Bartering and Trading: Prison Garden, Doll Making Parties, and Other Arrangements

This installment of an ongoing series features stories from a prison inmate who arranged to start a prison garden and a doll maker who trading doll making lessons for goods and services.

| May/June 1985

Way back in January 1976, we initiated this regular feature on bartering and trading and asked you to share stories about your non-cash transactions. Nearly ten years later it's still going strong.

Prison Garden

In the state penitentiary, where prisoners aren't allowed to have money, a man has to know how to barter! And when I traded one stack of magazines for another and found my first copy of MOTHER EARTH NEWS, I knew I'd discovered a treasure. After reading your magazine — which put so many of my dreams into words — I just had to get my hands into the soil!

So I bartered again ... this time with the warden: I'd keep his flower bed weed-free if I could have a 20' X 20' plot of ground to garden. Then I traded an afghan I'd crocheted during the winter for several packages of vegetable seeds. The ground had been in clover for more than 50 years, so with the help of a shovel—the only tool I was allowed to use—and some composted scraps from the chow hall, I soon had really fine soil.

Many five-gallon buckets of water later, my first-ever garden was bursting into bloom! I couldn't believe how many vegetables I harvested. What I couldn't eat myself I swapped: tomatoes for pairs of jeans, radishes for books and magazines, cabbages for a fan, and watermelons for the typewriter I'm using to write this letter! But the best thing that came out of my garden was a feeling of accomplishment from hard work. Even in prison a man can dream of self-sufficiency and freedom, and — as I now know — he can also work toward it!


Doll Making Parties

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Next: April 28-29, 2018
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