Bartering, recessions and the power of the mighty dollar. Or not.

So anyone who knows me will tell you that I have political opinions, but I don't share them, I don't debate, and I don't get on my soapbox with them. And I most certainly don't post them on Facebook: too many of my friends don't share my opinions and I truly don't want to lose friends over them.

However.

The things that affect my life directly - the ag laws, the restrictions on land use (think zoning and the places that dictate you need a minimum of four acres to be allowed to keep chickens - and no roosters!), the people who think that agricultural use of land should be something that doesn't occur in their back yard, the children growing up who think that food comes from the store, not farms...

That kind of thing will have me spouting invective quicker than a goat pooping in my milk bucket.

Anyway. I digress. The quote at the top of the page - and I don't know who to attribute it to, it appears in various places all over the internetz - is so true. It's been around a while, but it seems over the last six months that the tide has begun to turn. I make sales from the farm sporadically, excess chickens, baby goats, hatching eggs, and I have seen a subtle shift in purchasing trends during recent months.

It started right around August time, when I discovered that I had an overabundance of Orpingtons due to some over-zealous hatching earlier in the year. I had set pretty much every egg that was laid that didn't sell on eBay in an attempt to double my hen count for the next laying season. I like to breed heavily and cull heavily, in order to select the very best to bring into the breeding program. So, as usual, I advertised the spares on Craigslist and a couple of other places I often use. But this time, the phone calls and emails didn't come rolling in the way I was used to. A handful sold, but that was all. I started to become impatient, because I needed the funds to buy some cattle panels and a couple of gates to finish fitting out the inside of the barn before winter arrived.

I don't remember what it was that gave me the idea, but it suddenly occurred to me to try a trade / barter idea.

Turned out that one simple line at the bottom of my ad would be one of the best ideas ever.

"Will trade for cattle panels, gates, other fencing materials."

Within 24 hours all birds were spoken for, and by the end of the weekend, the trades were complete. In exchange for a handful of birds, I had six round bales of hay, six cattle panels, two 10' gates, and 15 brand new t-posts. Thus, my barn could be completed and I had sufficient hay to see me through the worst of the weather.

I think as people's disposable income becomes smaller and smaller, and the cost of living - food, interest rates, mortgages, rent, gas - increases, the power of barter and trade will be greater. I have found that in our area, people have fewer dollars, but more 'stuff' just laying around. The gentleman who brought me one of the gates said that it had been leaning against the side of his house for several years, and he was very happy to bring it to me in part exchange for some birds.

Trades were also made in both directions for more stock for the farm; part trade of farm items for a Nigerian Dwarf doe who I did not plan to keep in my breeding program, and some mohair from my angora goats in exchange for two beautiful Angora rabbits to add to my fiber herd.

The most important thing I feel for the trade / barter situation is that both parties must feel like they got the better end of the deal. If either leaves the exchange feeling badly done to, then it may sour the entire exchange. This principle is always forefront in my mind when I discuss a prospective trade.

Bartering also facilitates two other things close to my heart: recycling and shopping local.

The sheer amount of waste that we as human beings produce is incredible. We live in a throw away society and are encouraged in so many ways, not least by the horrific quality of the majority of commercially manufactured goods, to simply discard and replace items, or throw away what we no longer need. Hopefully, as bartering opportunities increase, this trend can, in fact, decrease. That gate which was taking up space in the guy's yard was invaluable to me. I used it to close up the front of my barn to keep my goats in.

Shopping local is a big deal to me. I dislike the rise of big box stores and the way that they push local manufacturers, producers and suppliers out of the market with their low prices - refer back to my comments on quality here also! But you'll be hard pressed to find a Walmart or a Target who accepts barter, so make the most of your opportunities and save your cold hard cash for paying for things where only cash will do.

All in all, it worked out so well for us. I'm glad I considered it - and I know for sure that I will be offering trades as an option in the future. And I anticipate that it will become more of an option for others too, as I just don't see any light at the end of the tunnel with the economy.