Saturday, October 25, 2014

So we barter

When I was young and idealistic I entertained various fantasies of being self-sufficient: Building my own house, growing my own food, and basically being a hermit. No environmental footprint for me.
Now that I'm older (though still idealistic) my feelings about self-sufficiency have changed. For starters, I now have a family who don't necessarily share my hermit plans. But more significantly, now that we've really and whole-heartedly embarked upon a life where we are attempting to provide for ourselves in as many ways as we possibly can, we've realised how bloody hard it would be to actually produce everything you need by your own hands. Not to say that kind of life wouldn't be rewarding - I'm sure it would - but my feelings about 'how to save the world' have ripened a bit now, and my ideology has ultimately found a home in community-building.

What do I mean by that? Well, I mean talking to people. I mean valuing the work people do. I mean supporting people who are creating and growing things in our local area. I mean sharing and providing food for people. I mean sharing knowledge and information and encouraging people. And maybe more than anything else, I mean swapping and bartering as much as possible. 

One thing that hasn't changed for me since those heady early days of ideological veganism and Grass Roots idolatry, is my belief that money is pretty much the root of all evil. Unfortunately for us, (and even more unfortunately for the billions of impoverished and enslaved peoples around the world) we live under capitalism, which means that, short of the aforementioned hermit lifestyle, you kinda need to participate, at least a little bit, in the money economy. So what can you do about it? Well, you can be super-hyper vigilant about who you give your money to. Yes folks, it's true that under capitalism, one of your most powerful weapons is what you do and do not choose to spend your money on. Ask yourself: What kinds of things is this purchase supporting? Child labour? Slave labour? Crapy living conditions for factory workers? Environmental destruction? Cultural destruction? If you're answering yes to any of these questions, find an alternative, or go without.
Springvale community food swap at Linda and Paul's, down the road. What the heck kind of  shop comes with these views, cups of tea, cake and friendly advice about gardening and craft???
While that may seem like a kind of crazily austere or strict regime to adhere to, let me tell you that it's actually a ton of fun, because in the process of seeking alternatives, you'll probably meet people and make connections you wouldn't otherwise make, and you will strengthen your sense of community. By supporting local people you will build resilience in your community, and you will help people find alternatives to the confines of capitalism, even if just for a little bit. Liiiiike.... you might start or participate in your local food swap, or you might think of some other way you can barter for the things you need. 

And more food swap action at Autumn Farm

You might get involved with a local food co-op, or you might start buying your produce (and I mean all of your produce) direct from the person who grew it. You might start growing more of your own, and sharing it with a neighbour!

We are pretty much massive bartering devotees these days, bartering our chickens and craft for as much as we possibly can including acupuncture, veggies, fermented foods, art therapy,  spoon carving lessons, pork, art classes, lamb, hand-knitted gloves and bread. Yes, many of these things we could produce ourselves, it's true. But you know what? Our friends Thea and Tim have the most amazing market garden. But they don't have the time and inclination to also grow chickens, just like we don't have the time or inclination (or watering prowess) to grow massive beautiful bunches of coriander and celery. So we barter.
Bartered veggie box from Thea and Tim's Fish Bone Farm
 Similarly, our friend Emily makes incredible sauerkraut,  kefir and kimchi. Yes of course we could make these for ourselves, but that's her thing, so she's really good at it, just like we're really good at growing delicious chickens. So we barter.
Bartered fermented awesomeness courtesy of Emily
I can't knit, but I really wanted a pair of rainbow-hand-dyed fingerless gloves for riding my bike in the early morning chill, and Vee really wanted one of my skirts. Her handy man Grimm knits beautiful fingerless gloves. So we barter.
Awesomely awesome riding gloves knitted by Grimm, bartered for a skirt
You see what I'm getting at? By valuing other people's skills and interests, you don't have to be super-skilled at everything yourself. And besides which, sharing the love just feels plain old awesome.

Fish Bone Farm abundance gracing the Autumn Farm kitchen. Happy days..


  1. I guess we run with Fish Bone Farm then?

  2. Love this idea! We do swap veggies with our neighbours, though quite informally. I grow veg I know others don't grow and none of the stuff they grow lots of specifically for this reason. Love the idea of swapping craft items, too. You're right - it's too hard to do everything, but you can still get homemade and local via this kind of system.

  3. Fantastic! I too am a huge bartering/free goods fan though it is not so widely accepted here in our part of the world. Cannot wait to visit your neck of the woods very soon :)
    The gloves look beautiful.I am glad we were able to engage in a swap :)

  4. welcome to my childhood.... only with a LOT of extended family living nearby - so my grandfather supplied our raw milk and pork (and eggs .... actually he had most of the good stuff but he point blank refused to grow lettuce and carrots aka 'rabbit food') We grew beef, a few veg/fruit and had a big potato field and mum knitted/sewed/crafted/cooked up a storm --- my other grandparents had the local general store and mum worked there for general food items.... daddio had mechanical things and played music (note who did most of the hard graft that kept our family fed and clothed...)

    In the community things were a little less formal than an actual barter/swap --- instead you just gifted made things or volunteered your service and gave away your excess produce (whatever it was) .... and everyone else did pretty much the same... it all seemed to even out in the end (or not.... no one seemed to mind unless it was thought someone was mooching... and in a small town that was figured out very quickly!)

    this was just the way things were done (downside included gossip, rumours, petty jealousies, unspoken of 'bad things' behind closed doors, stereotyping, prejudices, etc etc) small community living has been unraveling in the past few decades (and in some cases we have to be a little bit thankful eh) Is it the result of consumerism? hmmmm when its expressed in a centralised, globalised, late-capitalist form yeah I think its a contributor..... but so to is the centralising of our governance, over-regulation, the increased emphasis on the individual, the atomising affect of technology, nanny-state legal systems etc etc etc etc

    (ooo I'm on a roll now!)

    I love seeing initiatives that aim to bring back the good bits of small community :D x

  5. Such a beautiful post. So many values and beliefs caught up in the idea of community-building and bartering, it's lovely to read about how you teased these out and explored them in the context of your own ideological growth. x

  6. This is so inspiring, so doable and so absolutely true!

  7. Oh my! Is that really a food swap? The view is gorgeous, the produce looks delicious and the company must have been wonderful. How I wish I was there too. Hahaha! Anyway, thank you so much for sharing the totality of the experience! I hope you're having a great autumn.

    Darren Lanphere @ Mirr Ranch Group

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