Back to barter

Laura White
Laura White

I have long believed that an easier, more locally sustainable way to live would be to go back to a barter and share system.

I have loads of tomatoes, you have loads of eggs, we arrange between us how many of each equates to equal value and swap. Of course when I talk to people about this they always bring up the fact that one person would believe a kilo of tomatoes would be worth two dozen eggs, whereas another person would think it only worth half a dozen. And then there’s the quality of the food to take into consideration.

When we buy tomatoes from a shop, we expect a certain quality for our money. Perhaps I’m being idealistic in hoping that each person who has something to offer would be willing to barter with their ‘customer’ if it was fair and warranted to do so. I recently came across a picture on social media which showed a pub doing just this. It’s sadly not in our area but in Lincolnshire, where the New Inn has a barter board up.

You can take your home-grown (and it must be home-grown, not bought from the supermarket!) produce into the pub and swap it for a pint or two of selected ales, lager or cider, or for a pudding in the restaurant. There is no set amount of veg but the pub manager has said that no-one has tried to short change them with the amount of veg they try to barter; in fact at the time of my reading about this, the pub has yet to pay for their produce with a pint since people are happy just to supply the local with local produce.

Manager Lewis Phillips said; “The produce on our Barter Board is in season right now. It will be updated and altered throughout the year to suit the season.”

This is far from a new idea and there are many online communities who barter services, or advertise what they do and ask people to suggest a value for their service. A computer technician may swap an hour of his time to clean your computer while you clean his house. Or a leatherworker may swap tuition in her field of expertise in exchange for a chef teaching her how to cook.

This also makes sense to me when I hear about the price sheep farmers get for their fleece. Its shearing season right now and the farmer will pay for someone to come and shear his sheep. The fleece is then sent away for grading and certain breeds will make as little as 90p a kilo, the price falling if there is any black colouring in the wool as this is harder to dye. On visiting a yarn shop last weekend, I was shocked and stunned at the price of 50g of yarn – as much as £10 for some! I know the process of getting from raw fleece to a dyed ball of wool is rather extensive but surely the farmer should be getting more for his fleece if that’s how much the end product is sold for?

Perhaps if more of us went back to carding and spinning we could exchange a nice pair of socks for a joint of lamb for Sunday lunch once in a while.

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