The Art of Bartering

1001742948As a farm family,  we regularly count our blessings to keep life in focus. We live abundantly and eat well, but cash is often slim. At times this deficiency of dollars and cents felt impoverishing, but now that we have learned to use our resources for bartering we have found a new level of abundance.

Looking back over the year we have swapped garden planning for a gently used set of cloth diapers, seeds we saved from our garden for herb plants, extra garden goodies for a car seat and our children take piano lessons in exchange for handyman house repairs for their teacher. Each week we savor several loaves of homemade bread made with fresh ground flour and our friends enjoy fresh farm produce. We were even able to create a cold framing DVD in our garden last year with the excellent videography work of a friend in exchange for chickens, eggs and several installments of garden produce.

Canning is not my favorite summer activity so a friend came to pick our grapes and brought back half of the canned juice for our family. Two brides took up my offer for providing flowers for their weddings in exchange for labor in my market garden. With time at premium during fall harvest, I was very grateful for the ready made casseroles a friend made using some of our farm ingredients in exchange for frozen meats for their family. We also have done various computer tasks for our Amish friends and received wonderful things like pumpkin pies and flat1001214156s of plants from their greenhouse. I’ve also garnered babysitting, a sewing job, art lessons and even a massage all through bartering. Wow, I’m starting to feel wealthy!

When we took a closer look at all our resources and skills we found we truly are blessed and bartering offers a way for us to share those blessings with others. It has brought us to a new level of creativity and generosity that dollars and cents can’t accomplish. I don’t know what the future holds, but I often wonder if what we are learning through bartering goods and services will be a necessary skill someday if the money system ever falters. After all, dollar bills are just pieces of paper and coins a bit of metal. If times get tough I would much rather have my currency in the form of eggs, potatoes and seeds.

If you want to try your hand at bartering it is helpful to come up with a list of things you have to share along with items you need. You can assign a rough dollar amount to the items and labor services. Invite a few friends to do the same and discover what you can start swapping.

Cash is certainly still helpful at times since it may be a stretch to talk the electric or phone company into a swap for their services. However, I am contemplating hiking down the road with a cow and a couple chickens to Lehman’s store and see if I can strike up a juicy barter on that wood cook stove I have my eye on…