Monday, November 14, 2011

A Nice Barter Arrangement

With the beginning of cold weather, I've been reaching for canning jars of homemade chicken stock a lot lately.  So much so that I'm completely out, not only of chicken stock, but of any stock whatsoever.  I don't like being without this building block of good soup, which is so fortifying at this time of year.  I have a few carcasses from roasted chickens saved in our freezer, but I know they're not going to make as much stock as I'd like to be putting up right now.  Buying commercial stock, even the organic brand that I used to buy, just isn't on my radar these days.  As anyone who's made their own knows, store-bought stock just doesn't hold a candle to homemade.

So I started looking through the market lists of the grass-based farms in my area.  Even though I'm fully aware of how much work goes into raising healthy, ethical food, I'm still often initially surprised by the prices of animal products from these businesses.  My next thoughts are always the same: the prices are fair, given what I know about labor and materials costs for this type of production, and given the methods they employ which show a proper respect for the environment; and to boot, none of these farmers are getting rich on the prices they're charging for the foods they offer.  Still, when I saw the price of the chicken backs and bones from other animals that I would need for making stock, I decided to try a different tack.

I asked my Farming Friend whether she might be interested in bartering finished stock for the bones to make it, a 50-50 split.  I know she likes to cook with stock, but she's a very busy woman, and I figured she wouldn't mind having someone else do the work.  As it turned out, the offer was especially attractive to her, because she doesn't have time to do the canning.  She has typically frozen her stock, but that ends up using too much of her freezer space, which is at a premium for the meats that she sells.  So I told her I'd be happy to make and can as much stock as she has bones for over the winter months.  It's a win for me because I get free bones and I can do this work when the demands of the garden and livestock are minimal.  As a bonus, the heat generated by the roasting, simmering, and canning processes will be most welcome in the house at this time of year.  She has agreed to return the canning jars and the re-usable lids and rings that I use.  And she'll send lamb and goat bones my way any time she has them on the same barter basis.

I'm always so tickled when things like this work out - a benefit for both parties.  I trust her to produce good, clean food.  She trusts me produce tasty and safely canned stock.  I call that win-win any day, and I'd like there to be more bartering in my life.  It's something I sometimes feel shy about proposing to people, even though no one has ever seemed offended by the idea of barter. 

I'd be curious to hear about any barter arrangements you have.  If you barter, were you the one to propose the exchange?  Have you ever been turned down on an offer to barter?  Any tips on how to successfully arrange bartering agreements?

26 comments:

Farmgirl Cyn said...

I LOVE bartering! For the past 1.5 years I have bartered kombucha for raw milk from a friend who has a milk share that generates just too much milk for her and her hubby. She has graduated from kombucha to my homemade breads...sometimes it is english muffin bread, sometimes it is garlic knot rolls, sometimes it is sourdough artisan. This week she would like to barter the raw milk for some of my homemade soaps...she is thinking ahead to Christmas gifties. I also have bartered a whole mess of my ferments for a winter herbal CSA share that is worth over $200. I gave her kimchi, sauerkraut, sourdough english muffin bread, fermented asparagus, etc., and I get a whole basket of her herbal tinctures, potions, teas, salves, etc. I am in the process of bartering some hand spun (from her own sheep!) wool yarn from a blogging friend for some of my cold process handmade soap. What I love most about bartering is when both parties feel they are getting the better end of the deal! I think that makes for a successful barter.

Wendy said...

Awesome!

We're still working on our barter network. Right now, I'm working on some "barn rope" baskets with the intention of taking them to the monthly "Swap Meet."

becky3086 said...

Good deal! I am out of stock too but I have some chicken backs still in the freezer to make some out of...just need more time.

darius said...

I bartered for a little bit with a family who raise a few goats, getting fresh goat milk and giving them half the cheese I made from the milk.

I loved the exchange, and only stopped because ➀ their milk production was waning, and ➁ it was a very long round-trip to get the milk.

pelenaka said...

Those who are bone keepers please raise your hand, lol. My mom loves those whole baked chickens from the supermarke,t but not the breast portions which she gifts to me. After removing all the white meat I have been collecting them in half gallon mason jars stored in a corner of teh freezer. Now that hunting season is soon to be I'll hopefully need the space so I too will be roasting & simmering, & canning.

