Farm Labor Exchange, Donkey Suit, and Other Barter Agreements

This installment of an ongoing series about reader-negotiated barter agreements looks at a farm labor exchange and a donkey suit—a man who traded two burros for hand-tailored silk duds.

| September/October 1979

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 Exchange

One of the most important events—both social and financial—for back-to-the-landers is the farm auction. Such shindigs offer the newcomer a chance to make friends, pick up a lot of good information, and—perhaps—even snag a bargain or two!

After attending several country bid ups, though, we began to realize something. All too often, the reason for the sale turned out to be that the farmer in question had gone broke. And, just as often, the cause of the financial disaster was overinvestment in expensive (and seldom used) equipment. So when we bought our 60 acres in the country, we decided to avoid owning machinery as much as possible.

For the first years—while we were getting to know the neighbors and learning about farm life—we simply paid for work that required expensive equipment. Even that cost less than actually buying the necessary machines. For the past several years, though, we've been able to swap our time for the use of our neighbor's farming tools. We gladly spend several days helping a fellow agrarian do his work, knowing that—in return—we'll do much the same work at home using the same equipment: his! Our assistance has become as indispensable to him as his tractors and implements are to us because we all save money—and enjoy a strong sense of community in the bargain.

We also barter for homebaked bread (and fresh milk and eggs). It sure beats paying high prices plus sales tax for stale supermarket produce.


mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!