How to Develop a Barter System

Working on the Farm by Riana van Staden

So much of the time a farm is run by one person who wears many hats and is actually supported financially by another person that works in a 'real job'. This conundrum can be very frustrating and diminish the mental value that we put on farm work. To alleviate some of this fiscal inequality of labor what needs to be developed is a system of barter where trading is done with commodity goods rather than cash or credit. How to get that going? Make friends. Make friends and then be generous with the excess that you have on your farm. Now be cautious here, don't give anything away that cost you money or that your family currently needs. Only give from your excess.

When you have too much zucchini and you know a friend has rabbits ask if she could use it. If she asks what you want for it ask for rabbit manure. If your wood stack is higher than is safe but you have more to stack offer it to a neighbor who has little money but a wood stove. What can he give you for it? Go help us with collecting it next time to save your husband's back. Have too many herb seedlings in your trays and your garden is already full? Call a gardening friend who has a tree nursery and see if she needs more lavendar because you need peach trees.  The best part? They remember you and start to call you when they have things they don't need so that even if you don't have something to trade they will give it to you for cheaper to keep themselves on the happy 'you owe me' side of the deal.

1. Always have a gift in hand when you go to a friends' house or to introduce yourself to a new neighbor, it starts the ball rolling.

2. Listen to people with great skill sets and ask them to teach you what they get great information but they will also bend over backwards to provide you with raw materials to do what they do because you were polite and took an interest.

3. Learn from older experts how to do what you are interested in. A lot of time you have to just shut up and play dumb, but do it and you will glean a lot of information that you couldn't fin anywhere else.

4. Take everything offered if you can. Most of what I barter I don't need at the time. The only reason I wouldn't take things would be if I couldn't imagine any way to use it myself or it ran counter to my values.

5. If you find someone that takes but never reciprocates ANYTHING then only give them what feels good to give in your heart. Refrain from giving them things that cost you a lot in time or effort. The way to tell that they don't care is if you see what you gave them being wasted consistently or they say they have something to trade but it doesn't surface over multiple situations. Stay friends but don't waste your time and work on someone who can't see the labor of love that it really represented.

My bartering system has developed to the point that I have to be careful quoting prices to friends from people in my bartering system who sell things. Usually my price is at least 1/4 less than what is offered to others because we already have a system built on always giving the other person whatever they need at the best price we can....because we value their product, not just because we have history. It takes a lot of time to develop but is so worth it in being able to pay the bills on your farm and also to make your farm job feel real, not like it is merely propped up by the one who goes to work in town every morning.

No comments