In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
June, 2001
Regional Report

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How about bartering with your neighbor: a basket of produce for tool sharpening?

Bartering the Garden

My mother told me about a conservation she had late last summer in the produce section of a grocery store. While squeezing melons, she and another woman talked about their gardens and that eventually led to exchanging fruit. My mother gave her a bushel of peaches, and she received a bushel of apples in return. Both women's larders are full of canned peaches and apple butter. The best part is that these two women are now friends.

Bartering Basics

I love the concept of bartering. It's such a simple way to give something in exchange for something you need, without money changing hands. It helps create a sense of community as neighbors get to know neighbors. And it takes our focus away, even if only for a little while, from earning power and the almighty bottom line.

The key to making a barter system work is being clear about what you can and cannot do. It's a bit idealistic to think that every service and good you need can be bartered for. But even a few exchanges can make life a little simpler and increase the social network that is so important to our lives.

Bartering With Gardeners

One of the best places to barter goods and services is with gardeners. Whether at the farmer's market or the local garden center, if you begin talking to the people around you, you'll find there is a natural exchange of gardening information that can be the start of a trading network. People who garden love to talk about their gardens, and also love to share. I would bet that very few gardens I've visited are comprised solely of plants and seeds that were purchased. Sure, I bought some of the plants in my garden, but the majority are the benefit of trades with other gardeners.

Possible Exchanges

Bartering can extend beyond the garden as well. Perhaps you know someone who is no longer physically able to tend a garden, but who does superb lawn mower repair. Consider exchanging herbs and garden produce with someone who has no garden, but perhaps can watch your children one afternoon a week. I like to grow seedlings, so I grow a few extra seedlings for a friend who repairs my trellises. How about offering to take someone to dinner if they will sharpen your pruners and grass shears?

Of course, always remember that the exchange can just go one way for now. Often the joy of giving, not receiving anything tangible in return, is the best gift.

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