Tips for the Trade or Barter

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Urban farming
Tags: , ,

Yesterday was Day 1 of the new goat share. Buttercup, the cow, is producing less and less milk, so Buttercup’s owner brought a goat up to Anaheim from her farm in San Diego. Toggenburg produces 1/2 gallon in the AM and 1/2 gallon in the PM. And Buttercup can still be milked. The result? A ton of milk in a house with three people, two of whom are mostly lactose intolerant.

Me, pointing at a jar, “is that cow milk?”
“No, that’s goat milk. It is the overflow that didn’t fit into the milk container.” Ken, pointing at two more jars,”that’s cow milk.”
As the two of us examined the dairy largesse, Ken said, “that’s a lot of milk. I’m going to take some to Heather and Peter.”

He returned with apples.

Among many other benefits of living in Southern California, that do not include things like unclogged freeways or reasonable costs of living, is the series of growing seasons which span the entire year. There is always something in season here. Always. Our first fruit score was a huge bag of grapefruit dropped on our porch by a neighbor who walked his dog, Lulu Mae, by our house daily. He liked to stop to talk. One day, he heard our chickens. He was surprised that chickens were allowed and even more surprised to learn that two houses down lived even more chickens. His brother has a chicken farm in the Inland Empire and the eggs were the best, he told us. But, he did not see his brother often and so, did not often partake of the excellent eggs. We gave him some of our eggs. The bag of grapefruit materialized a few days later.

The other chicken owners gave us mulberries. We had extra peppers and beans. Lonny down the street has a huge avocado tree. He gets his relatives to pick them and then, gives us bags of avocados. We take him dinner every now and again. Recycling Gilbert down the street drops guavas on our porch and we give him our cans. Verbally, I do not think we’ve ever exchanged more than hellos.

One of our most successful swaps was the Quail for Bacon Program. We stopped at the farmer’s market near our surf break for bacon. We love bacon, but do not love what most of the pork industry does to their pigs. So, we’ll occasionally get bacon from Da-Le meats. As we tend to do with most folks, we were chatting about this and that, when Dave, the proprietor, made a comment about butchering chicken. He suddenly seemed nervous, as if he’d said something we would not want to hear. I responded with a remark about butchering quail. “You have quail?” I nodded. “Do you ever have extra chicks? I have had the worst luck incubating quail.” Dave, as it turned out, really wanted to sell quail eggs. So, for most of the summer, when our quail were laying well, we traded quail chicks for bacon and other meat cuts we did not raise ourselves.

Random tips that seem to work for us:

1. Most of our success with swaps and bartering are directly related to talking to folks. These folks include our neighbors with trees full of fruit, vendors at farmer’s markets, and random shop owners. I honestly cannot say how we get onto the topics of swapping, but Ken and I will talk to pretty much anyone that is trapped behind a counter or fruit stand. A few weeks ago, I was chatting with the owner of a deli-pub near our house, where I buy hard cider. He gardens, I garden. We have a mutual love of the farm pirates at OC Farm Supply, so there is much to discuss. I mentioned we’d made rabbit sausage. He was interested. “If you bring a couple in, I’ll swap you for something here.” I’m just saying, pickled eggs, people!

2. Never underestimate social media. A friend of mine has a Facebook page dedicated to her little homestead. People trade on that page frequently. Lemons for turnips. Carrots for avocados. Heck, post on your personal page that you have a gazillion peaches, and see if anyone has anything to trade. When we have way to much produce, we will often unload it on Facebook.

3. Is there a small mom and pop store you frequent? Take them something you have that is extra. Our favorite donut shop is at our surf break. We found ourselves one day with a box of veggies and quail eggs for a fellow surfer who did not show the day we brought the goods. Not wanting the stuff to go to waste in the car while we surfed, we handed the box off to the folks at the donut shop. Do you think we paid for donuts that day? As if. They also tried to give us donuts the day we serenaded them with tubas, but that might have been to make us go away.

4. Do not chase people away from your recycling can. There is cash to be had from those cans and bottles! Or, sometimes, guavas or blueberries. After a year or so of not chasing Recycling Gilbert away from our can and telling Kazumi to stop barking at him, gifts of produce began appearing on our porch. We finally traced our mystery produce to Gilbert and his various fruit trees. Evidently, he gives other people in the neighborhood plants and flowers. I guess he figures we have enough of those.

5. Don’t always assume others want cash in exchange for goods. Dave, of the Quail for Bacon Program, initially asked us how much each quail chick would cost. I suggested we trade, instead. He was delighted.

6. I should also mention that we have given away veggies, eggs, and other food items many a time without expecting anything back. You may give away a box of eggs or a bunch of zucchini and never see anything in return, save a smile from the recipient. Or one day, you may find a bag of grapefruit on your front porch.

  1. Have you ever looked at going to some of the food swaps. I think the closest to you would be the central orange county food swap

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