The library is traditionally known to be a place of learning and education, but on certain days during the month of August, the Eldersburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library will become a sort of grocery store.

The From Our Table to Yours: Share, Swap and Take event will be held on Thursdays and Fridays through Aug. 28, and its purpose is to create a more efficient method of producing and consuming produce. During the library's normal business hours, anyone can bring what surplus they might have and drop it off at the library. Visitors can also help themselves to whatever is supplied. The event began July 3 and included a variety of produce and herbs, including dill, basil, mint, oregano, hot peppers, lemon balm, zucchini and tomatoes, Branch Manager Nadine Rosendale said, but this is just some of what has been brought in and swapped.

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"Everything seems to disappear," Rosendale said. "At one point in the day it was empty, at another it was full, and then it was empty again."

She also said each week, the swap has grown larger. Visitors of the library who enjoyed the swap have come back in following weeks and added to the cornucopia of assorted produce, Rosendale said, and is expecting more support as the event continues.

It was Library Associate Christine Kirker's idea to begin the swap, said Rosendale. Gardening has always been a hobby of hers, but she has become passionate about spreading the interest throughout the community.

Kirker said she thought of the idea after a meeting with library leadership, during which they introduced branch employees to a national nonprofit called the Center for a New American Dream. The nonprofit's mission is the conservation of natural resources and the promotion of positive changes to the methods of production and consumption of produce. Leadership encouraged branch members to think of creative ways to promote these same ideals, and Kirker, who had experience with similar events at the library, pitched a food swap.

"I thought it would be a very simple thing to do, when everyone gets all their vegetables and fruits, why not stop by the library and drop some off, or take what you need?" Kirker said.

When asked about the potential health risk to individuals handling and consuming produce from an unknown source, Rosendale said she hadn't thought about that. She did say, however, she had met with the Carroll County Health Department recently about food-related concerns not pertaining to the swap and there were no outstanding issues. Last week, they had no problems, Rosendale said. People who are really into gardening want to use natural organic type methods of production and those who are getting involved in the swap are really into that, she said.

"We are banking on people's honesty and goodness," Rosendale said.

Kirker also admitted she had not thought of the potential dangers involved in food swapping, but compared participating in the food swap to purchasing produce from a roadside stand, and if the health department allows that to happen then she doubts they would have an issue with the event.

Andrea Hanley, assistant director of community health programs at the health department, said since everything included in the swap is an agricultural product, as long as the produce is grown on a farm, there is no great health risk.

"It's the same thing when you buy from a grocery store, it's all coming from the same type of farms," Hanley said. "As long as the produce is not altered in any way, it'll be fine."

Kirker said she hopes to build on the success of the swap next spring with the creation of a raised bed in the community garden located at the branch, which will be used by community members who want to grow their own produce but do not have the land such an endeavor requires.

"We are all part of the same community and we have kind of gotten away from the community and we forget to get in touch with those around us," Kirker said. "If you have an abundance, why not share it?"

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or email him at wiley.hayes@theadvocateofcc.com.

If You Go:

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What: From Our Table to Yours: Share Swap and Take

Where: Eldersburg branch of the Carroll County Public Library, 6400 W. Hemlock Drive, Eldersburg

When: 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. every Thursday and Friday through Aug. 28

For more information, contact the Eldersburg library at 410-386-4460.

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