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
Monday, August 2, 2010
goat stud service
beef and pork
vegetables and fruit
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.