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Note: This post was originally written by me a few months ago for my column in a local newspaper. Sorry about the repeat, but I’ve been helping my daughter move today and am too tired to think of something fresh tonight. But it’s still relevant!
During the Depression, Robert Porterfield, an enterprising young actor, returned to his native Southwest Virginia with an extraordinary proposition: Bartering produce from the farms and gardens of the region to gain admission to see a play. So on June 10, 1933, Barter Theatre opened its doors, proclaiming “With vegetables you cannot sell, you can buy a good laugh.” The price of admission was 40 cents or an equivalent amount of produce. Four out of five Depression-era theatre-goers paid their way with vegetables, dairy products and livestock. As more and more people are left out of the global economy, the whole idea of barter takes on a renewed importance as a way we can provide ourselves with the goods and services that we lack the cash for. Now before you start thinking that you have nothing to offer as trade, let’s think about that. TIME is even scarcer than cash for many working folks, but if you’re NOT working a full-time job, that may be exactly what you have the most of! Have you considered offering your time to do something for someone that’s short on time? Service trades are sometimes a bit more difficult to arrange satisfactorily, but are often the most lucrative in terms of their value to each of the parties involved. Barter exchanges that involve the exchange of goods can evolve between two-or more!- people easily and quickly. I’ve traded my hens’ fresh eggs for straw, jugs of just-squeezed apple cider, fruits and vegetables. I’ve traded sewing repairs for a beautiful hand-made pottery jug, and home cooked dinners for help with my taxes. Barters of fresh strawberries for jam, a Christmas tree for fresh venison, and roller skates for a sled are some of the exchanges that I’ve had the pleasure to make. I once traded helping a friend pack and move for free fiddle lessons, and I’m currently helping my neighbor prepare for an upcoming move to another state by helping her pack and sort her stuff. I’m working 2 hours a week in her home, for a total of 8 hours to ‘pay for’ the hardly used, still-in-the-box grain mill that she was going to try to sell on Ebay for $80. I have an electric mill that I love, but it’s been making some ‘funny sounds’ lately, and I’m afraid it may need to be replaced eventually. Her grain mill is billed as “Lehman’s Best” hand turned grain mill and sells in their catalog for $200! I’ve often wished I had a non-electric mill, but couldn’t justify spending that kind of money on one when I already own one. The beauty of this trade has been the pleasant time we’re spending together, getting to know one another better. I’ll miss her when she moves, but will always think of her when I crank that mill! For regular readers of this blog, you’ll recognize barter as yet another community-led response to the triple threats of Peak Oil, climate change and a tanked economy. It’s a way for everyone to prosper and to support our neighborhood businesses and local economy as we learn to TRANSITION to a lower cash and energy lifestyle. Bartering builds community networks and breaks down barriers causing isolation. It provides people with access to services and products which may otherwise be unavailable- like grain mills 🙂 stretches scarce resources, and permits people from all walks of life to contribute to others and have their work recognized.
Have you ever bartered for something? Did both parties come away feeling like they’d ‘made a good trade’? Leave a comment and let me know about your favorite trade.
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