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Caring is Sharing

An in-depth look at the 7B and 9B Crop-Swap By Damen Rodriguez|photo courtesy Tia Worzala Tia Worzala and the “7B/9B Crop-Swap” movement in Sandpoint and Bonners Ferry, Idaho, are making a real difference in their community by tackling food insecurity and promoting a shareable food movement. Tia is the founder and president of this nonprofit organization that provides fruits and vegetables for children, the elderly and families in need during the summer months, as well as firefighters during fire season. A crop-swap is a way for people to meet their neighbors, swap, sell or donate excess produce, and fairly barter with like-minded people for fresh and local goods. The group offers free weekly harvest baskets that can be picked up in Sandpoint or Bonners Ferry. During Halloween, they provide pumpkins for children, and during the holidays, they provide Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners for families.

Crop-Swap is a community movement that encourages everyone to join in and participate. In a recent interview with Tia, she offers her insight into the 7B/9B Crop-Swap movement and how it helps those not able to grow gardens along with offering a resource to discuss growing techniques, create community connections, save money, and eat a wider, healthier range of foods. This will be the movement’s fourth year in operation and their second summer in Bonners Ferry.

According to Tia, there are multiple attributes that separate her Crop-Swap from other groups. The 7B/9B Crop-Swap believes that no one owes an explanation of their story, and her group is there to provide support to anyone who needs food, while no intruding inquiries nor judgments are made. Crop-Swap is a community for trading. If one has strawberries and the other has rhubarb, they can work together to make sure they both have enough to make themselves a delicious pie. Crop-Swap also provides a resource for people who are unable to donate money but have crops to give in exchange for other products they cannot buy or grow in their zone. The Swap is not just for those in need and wanting, it is a community movement that encourages everyone to participate.

According to Tia, Mrs. Diana at Sam's Produce in Sagle remains as “a great resource for the Crop-Swap movement,” adding, “She has always gone above and beyond to make sure that if I can’t grow enough for the community, she will and has provided extra produce from her stand to help get the job done.” Tia also shares that “Don Reese has donated thousands of canning jars, lids, rings, and anything that can be named.” The movement has affected many and continues to thrive with the support of those in the community. Steve and Wendy Hawks, for instance, have donated money to make sure the firefighters are delivered not only produce but coffee, towels, water, etc. Tia recounted a fond memory of Linda Hiatt teaching her how to can, and one year being shown how to can applesauce using apples from her apple tree. That day, Tia became a canner and couldn't stop.

Crop-Swap is a year-round activity and offers all that grows in North Idaho. According to Tia, the sun starts to say hello in April, and they start moving and do not stop until the last meal is delivered on December 23 for Christmas. Between harvests, they are making sure everything is in order, preserving, and organizing for the next harvest. During the summer months, the gardens are in full swing, and it is all hands on deck. There is much canning and preserving to do in the fall. Crop-Swap is a busy movement, but Tia says it is rewarding to see the impact they are making in their community.

This time of year for the organization is “all go, go, go, go! Boxes, produce drop-offs and pickups, and building gardens.” Tia and her family are currently in the process of adding on to the garden they already have. She shares that “last year, Clay Harkey excavated our back yard so we could build a huge garden at our new home after we moved in 2021. This year we are starting from a blank canvas. Just dirt, ha-ha.” To have produce in boxes by mid-June, they were busy rebuilding everything to get it done by the end of May. “It will happen, and we will get it done! It can be challenging balancing four children and completely starting a garden over. It’s a lot of tilling, building, planning, landscaping, trial and error, the list goes on. We bit off more than we can chew, and we're chewing it for sure.”

Though this year has been a busy one with lots of challenges, Tia remains confident her production will be completed on time. “That is the only outcome I am willing to accept. We have never made a goal that we haven’t met, and we don’t plan to start that nonsense now.” During the devastation of COVID, the 7B/9B Crop-Swap made their mission that much more important. “Neighbors were able to exchange produce they had on hand for the produce they didn’t. Some Crop-Swaps even included trades for honey, eggs, farm equipment, tools—anything it took to be successful at being sustainable.” Not only did the 7B/9B Crop-Swap help feed the community, but in a time such as COVID, it gave everyone with like minds the opportunity to come together as a team to make sure everyone could be sustainable one way or another. The group continues to bring happiness and joy to their fellow panhandle residents.

“I love the happiness on people’s faces, the shock value when they see what a week’s worth of produce is! When you are on the pickup list for the week, we make sure, no matter the size of your family, that each person has their daily servings of fruits and vegetables.” Tia goes on to share the admiration of her own children, who remain active with the organization. “The happiness my children feel when they recognize that they are doing something wonderful for their community is the most rewarding feeling. I am fortunate enough to feel that often in our home.”

Tia Worzala is a woman who has dedicated her life to ensuring that everyone has access to food. “Growing up on the wrong side of the tracks,” Tia found out firsthand what it feels like to be hungry and to not know where her next meal would come from. As a child, she often went without food during the summer months when there were no school lunches available. It was then that she turned to gardening as a way to provide for herself and her family. Her knowledge of gardening came from her grandmother in Oregon and her neighbor Hal. She started with what little she knew and eventually developed a passion for gardening that has lasted more than 20 years. Her inspiration to grow food comes from seeing too many hungry people in her life. She believes that it is imperative for children and parents to know how to grow their own food and to preserve it. Tia's passion for feeding people is evident in everything she does. She feels that it is her job and her obligation to teach people how to be sustainable. She believes that everyone should have access to food and that it is not right for some people to have plenty while others go hungry.

Tia displays her food like art on the wall and takes pride in the fact that she can provide for her family and her community. Her obsession with making sure everyone has food can keep her up at night and wants people to understand that hunger is more common than people realize. She decided to teach her children how to support their community and help those in need by using their garden to provide food.

The 7B/9B Crop-Swap has dedicated itself to ensuring that everyone has access to food, and they believe that it is their job and obligation to teach people how to be sustainable. Tia Worzala and her 7B/9B Crop-Swap story is one of resilience, dedication and love, and it serves as an inspiration to us all.

To learn more, visit 7B Crop-Swap and 9B Crop-Swap on Facebook.

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