Sunday, July 23, 2017 This Week's Paper

Lending library, crop swap bring neighbors to the table

The rise of a handful of “go local” efforts this spring all seems like raw capitalism at its purest form while also having a pinch of Karl Marx’s “Communist Manifesto” at the same time.

And like all good political movements of the modern age, one of these efforts started with a VHS tape of the movie “Popeye,” starring Robin Williams and Shelley Duvall. But that goes without saying.

The Central Tacoma Free-Radical Media Exchange was born when Tacoma gadfly cartoonist R.R. Anderson was cleaning up his house and had collected a bag full of VHS movies in a house where streaming movies over the Internet rules the day.

“They are all good movies,” he said. “We just never use them anymore.”

Among those “good movies” were “Crumb” and “Popeye.” Toss in some books, and Anderson had a small library of otherwise landfill fodder. Then came the closure of Stadium Video, which was tossing out its shelves. Anderson hatched a plan.

He simply painted the shelves with some spare purple paint he had in his garage, screwed the wooden planks onto his carport wall and created his own lending library in an alleyway between Anderson and Oakes streets. He came up with the Central Tacoma Free-Radical Media Exchange after brainstorming a list before finally deciding on a name that is at once odd, obscure and inclusive. A Facebook page to the effort came next and the library grew.

“People just started donating,” he said. “If it fits on the shelf, it works. It just sort of snowballed.”

Anderson checks the library about once a day to see what new titles arrived. The collection now includes CDs, DVDs, books and VHS tapes. Anderson has also fielded a request to stock eight-track tapes, but inventory is all donation based. The concept is simple. Anyone can stock their unwanted books or movies on the shelves or browse through the racks and take whatever they want.

The wall has a slot for cash donations, but no one really uses it, much like a “service buzzer” that is not connected to anything – people still press it.

“It’s like a live experiment in progress,” Anderson said. “It could epically fail or it could succeed. That is the exciting part.”

Tacoma’s messiah of all things social media Kevin Freitas, the man behind Feed Tacoma, had a similar idea. But his started with carrots. Freitas had too many carrots in his garden a few years ago and was looking to trade his surplus carrots for some lettuce or some spinach or something from other backyard gardeners. Flash forward to April, when was launched. People simply post that they either have vegetables to trade or are in need of produce in hopes of making a match to strike a deal.

Members of CropSwap cooperative can trade a pound of carrots for a head of lettuce or a carton of eggs or a bag of berries. Membership cost $20 a year, although the first three swaps are free to anyone.

The “deal” varies among the individual traders themselves. They set the terms. They do the deal. CropSwap just makes the connection. People could even use cash to get the produce they want or offer up prices for their prized vegetables. is like a Craigslist for people selling tomatoes and apples instead of listing car sales and job postings.

“It is as ‘go local’ as you can get since this is neighbor to neighbor,” Freitas said.

Visit: to barter, trade, buy or sell crops with neighbors near you.