Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Your Cow for My Three Magic Beans?

I love to barter. I would say that it's the greatest idea since sliced bread, but A. bartering is way older than sliced bread and B. I don't find sliced bread to be all that impressive.

Bartering: so much cooler than sliced bread. 

Like most people, my first experiences with bartering would have been as a child. I can remember trading my individually wrapped Twinkies for the much tastier chocolate cupcakes with a friend at a cafeteria table. That may have been the last of my trading experiences if the economy hadn't up & collapsed back in 2006.

My partner is the primary income source for our family, he's a tattoo artist. Let me brag for just a little bit here. My partner is a licensed, professional, world-traveled, award winning tattoo artist who was approaching 20 years in the business in '06. Tattooing is a profession that doesn't easily compare to other professions. It is a little bit like hairdressing. Artist like stylist are usually independent contractors, not salaried employees. You are responsible for providing your tools and your supplies. Artist and stylist typically rent their chairs. The shop might provide some advertisement but it is your skill and your satisfied customers who fill your chair & put new people in it. When customers are facing severe financial set-backs, their hair will continue to grow. The stylist may find people go longer between cuts, they may forgo more expensive services and their tipping may become more frugal, tough times for sure, but the stylist will probably continue to earn a living. The artists on the other hand, well it turns out if your facing foreclosure getting a really rad new tattoo is probably not anywhere on your To Do List.

He could have pursued a new career or taken on a second job to ride out the storm. I could have gone back to working outside the home.None of those options seemed acceptable to me. He did take side jobs, but not a second job. Re-entering the workforce for me would have meant putting the kids in school and finding a gig that worked around their schedule. A new career path for him would have meant leaving a job he truly excels at and loves, at this stage in his career it would have likely been forever. So we made a choice to ride out the storm by tightening our belts and learning to live on an income much lower than we had been accustomed to. It would have been a much harder, and unpleasant experience if I hadn't noticed the craigslist barter section around that same time.

If I remember correctly my Christmas present that year was the first tattoo he accept a trade as payment. A mom with 2 little ones got an adorable piece, and I was given a sewing machine that I still use today. We've traded for so many things and services over the years, I couldn't begin to list them all. I regularly trade for boutique quality, all-natural, small batch, personal care products. I have a friend I trade with for elderberry syrup, another that I cook for & she stocks my essential oil cabinet. More than one car has come our way via bartering. My home-births were also paid for in trade.

I think there are some people out there who have negative ideas about bartering. Perhaps the first thing they think of is the magic beans Jack got for his cow. Let's not forget though, that did work out pretty well for Jack. When you barter, especially if you are bartering a service or product that you also sell for cash, it's an opportunity to network. Your trade partner may be interested in your service again or they may share their experience with their friends. With that in mind, you should approach your trades like a professional. Describe your item or service honestly, including any flaws. If the service you provide requires professional licensing, be prepared to present proof of your standing. Consider assigning a trade value, that is the amount you would ask if you were selling the item out right, but keep it realistic. Offer a list of what you are hoping to find. If you are open to other suggestions, say that in your posts.

Do you want to barter but aren't sure what you have to offer? Let me throw out a few quick ideas. Whatever you do for a living is probably a good place to start. Hairdressers, plumbers, child-care providers, massage therapists, mechanics; these are services needed by many and very likely to attract trading partners. Non-skilled labor; if your up for it you could offer services like lawn mowing, snow shoveling, or hauling trash to the dump. Home cooked meals, garden produce or home canned products make for great swaps. Clothes or toys your children have outgrown are another popular barter item. Know your local laws, and keep it legal; but other than that, really almost anything can be traded & found through trading.

Our farm is always open to bartering.I'm active on two Facebook bartering groups Richmond   and Caroline County; but also feel free to contact me through Serendipity Farm directly if you have something we might be interested in or would like to sample something we offer.

Also, there are many bartering groups on Facebook. Some that are targeted to specific communities and some that are listed by interest. Try entering your town or county in your FB search bar. If you don't find one, establishing one yourself is really easy.

Please feel free to share your bartering experiences in the comments!