By Therese Ciesinski, In The Dirt Editor Images courtesy of Zukeeni.com
Gardeners: ever grow a crop of vegetables so bountiful that you didn’t know what to do with it all? When you’d made everything you could think of, froze some, gave it away to family and friends, and there was still more on the vine? (I’m talking to you, zucchini.) Have you been tempted to load the rest in a box and put it at the end of your driveway with a sign that says, “free?”
Or maybe you have the opposite dilemma. Your bean harvest went bust, or fungus short-circuited the tomatoes you had counted on canning. Sure, you can get tomatoes at the store or farmers market. But what if you could buy, trade or share with another gardener in your neighborhood?
That’s where Zukeeni.com comes in. Zukeeni’s mission is “to connect local growers with each other.” That doesn’t mean just farmers and farmers markets, it means gardeners with other gardeners.
Zukeeni.com is an online marketplace of home gardeners and local farmers who, with the flick of a zip code, can find each other and sell, trade, or give their excess bounty away. And not only fresh produce: There are local people selling homemade teas, bread, granola, honey, soap, and more. And there’s no charge to use the site.
Nothing quite like it yet exists on the web. “It’s like having a 24/7 farmers market and access to the most local of local produce and goods,” says founder Debora Kristofferson. Think of it as an Etsy for local food.
The site began as Smart Gardener, an interactive gardening tool to help people at all skill levels grow vegetables and fruits successfully, with growing advice specific to their geographic area. It offers users tools to map out their gardens, and to plan, plant, and track their growing success. Over 250,000 people have used the tool, and a repeated request by users was for a way to bring local people who have a surplus of something together with those who want more of it.
The sharing and selling part of the site – the Marketplace – is not yet a national program. Kristofferson and her crew are beta testing in certain states and geographic areas to see what works, and intend to expand from there. In addition to Marin County in California, there are Marketplaces starting in areas of Minnesota, Texas, and Pennsylvania. Anyone who wants to participate in starting a Marketplace community in their area can get in touch through the website.
“Sharing food is community building. The people who are doing the growing and making are so inspirational.” Kristofferson says.
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