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What's the true value of a loaf of bread painstakingly made by hand, with the most earnest of intentions and the best possible ingredients? That's what passionate amateur baker Malin Elmlid meant to discover when she started the Bread Exchange a year-and-a-half ago. The concept of this eccentric bartering project took shape around the time a friend of a friend offered her two tickets to the Berlin Philharmonic in return for a loaf of her homemade sourdough. "It was perfect," says the 31-year-old, Berlin-based Swede. "His father's a violinist in the orchestra and always has extra tickets, and I always have too much bread lying around."
That first trade with an acquaintance inspired Elmlid to create a Bread Exchange Facebook page, on which to announce when she had loaves available for trade. And she composed a manifesto on her blog, "Miss Elmlid, and what to do when it is time off," wherein she enumerated things that, for her, seemed a worthy trade for her artisanal bread. The items read almost like a poem or a heartfelt list jotted down in a journal: a bouquet of flowers or a handful of herbs, made or grown with dedication; special ingredients from a hometown or a far-off place, such as vanilla from Madagascar; or quirkier thingsa guitar lesson, a cherished book, repairs to her bike.
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That all happened back in February 2010. Since then, the Bread Exchange has grown bigger than Elmlid ever imagined. "I'd say I have about 1,000 traders," says Elmlid. "But I don't do this to meet new people. I do it to discover new things.".