"United we bargain, divided we beg."

Monday, August 2, 2010

State of the Trade Network 2010 (What's Your Perspective?)

Most farmers I know engage in barter, whether they are professionals who just do a little trading on the side with friends or whether they are hobbyists or homesteaders, like I am. Nobody produces everything they need for themselves, and chances are your neighbor or friend down the way makes/can do something that you don't/can't. Since I discovered the wonders of Craigslist and began actively developing my trade network, we have traded our own

mechanic services
goat stud service
beef and pork


baked goods
vegetables and fruit
plumbing services
electrician's services

Aside from the obvious practicality of bartering, it is also just plain fun. I have yet to meet anyone who doesn't enjoy bartering. Why, there's even a famous annual Barter Fair in my state (think I missed it this year) which is known far and wide as a really good time. Everybody likes to offer (show off) their goods and services and to find out what his neighbor has to offer in exchange. Bartering is a great way to get to know people, build communities, meet your needs affordably, and find out what goods and services are available or unavailable locally. Bartering is a blast.

It's also illegal - unless you report it to the IRS and pay taxes on every transaction. Let me be totally upfront: I am a complete outlaw. I don't have the vaguest idea how to even go about reporting bartering transactions, and I am such a poor record-keeper that even if I tried really hard there's no way I could ever be in 100% compliance. I haven't any intention of trying to bring my bartering activity within the scope of the formal economy. So there. If I am soon contacted by the IRS, I will know somebody squealed. And I'm looking at you, bro.

Apparently for this reason, bartering is controversial. There was recently a long and vigorous debate on the subject at one of my favorite blogs, fast grow the weeds. Alas, I couldn't create a direct link to the right post, so you'll have to page back a couple of posts if you want to read it, but I assure you that the journey will be enjoyable. The author is a very serious gardener chock full o' knowledge and also a thoughtful and talented writer.

So, while I have no intention of stopping my illegal activities, the trade network has kind of broken down this year. Partly, this is because I've been out of town for some of the summer; partly it has to do with the lamentable departure of the Kale Fairy, the best trade partner I ever had. I've noticed that trade partnerships are seldom long-lasting. I especially miss the Baker/Biker. Man, he made some go-o-o-o-o-d fruitcake. People move away, they get their own chickens, they lose your phone number or e-mail.

I still have some good contacts: Kale Fairy II is meeting me later today to bring me carrots in exchange for a dozen eggs. Veggie/Oil Man continues to provide a great weekly trade at the farmer's market. Later on in the fall I will no doubt meet more apple people and brewers. Hopefully when mushroom season arrives I will be able to create some contacts with foragers.

So there you have it: I am an unrepentant barterer and a scofflaw. I just call it neighborliness. I mean really, where is the line between sharing some of your overabundant zucchini harvest with your next door neighbor and then a week later accepting a gift of a couple dozen eggs on the one hand and cheating the Government on the other? What is your take? Where do you stand on the issue?

Inquiring minds want to know.


AnyEdge said...

I don't think bartering is actually completely illegal, but you know who does: Bernie! Ask him about it. Especially before you go confessing in a public forum that you violate tax law.

You can probably also arrange it that you 'give each other gifts' especially if you know the people with whom you barter. You can give and receive gifts up to like $10k a year without tax consequences.

polly's path said...

I guess I am engaging in illegal activity as well....and loving it!!!
Bartering farm chicks unite...
But seriously, I had no clue you had to report it. In truth I probably don't do near enough to report it...and you are right-who draws the line between a transaction and a gift between friends?

polly's path said...

p.s. I bet you whupped your bro's butt quite a bit when you were kids???

Aimee said...

Polly... HA ha yes I did and don't believe him when he denies it!

AnyEdge said...

What I remember is you telling me you were controlling my actions with your mind, so I started hitting you and throwing rocks at you and yelling: "Are you making me do this? Huh!? Are you making me do this?"

The Idiot Gardener said...

When it comes to breaking the law, bartering is the least of my problems. Still, who cares? As I told the police, this deer was already skinned when it jumped out in front of me. A bullet wound? Maybe it was in a fight? They searched me and the truck, found nothing, didn't really know what to do with the deer, so they told me to go home and not to try being so funny.

Is the Wiz said...

Never knew bartered goods or services constituted taxable income.
I was in a LETS (local exchange trading scheme) in my last town and it was a really good social network. Maybe I should set one up here.Love the Niemoller quote

Garden Lily said...

I think it's very neighbourly to share your abundance with friends and neighbours. That's how I received many of the wonderful plants in my garden, and love to share with anyone who is interested. Reciprocal sharing builds communities.

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site newtofarmlife.blogspot.com
Is this possible?

Anonymous said...

I would like to exchange links with your site newtofarmlife.blogspot.com
Is this possible?