Farm Labor, Natural Foods, Mushroom Hunting, and Other Successful Barter Agreements

In this installment of a regular feature, readers reported successfully bartering their farm labor for food and shelter, natural foods for marketing and legal services, and mushroom hunting services for leftovers from a chef's kitchen.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
July/August 1981
Add to My MSN

An Indiana man who wanted to save money and extend his hiking vacation in Scotland arranged a trade with a local chef: wild mushroom hunting and gathering services in exchange for free leftover meal fixings.
ILLUSTRATION: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF


Content Tools

Related Content

Hide

Notes on immigrant farm labor and livable wages.

Basic Needs Of A Honey Bee Colony...A Start

Four of the requirements honey bees need to thrive, no matter where they live, or what type of shelt...

HOMEGROWN Life: It’s Cold Out There for a Farmsteader

HOMEGROWN Life blogger Bryce shares 5 things to consider before starting a farmstead—not the least o...

Jack's New Home on the Goat Farm

Stony Knolls Farm has a new dog and getting him here was a wonderful, and amazing journey that is we...

Bill Wodraska shared some of his thoughts regarding one of mankind's better ideas — barter — and offered up an interesting suggestion: "I'd like to see a continuing feature on barter agreements and skill-and-labor exchanges," said Bill. "You're on!" MOTHER EARTH NEWS replied.  


Farm Labor for Food and Shelter

My husband and I started our married life—just as we'd planned to for six years—with a move to the country. And barter has played a major role in our new lifestyle by providing us with food and shelter.

Our trading began when a little determination (and a little luck) landed us a part-time milking job on a fairly large dairy farm. In exchange for one week's work a month (on days of our choosing), we live rent-free in a fine two-bedroom farmhouse, have the use of a wood burning stove and free-for-the-gathering fuel, and have access to a five-acre pasture to graze our animals in!

The vegetables from our garden and fresh-from-the-cow milk for making butter and cheese keep our larder full at little cost. In addition, one of the best salmon and trout rivers in the Northwest borders our new home (I've caught fish that produced steaks the size of a dinner plate!).

Furthermore, as part of the milking deal, our farmer friend gives us a discount when we purchase day-old calves. We're slowly building up a dairy herd (for the time when we can afford our own farm) at very little expense.

The swap is good for the dairyman, too, since he gets a fourth of his farm work done "free."

Now we think that's a pretty darn good MOTHER EARTH NEWS-type exchange!

D.C.
Oregon 

Natural Foods for Art, Labor, and Legal Advice

Being a "get more for less" enthusiast from way back, I've always been interested in swapping. But by far the best opportunity I've had to enjoy my horsetrading hobby occurred a little more than three years ago when my wife and I opened a natural foods store.

Because we started out on a shoe-string budget, we found that bartering was essential to get our enterprise up and running. And rather than hurt our budding business venture by making folks uneasy (as we, on occasion, had feared it would), swapping actually helped attract customers! Once people knew we were willing to trade our wares for items or services of like value, all kinds of deals were proposed. A commercial sign painter, for example, designed our outdoor advertising display in exchange for credit at the shop. Two other barter-bent brush-wielders supplied the artwork for our catalogs and promotional flyers in return for nuts, dried fruit, and other organically grown foods.

More trades followed: During the summer months we swapped rice, grains, and dried beans for locally grown produce; our part-time help accepted food as payment for their labor; and a share of our store's wares even "bought" us legal advice! You might say that barter has become the main means of exchange in this business venture!

B. B.
New York  

Mushroom Hunting for Leftovers

Toward the end of my travels in the United Kingdom, my funds grew scarce and I realized that the trip would have to come to a close sooner than I had anticipated. Even though I wanted to spend more time hiking in the rugged, breathtaking highlands of northwestern Scotland, I knew that—as a foreigner—it wouldn't be fair or legal to compete with the local folk for the already too-few jobs in that remote region.

I noticed, however, that the birch-covered knolls of the north country harbored a veritable carpet of edible chanterelle mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius), a delicacy that is highly regarded and sought after in continental Europe but shunned by many of the local Scot villagers because of its exotic golden-orange color.

So, being something of a wild-food fan, I struck up a bargain with the local hotel chef (who had neither the time nor the desire to search the hills for the fungal morsels but whose clientele were fond of such delicacies). In return for a steady supply of the succulent mushrooms, he provided me with ample portions of his leftover fixings (meals which included salmon, duck, and—of course—home-baked scones).

Thanks to our trade, the hotel guests were treated to tasty mushroom sauces, while I was able to save money on food and thus extend my vacation!

T.A.B.
Indiana 

Shotgun for Auto Repairs

As an avid angler, I find that I often accumulate more fishing equipment than I can use (it seems I'm forever testing one type of rod after another to try to locate the "perfect" bigmouth-bass snagger).

So when an acquaintance approached me about a trade a few years ago, I was glad to swap some of my excess gear for a 12-gauge shotgun.

Soon after that "purchase," however, I landed a stimulating but time consuming job that afforded me fewer leisure hours to devote to hunting and left the shotgun sitting idly in the back room. In fact, I had just about forgotten about the weapon when both of the family cars sputtered to a stop. After learning the repairs to get them back on the road would cost $300, and knowing my wallet couldn't foot that bill, I decided to try barter.

I made a circuit of the local garages with the hope of trading my unused firearm for some auto repair work, and struck it lucky on my second try: The service station's owner was hankering for just such a gun ... and he had recently priced the same model for over $300!

Now the runabouts are both in prime condition again, my pocket's not a penny poorer, and I've made a new friend!

J.M.A.
Florida  

Bees for Barn Work

Not long ago I was stung by the beekeeping bug, and—after boning up on the basics of apiculture—was eager to acquire a hive to tend. As I was discussing the possibility of purchasing a colony from a neighboring Apis mellifera enthusiast, though, the farmer mentioned that his barn needed some repairs. That was all the encouragement I needed! Being in the construction business, you see, I have a considerable supply of stockpiled scrap lumber. So, being a not-too-shabby carpenter (and a bartering fiend at heart), I quickly proposed a trade: my wood and labor for one of my beekeeping buddy's inhabited hives.

Now—a load of wood, a bag of nails, and a couple of afternoons later—I'm a proud backyard beekeeper, eagerly looking forward to that first honey harvest!

T. A.
Georgia  

Firewood for Veterinary Services

Last autumn, when my husband and I needed to pick up some supplies from our veterinarian, we found ourselves—upon arriving at the doctor's office—surrounded by stacks of old house parts that turned out to be discards from his latest remodeling project. And, when we discovered that the medical practitioner was planning to have the "junk" carted off and burned, we quickly asked whether we could salvage the usable materials in exchange for hauling away the entire heap.

Furthermore, as we started to work on our end of the deal, we realized that the animal doctor had recently installed a wood burning heating system but as yet had no supply of firewood.

Well, we had leftover treetops from constructing a log house, the equipment (and time) needed to cut more timber, and a $100 vet bill!

An even trade was arranged. Now when we need the doc's services, he charges us by the cord!

M. P.
Wisconsin  


Previous | 1 | 2 | 3 | Next






Post a comment below.

 








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.