Despite what some of the conspiracy theorists and foil-hat-wearing folks would advise, I don’t fear a public discussion about the concept of bartering. I’m not worried that mysterious black cars with unknown government agents will come to detain me indefinitely. I will, however, acknowledge that I know very little about bartering in the context of federal and state laws, so if it’s something you choose to do, make sure you know what you’re doing before you do it on any sort of scale.
Now, with that being said . . .
I participate in an online discussion forum for preppers and preparedness-minded folks. One of the group members suggested that we discuss bartering, and she shared some of her personal experience with the practice. Now, until today, I hadn’t really given the concept of bartering much thought. After all, in my mind, you only barter for big-ticket items, and since we never have any unwanted big-ticket items, the whole subject seemed irrelevant to me.
After being inspired by the group’s discussion, I got to thinking. Small-scale, local bartering can be just as helpful to a family as trading for big-ticket items. For instance, I might want to trade extra eggs to a neighbor who has a bumper crop of tomatoes. I might take the time to trade home-baked bread for apples from another neighbor’s fruit trees. Or what about trading baby girl clothes with someone who can offer a pair of shoes for my son? These little trades might seem meaningless at first, but when you stop and consider the impact to your family when these trades add up, it’s probably worth more than a second thought.
And there’s something else that hadn’t occurred to me ’til today. Even little trades like tomatoes for apples or a cake for eggs can be powerful forces that build community. Consider an example. My husband was mowing our property during our first spring at the Wittekind homestead. Since he had very little experience mowing on this property, he didn’t always know what to expect, and he managed to get the mower stuck. I tried to help push it free, but it just wasn’t going to happen. Since the family car is a 4-cylinder KIA, and since the mower was stuck a ways away from the house, we weren’t entirely sure how we were going to get it free. Finally, my husband broke down and went over to the neighbor’s house to ask for help. (We happened to know that he had a tractor that could free the mower.) In short order, the neighbor’s son (who we learned was on the local police department) brought the tractor over, and another member of the family brought an ATV over (in case the tractor wasn’t enough.) They all managed to get the mower free, and I was happy to give them the rest of a cake that I had baked to celebrate my daughter’s First Communion.
Now, one might think that was “just being neighborly”, but I guess it also was a form of bartering (despite the fact that we hadn’t discussed terms beforehand.) If we use that tendency to share things of value with folks who give us something of value in a more thoughtful way, many folks in our local communities can benefit. After all, who can’t benefit from not having to spend cash on a pair of shoes that his or her child will simply outgrow in two months anyway?
In fact, I think that in my life at least, the smaller trades are probably more meaningful than the big ones. After all, it’s not often that I find myself in need of a big trade that doesn’t involve cash. Constantly, however, I find myself in need of clothing for my kids, haircuts, healthy food (for family and animals), and help around the property (to name just a few things.) If we take some time to figure out how to get what we want and need without shelling out the cash, I’d guess that we’d all be very surprised by the results.
Not too long ago, a dear friend of mine and I were explaining our relationship to the kids. “It’s symbiotic. We help each other so we can both flourish.” When I stop and think about it though, the love and friendship don’t have to be there to orchestrate a trade that’s mutually beneficial, and by thinking that way, it’s likely that we’ll make new friends. Sounds like a winning situation for all who’re involved.
As the opportunities present themselves, I know that I’ll be thinking more about the idea of bartering. It seems like bartering is a tool that will fit quite nicely in my “prepper toolbox”.