I am a bartering machine.
For two seasons, I have been a vendor at the Westside Farmers Market in Ann Arbor.
The market is Thursday from 3:00-7:00p.m. As closing time approaches, I jump into action. I look at my inventory and I start to walk around and see who has what and who (other vendors) might want to trade.
This practice came about because I sell sprouts, which will not last until next weeks market. I can only eat so much, so the leftovers will go to my backyard woodchucks.
This means that anything I could get in trade would be a bonus (sorry woodchuck).
I also make baked goods, which includes seasonal fruit and berry pies and other items like cookies, and breads. These are also on the list for trading at markets end because I only sell fresh made that day baked goods.
My rule for barter is that I trade for equal cash value for my items for their items. For example if my pies are $5 I say, “Give $5 worth of zebra tomatoes.” Usually I throw in extra and so do other vendors.
Most vendors are happy to trade for their extra produce.
Bartering is something that I just did and I did not think much of it, but it seems that I started a trend. Other vendors have followed my lead.
Before my bartering, most vendors would pay cash with other vendors usually at a slight vendor courtesy discount and not even consider trading, but now since I started trading many offer to trade first.
Every body wins.
A vendor is not required to trade and many don’t until the market is about to end, but many other vendors do and trading takes place during market times.
Many times I trade for my baked goods during the market to hungry vendors who want a snack. We settle up after the market.
The great thing about bartering is that we all get goods at a discount price. My pies did not cost me $5. Nor did their potatoes, lettuce etc…
It is great way to unload excess produce, which in many cases need to be sold that day or the vendor will take a loss.
I even now bring items to market with the intent to trade. Like for example, this week I made extra cookies more than I thought I could sell so I could trade them.
I feel that a side benefit of trading is that it helps to create a market where there is more variety. If everyone is selling the same thing then there will be little trading for example.
There is also something very farmy about trading. Before Big Ag took over, bartering was a way of life for farmers. Most farmers could not afford to pay cash for everything, so they barter. “You plow my field, I’ll help you harvest yours…and so on.”
I feel that bartering can make a come back. It will not work for everything, but in these days where global capitalism cannot seem to figure which way is up, bartering can take us back to a simpler way of doing things.
Here is a breakdown of this weeks bartering
1 pie, 1 cookie for home-made granola
3 cookies for 3 1/4 pounds of apples
1 pie and 1 cookie for jar of turnip pickles
1 pie and 1 cookie for 1 LB of chicken sausage
1 pie and 2 cookies for 7 acorn squash
2 cookies for heirloom garlic bulbs
1 cookie for 1 bag of french green beans
I figure that I bartered for $41.50 worth of farmers marker fresh food. This was a little more than average, but I will say this.
On days that it rains, which usually is a wash for most outdoor markets, I bring extra baked goods with the assumption that vendors will be primed to trade.
What I lose in sales I make up for some what in extra trading.