How To Barter For Food
James Harvey Stout (deceased). This material is now in the public
domain. The complete collection of Mr. Stout's writing is now at
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was a form of money in some earlier societies.
- We can barter
for food in many ways.
- We can do some
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
- 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
- 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
- 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 regarding co-ops.)
- 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,
- 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, etc.
- 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 sharecropping.)
- 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, chickens, etc.
- We 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
- We 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 estate.)
- We 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
- 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 ownership 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 processing food.
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
- Finding the sharecropper.
- We 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.)
- We might find suitable people in the phone book's yellow
pages. The opportunity might interest someone who is listed
under Gardening, Lawn Care, or Landscaping.
- We 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."
- We can put a notice onto a bulletin board.
- The agreement. Our agreement can cover these issues:
- The 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.
- The 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.
- The use of tools. Will the sharecropper be permitted to use
the landowner's tools? Who will pay for the repair of
- A 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 wood.
- 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
- 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
- Sharecropping 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 our 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).