To Barter For Food
Stout, former writer for BarterNews
Food was a form of money in some
earlier societies. People traded tobacco, salt, grain, fish,
rice, olive oil, tea, and other edible goods. But
commodities like hot tea were replaced by cold cash. Now
some people are hungering for those old days. When I worked
for a non-profit barter club, approximately half of our
trades involved food; for example, someone would swap away
some surplus home-grown vegetables for an auto repair.
We can barter for food
in many ways.
We can barter for someone's garden
produce. Many gardeners have surplus fruits and
vegetables which they are willing to trade.
We can barter with small food stores. A
supermarket is unlikely to trade with us, but we might
set up a deal at a small store; for example, we could
build shelves in exchange for groceries.
We can barter with farmers. We might find
farmers at a "farmers' market," or a road-side stand, or
at their home. Like the rest of us, they have many needs
which can be fulfilled by bartering.
We barter whenever we use a food co-op;
we work a few hours per month at the co-op in exchange
for a lower price on food.
(Refer to the chapter
We can barter for food-related goods.
These items include a food processor, a popcorn popper,
a refrigerator and freezer, a stove, pots and pans,
silverware, a meat-smoker, a juicer, cookbooks, etc.
We can barter for food-related services.
We might trade for the services of a butcher, a cake
decorator, a canner, a caterer, a nutritionist, a cook,
We can barter for goods and services for
our vegetable garden. We can get fertilizer, a
water-hose, irrigation pipes, a fence to protect the
garden, a greenhouse, young plants from a nursery, a
gardening consultant -- and a gardener, so that we don't
need to do the work ourselves.
(We could also barter
for a sharecropper; refer to the section regarding
We can barter with restaurants. In a
barter club, we are likely to find members who own
restaurants; we will pay for our meal with barter-club
units. We can also make one-to-one deals; for example, a
restaurant might need our carpet-laying service, or some
advertising in our newspaper, or our calligraphy for the
menus, or the fresh strawberries from our garden.
We can barter for the animals which we
will eat. The animals might include rabbits, a cow,
can barter for miscellaneous goods and services to
care for these animals. These items might include
feed, cages, fences, veterinarian's services, and
advice regarding animal care.
can barter for the use of land. At one barter club,
a person offered one of his goats, in exchange for
some pasture-land where the other goats could graze.
(Refer to the chapter regarding bartering for real
can barter when we are hunting or fishing for food.
We might trade for a shotgun, a room at a fishing
lodge, a fishing-boat rental, or permission to hunt
on someone's property.
We can barter for tutoring in
food-related subjects. The subjects can include cooking,
wine-making, gardening, vegetarianism, herbology,
foraging for edible plants -- and dieting (if we are too
successful in bartering for food).
We can barter for "just-haul-it-away"
food. Someone else's nuisance might be our next dinner.
For example, a man called our barter club to find
someone to harvest an acre of hay; he said, "Just take
it away for free," because it was a fire hazard for him,
but the person who harvested it probably used it to feed
some livestock. Other land-owners might be happy to let
us take their apples and walnuts and other foods which
would otherwise rot and have to be cleaned up. We are
bartering our labor for the food which the land-owner
doesn't want anyway.
We can barter for rental items. For
example, if we don't want to trade for the
of an apple press, we can barter to use one for a single
day. We might also rent a food dehydrator, a tractor, a
rototiller, a meat smoker, a ladder for fruit-picking, a
fishing pole, or another device used for acquiring or
We can do some
sharecropping. Sharecropping is not a wilted relic from the
United States' post-Civil War era. It's in full bloom in
communities where people are making this type of deal: a
landowner allows someone to grow vegetables on the property,
in exchange for some of the produce. It is a good deal for
the landowner (who is now gaining some value from the
property) and for the sharecropper (who might be an
apartment-dweller who likes gardening and wants to reap some
inexpensive food). The information in this chapter can be
used by people who want to get a sharecropper, and
those who want to be one.
Finding the sharecropper.
can call a non-profit barter club. When I worked for
a non-profit barter club, more than 30 spaces were
available for sharecropping; one site was a small
garden, but another was a five-acre parcel. (A
business-oriented barter club is less likely to be
have opportunities for sharecropping.)
might find suitable people in the phone book's
yellow pages. The opportunity might interest someone
who is listed under Gardening, Lawn Care, or
might find suitable people through a classified ad.
The ad could say, "Wanted: gardener to work in my
garden plot in exchange for a share of produce."
can put a notice onto a bulletin board.
The agreement. Our agreement can cover
percentage of the harvest. Perhaps we will split the
harvest 50-50; or maybe we will give 30 percent to
the landowner and 70 percent to the sharecropper.
expenses. We will determine who is to pay for the
seeds, fertilizer, water, etc. Other possible
expenses include the rental of a rototiller, or the
purchase of tools such as shovels, rakes, and hoses.
(We might be able to barter with a third party to
get those items.)
Liability. We need to consider liability, in case
the sharecropper is injured while gardening.
use of tools. Will the sharecropper be permitted to
use the landowner's tools? Who will pay for the
repair of tools?
larger commitment. In some parts of the world, a
sharecropper is not merely a part-time gardener;
instead, the person lives on the property in a house
which has been provided by the land-owner.
Variations in sharecropping the land. The
concept of sharecropping is to use someone else's land
in exchange for a portion of whatever we take from it.
We can develop these variations on that concept:
Allow someone to cut up the old trees on your
properly for firewood, in exchange for some of the
Allow someone to tap your maple trees, in exchange
for some of the syrup.
Allow someone to hunt or fish on your property, in
exchange for some of the meat.
Allow someone to pan for gold, in exchange for a
portion of it. (This is a common practice in
southern Oregon, for example.)
Allow someone to forage for wild food (e.g., rice or
mushrooms), in exchange for a share.
Allow someone to pick your fruit, in exchange for
some of it.
with items other than land. When we sharecrop our land,
we permit someone to use the land in a trade for a
portion of the bounty. If we expand this idea of
"sharing," we discover that we can barter other items
besides land. For example, we could share our lawnmower
with a neighbor; in exchange, he or she will mow
lawn occasionally. Or we could let someone use our
snowmobile during the winter; in exchange, the person
will store the snowmobile during the summer (if we have
no place to store it).