full of granadillas or curry leaves, so see what they can swop, and make new friends. While some are a little sceptical about the bartering concept, they soon get the hang of it and love the fact that they go home with a basket full of goodies without spending a cent – and you get good vibes for free. About 10 traders turned up at the first market but there were double that at the next! Often you barter for things you may not have usually bought – like African Horned Cucumbers. “Now everyone is asking me for seeds and how to use them in smoothies,” laughs Karen who had a large crate filled with the interesting fruits last time. “We’ve always been delighted by the variety of things we come home with. That’s the bonus of a produce exchange. We bring a limited number of things to trade and leave with a great selection.”
When Karen was little she wanted to grow up to be a flower. Without doubt, she is making Hilton bloom. Who knows what these small seeds of sustainability will grow into?
Check out Hilton Produce Exchange on Facebook –https://www.facebook.com/groups/HiltonProduceExchange/