Argonaut News: Bartering for Backyard Produce

Galora is a new website that connects communities through Homegrown Food.

This article was originally written by Stepan Sarkisian and published in Argonautnews.

Before founding Galora, Ryan Xavier was just trying to give away or trade some extra fruit in his garden. Stuck at home due to lockdown restrictions and frustrated with virtual marketplaces like Craigslist and Facebook that weren’t built to handle perishable goods, Xavier saw an opportunity to create a specific marketplace for other home gardeners like himself that were looking to connect and share.

Along with cofounder Christopher Chin, Xavier created a forum to gauge the viability of their idea. Within a month they had received more than 800 enthusiastic responses from people offering suggestions and supporting their idea. Two months later, they launched Galora.

Focused on cultivating a sharing-based marketplace, Galora allows users to create posts for their homegrown or homemade products and list them for free, to trade or sell. Geolocation is utilized to allow users to search a map of nearby postings and connect with people throughout Los Angeles.

Since its launch, Galora has been experiencing steady growth and currently has more than 8,000 users. While most of them are still predominantly located in LA, Galora’s popularity is beginning to spread across the county. Homegrown crops continue to be the most frequent type of listing, but almost any type of homemade good or service is allowed.

“We’re still very much in our experimental phase and with any project you shouldn’t try to answer the problem the way you want it,” Xavier says. “You have to let your users define it. We started the website on the presumption that there were people like me that had extra fruit, but what’s happened is that we’ve seen the site evolve in new and surprising ways.”

Homemade bread, face masks, soap, yoga and language lessons represent just a portion of what can be found on the site. Bartering is also actively encouraged and has led to unique user interactions.

Thuy, a user in Glendale, harvests hundreds of passion fruit annually in her backyard. She lacked the ability to give away or sell such a high volume of fruit, but through Galora she was able to establish a connection with Kevin, a gourmet pastry chef in downtown LA who had been on the hunt for affordable passion fruit for 10 years. It turned out to be a match made in heaven: Thuy was able to give away her crops in exchange for passion fruit crème brûlée.

“Even giving it away for free is a form of compensation for the people on Galora, but sometimes they get offered things that make them very satisfied,” Xavier says. “We had a user who reached out to a neighbor to pick grapes at their house because she wanted to experiment with wine making. So she took the grapes and gave them nothing in exchange, but two weeks later after fermenting the grapes, she was so happy with her batch of homemade merlot that she brought her neighbors a bottle and enjoyed it with them.”

Targeting food waste is another one of Galora’s goals. A study on garden food waste by nonprofit AmpleHarvest.org indicates that there are nearly 42 million gardeners in America with excess produce, totaling up to 11.4 billion pounds of crops that could be donated. Galora offers an alternative to traditional food pantries by allowing home gardeners to form direct connections with those facing food insecurity (nearly 35% of the population annually). Xavier hopes to expand on this focus.

“If we connect everybody in this new way of sharing, the good that can be done is potentially limitless,” Xavier says. “I can only speak to a few hundred people a day, but if everybody’s speaking to everyone, we can really connect the city and try to undo some of the isolation that has been worsening for decades and has become painfully obvious during COVID-19.”

Next month, the Galora team will interview with Y Combinator, the start-up incubator whose impressive resume includes Airbnb, DoorDash and Dropbox. With their support, Xavier hopes to take Galora mainstream.

“If you extrapolate the good that’s happened in LA, with the acceleration of virality that we hope to get from working with the Y Combinator team, it’s inconceivable the kind of waste that can be prevented,” Xavier says. “This is an incredible moment for Galora, which started only in May of this year. Within a month from now, it’s quite possible that Galora will have an opportunity to expand globally, which is larger than anything I could have ever imagined when I was filling bags full of lemons at my grandma’s house in Cypress Park.”