The Swap

Holley, a fifth-grader in Nancy Harris' class, wrote this winning essay in a competition sponsored by the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

Once there were two villages on an island named Paoala. One village was a fishing village and the other was a farming village. For over 100 years, the villages had been feuding. Each village felt that they were better than the other. Once a week the villages would swap fresh vegetables and fruit for fish.

The fishing town was called Ocean View. They believed that fishing was more important. The farming town was called Croppingdale. They believed that farming was more important.

Ocean View’s mayor, Mr. Thomas, had a young son named James. His job was to take fresh fish to a remote road every week.

Croppingdale’s mayor, Mr. Bernard, had a young son named John. His job was to take fresh fruit and vegetables to the same remote road every week.

At this meeting, the two boys would swap produce and fish. This went on for many years. The boys had become best friends even though it was against their father’s wishes. Each time they met, they would visit and have lunch together.

One year, terrible storms came to the island. Fish was scarce and crops were destroyed. Each week when the two boys met, they had less and less to swap. Both towns were starving. Neither of the mayors would agree to a meeting to discuss the situation. Both the boys looked forward to their meetings and shared with each other the devastation both towns were experiencing.

On one meeting day, the boys were sitting visiting with each other. James brought a fish and John brought a tomato. They gobbled up the fish and the tomato and then threw the bones and seeds on the side of the road.

The following week there was a steady rain. Upon their return the next week, the boys noticed that plants were starting to grow alongside their meeting place. Once again, the boys sat down for lunch. James once again brought a fish and John brought an ear of corn. Once again, they gobbled up their lunch and threw the bones and the cob on the side of the road.

With each week, the two boys had less food to bring to the swap. Yet, they both noticed that their meeting place had plants growing where they were throwing their scraps. The boys realized that if you plant fish and seeds together, the plants grew well.

The boys started putting the pieces together: The fish had minerals that nourished the seeds. The boys began purposely planting seeds and fish bone together. They both agreed to speak to their fathers and convince them to come to the meeting place. This was the boys’ chance to break the long feud between the villages!

When the boys each approached their fathers, both fathers were angry. Neither could believe that the two boys were friends. As punishment, they were no longer allowed to make the food swap. Each father decided to make the swap on his own.

When the two mayors met for the weekly swap at the spot where the boys had been planting seeds and fish, they were shocked. The tomatoes were big and plump. The corn was tall and sweet. While nothing else could survive, the two boys had worked together using their resources to create wonderful fruits and vegetables. The two mayors looked down in shame. Instead of working together, they had been stubborn and their villages were paying the price for this mistake.

The two mayors agreed to put their differences aside and work together. From then on, the villagers never got hungry, no matter how bad the season. The boys also were able to do the weekly swap and visit each other any time they wanted. All their problems were solved just by being good friends and by working together!