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The Coast News

Food swap movement gaining momentum in North County

David Boylan

Quebec native Isabell Baril-Ortley and her son Hudson food swapping.
Quebec native Isabell Baril-Ortley and her son Hudson food swapping. Photo by David Boylan

With the farmer’s market movement having established a strong foothold in San Diego, I was wondering what the next phase in the trend towards local and sustainable would be.

That was until I got a call from Isabelle Baril-Ortley, an energetic French Canadian who has introduced the food swap concept to North County. Isabelle has a fascinating background, having been raised in a small town in Quebec where farming, foraging, hunting and trapping, fishing, making cheese, canning, and butchering were a way of life. She mentioned that many of the photos of her youth include some type of wild game that she or her family had successfully hunted. This was not hunting for sport; it was to fill the freezer for the long Canadian winters. She fondly remembers the canning parties with family and neighbors where everyone contributed and left with their fair share of whatever the group brought to the occasion. Isabelle was farm/woods to table before those terms were catchy marketing phrases for restaurants. She really has walked the talk so to speak and those experiences formed the roots of the modern food swap.

Isabelle brought some of those traditions with her to San Diego, mainly in the form of canning. She heard about food swaps popping up in more progressive parts of the country and decided to start one of her own and word quickly spread. Just a side note on this amazing woman, she is also a talented seamstress who came up with the crazy idea of making baby costumes in the form of food such as turkey, lobster, and lemon meringue pie. This talent landed her on the Martha Stewart show and Martha was fascinated by her creations. Search “Martha Stewart baby costumes” on YouTube to check it out.

I attended her second food swap in Cardiff recently and it was full of people of all ages who had some pretty amazing homemade food to sample, swap, and barter. The diversity of the group was part of the appeal and there is some serious talent hidden in the kitchens of North County along with some very bountiful gardens to source ingredients from. Isabelle’s offerings to the food swap are a prime example of that. She brought Meyer lemon olive oil infused ricotta cheese, pizza with fresh ricotta cheese with dried mission figs, fresh herbs from her garden and drizzled it with the Meyer lemon olive oil. All homemade and locally grown of course. Some of the other swap items included green curry, fig BBQ sauce, fig jam, Meyer lemon marmalade, pizza kit with dough and sauce, jars of homemade almond milk, apricot jam , fresh tangerines , fresh cracked Macadamia nuts, quiche, sprouted sunflower dip, black truffle popcorn, maple syrup, jars of lemonade concentrates, blueberry/lemon scones, lunch kits with citrus and quinoa salad, wrapped dates, pints of half local navel orange ice cream and half Mexican hot chocolate ice cream (amazing), pints of orange blossom and blood orange ice cream with toasted graham, bags homemade pretzels , red curry, kale chips, and mole sauce to name a few. Get the point? I tasted most of this and it was all really, really good. The stories behind the food are almost as good. Many old family recipes or just stuff that people have been making because they have figs or apricots growing in their yard. That’s the beauty of a food swap in San Diego is the amazing stuff many of us have growing. I can’t wait for the summer swap. Everyone has samples for the tasting before and then Isabelle has a system all worked out for the actual swap.

Given the year-round gardens and food awareness happening in the area, my hunch is that the food swap concept is going to explode. Isabelle already has the next one planned for March 17 at 10:00 am at Glenn Park in Cardiff by the Sea. It’s a great location and people are already coming from all over North County. I’m already thinking about some of my better homemade creations to bring.

The best way to become informed is to join them on Facebook. They are easy to find by searching Encinitas Food Swap. I can also put you in touch with Isabelle if you email me at

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