My foray into bartering came by accident.
I’d noticed a gentle and unmistakable clucking sound coming from one of my Richmond neighbor’s yards and, via a certain amount of observant nosiness, I learned that he’d converted one of his outbuildings into a chicken coop. I don’t see him home often, but the other day he was out checking his mailbox, so I asked about the poultry.
“If you ever find that you have more eggs than you can use,” I said, “I’d be happy to buy some from you.” Neighbor informed me that he fed his flock only organic feed, and was able to sell the eggs for $4 a dozen. Well, that’s at least twice what I pay for “yard eggs” sold at various places out west at the Polka Farm. I paused, not wanting to hurt his feelings at suggesting $4 was a pretty high price.
But he didn’t lose a beat. “You have fruit, right?” He was indeed correct. We worked out a deal whereby three of my big satsuma oranges equal a dozen of his eggs. Each of us has a vast surplus of our own product, but none of the other guy’s. My neighbor can’t even obtain satsumas (like giant, sweet, nearly seedless tangerines) in the grocery stores. And while I can get good eggs for $1.75-$2 a dozen out at the farm, it’s not convenient to be out at the farm every time we run out of eggs, which is pretty often considering my 13-year-old eating machine.
So the neighbor-barter profits each of us more than cash transactions would.
Coincidentally, agricultural barter No. 2 may be on the horizon, as an acquaintance of my wife’s learned that we have an over-abundance of Hachiya persimmons, of which she apparently is quite fond. For her part, she is an almost too-successful hunter, with a freezer full of venison and the prospects of more on the way. Again, each of us has a surplus of a product nearly unattainable by the other.
With luck, this could become habit forming.