TAKE WHAT YOU NEED
SHARE WHAT YOU HAVE
On a drive back from a conference, Trisha Smith, myself and Erin began discussing (as we often do) simple ways to incorporate local produce in our communities.
Trisha suggested a Sharing Table- a concept that is gaining momentum and has its roots pretty deep in gestures of neighborhood connecting and resource exchange. You may have seen Little Free Library stands in the community, which using the same concept of giving what one has and feeling free to take what one needs. In Dover-Foxcroft, there is a Little Free Library outside of Center Coffeehouse, the Thompson Free Library entryway/parlour and recently I stumbled across one in Bangor, outside of Paddy Murphy's Pub.
This concept of creating a unit to hold items to share, whether books or food, is also being utilized more and more in schools, as a direct way to reduce food waste and circulate a feeling of giving among students. The concept of a Share Table also aids in anonymity. An expression that for some students, and community members makes it easier to receive gifts and to give. A sharing table, or a little free produce stand, or a share shed remove stigma about what it means to need a little help. Items left are for everyone and anyone.
Tip: Any sturdy wood will do if you are planning on building a stand. The diagram above shows my initial sketch for what I wanted, something akin to a shelving unit. I was fortunate enough to have beautiful pallet wood donated to the cause by Dick Clark, a retired teacher and to-this-day skilled carpenter.
And did you know? Pallets are used often for agricultural purposes. They can be used to transport hay bales, large feed sacks, and as storing surfaces so items don't rest directly on the ground or floor. Often the slats on the ends of pallets are just the right size for tines on tractors. When deconstructed, pallets can be re-assembled to make a compost bin, wood bin, shelving unit, tables or, in this instance, a share shed!
With the raw material available I continued to consider how I would use it. I knew the design was going to have to be large enough to hold the variety of produce that home gardeners and farmers raise. It had to be tall enough to include potential tomato plants or flowers, wide enough to hold early summer seedling trays and later in the season, squash and pumpkins.
I started by building each shelf unit. The bottom-most shelf needed to be very sturdy as this was dual purpose- to hold larger donated items and to act as weight.
Once I had the base and the shelves constructed I measured the distance between each shelf. In discussions with Trisha, we both agreed that the shelving ought to be tilted so the range of produce could be easily seen and reached.
I made a roof out of scraps I had collected from the local transfer station. I used thinly sliced pallet pieces to make a lip on each shelf so that items likely to roll (apples, potatoes, squash, melons) wouldn't.
With these elements constructed and the stand assembled, it was ready (several months later) to go to its home outside of the Piscataquis County Cooperative Extension office.
Trisha had already experimented with using a small table in the earlier part of the summer before the Share Shed was complete. We had seen how the small start was already proving effective in the community.
It began with dried beans being available from the Extension office. A few weeks later, small potted tomatoes, and a handful of flowers. Week to week the items would change and the amount would vary. Below is a gallery from mid July to almost October of the items that were donated by community members.
Future iterations of the Share Shed will include a metal roof and additional spacing to incorporate recipes, info pamphlets as well as simple tags for community members to label when they dropped off produce and what kind of produce it is. We encourage folks to include this information so that folks interested in bringing an item home will know how soon to cook or preserve it.
PR Food Center continues to be interested and dedicated to methods of sharing food and distributing it amongst community. We are blessed in this county with an abundance of food growers and compassionate neighbors. Having a space to bring excess food from an unexpectedly bumper crop for those who might need it just seems to make sense. It allows local sharing economy to grow and fosters a sense of community connection.
Did you see the Share Shed this summer? What did you notice? If this is the first time you're hearing about the Share Shed, sharing economy or sharing table; what are your thoughts?
We'd love to hear from you. And if you're interested in building a Share Shed or Little Free Produce Stand in your neighborhood, please reach out to us for design assistance! You can also check out this link from folks in New Zealand that have championed community fruit and veggie stands in their region.