In the past 10 years that I have been seriously bartering I have come to notice a greater acceptance and a joy in people who normally wouldn't barter.

Califia's Lap said...

I'd love to get into bartering but I have no idea where or how to start. I live in a mid-sized city where I think something like this would really work or may even already be in place. Does anyone have any ideas about how to start up or join a community focused on bartering. Thanks.

Daniel said...

I would also recommend bartering online when you're out of local barter options. I use barterquest.com to find new opportunities. It's quite enjoyable :).

Sue Sullivan said...

I don't have a standing, formalized barter except for my massage trade with another therapist, but we have many other more informal experiences. My husband often informally swaps tools and physical labor with friends and neighbors. He doesn't ask for an immediate return but is generally rewarded with something he can use -- the friend who asks for his design and illustration services saves up good hardwood scraps from his day job at a lumber/millwork business. A neighbor who borrows tools and Steve's help from time to time gives Steve access to his brewery's supply of waste oak staves once a year or so, both of which go into our woodstove and supplement our less dense, locally sourced cottonwood we burn. Before we got a trailer, a neighbor lent us theirs to haul brush and we offered them excess fresh garden produce, along with most everyone else in the neighborhood.
I give away plant starts and a no-doubt excess of growing information to anyone who dares ask; later I've gotten (more or less in return, out of the social capital I've build) a mess of free, high grade soaker hoses, bags of jalapeno peppers from a too successful garden and free pet sitting from our across-the-street, enthusiastic neophyte gardening neighbors.

I'm wondering if you've ever posted about your preferred stock-making and canning process? I've made mine but I don't love it better than the store-bought organic chicken stock, and I'm wondering what I'm doing wrong....

MooMama said...

Our best barter arrangements have been with people we know pretty well.

We have an informal bartering arrangement with a neighbor. He gleans fruit from around the city and gives it to us. I send back a portion of it to him in the form of canned fruit or dried fruit.

My husband provides some labor for a friend and in return we get free organic turkeys.

He also helps raise some fryers and we get organic chickens at below-market prices.

For us these arrangements came about because we expressed an interest and a willingness to share in the work.

Sandy said...

I help milk the goats and tend the herd at a local Agricultural Education Center, where I board my goat and her two kids. We haven't discussed future kids yet. In exchange, I get my goat's board (I chip in when needed; not very often) and fresh, raw milk. The owner often gifts me with various cheese products and occasionally a chicken or a piece of pork from the farm's healthily raised animals, and I, in turn, bring her lots of home-cooked foods and soups. I think, in the older days, they called this being a good neighbor (or friend)!!! Works for me!

Alice said...

Our neighbor gave us a bucket of walnuts from his tree in exchange for one small old dead fruit tree, which he cut up and hauled off.

Heather said...

We love to barter as well and find it a bit challenging in our large city, but we've done a few things and put the word out when we can.

I bartered canning zucchini relish and assorted other produce (that she brings me) for grass fed beef/free range chickens one a year. And the biggest value item we've bartered was website design for an attorney (by my husband) who then drew up our trust and will for us.

And recently we bartered a few loaves of freshly ground wheat, homemade bread for free range chicken eggs from our midwife...if only the chickens were producing more :)

Bartering is wonderful!

Barter411 said...

You have put organic free-range chicken stock on my radar now. It sounds delicious and so healthy for you. I would barter something for a few jars of that.

Kate said...

Cyn, sounds like you have a great lineup of barter options. Good for you! It seems like I always end up feeling like I get the better deal, even though I always try to give a bit extra.

Wendy, I too would like to have a developed barter network. I should work on that a bit over the winter months.

Becky, yeah, it's finding the time. Fortunately, it's a rainy day here today, so indoor work is on the schedule.

Darius, that sounds very much like what I'm doing with the bones and stock. Too bad it involved so much travel.

Pelenaka, yes, I always keep my bones. I love good stock far too much to waste them! I'm glad to hear, that bartering seems more accepted recently. I hope it'll become more widespread.

Califia, I think there are websites for bartering in some larger cities. Maybe they exist too for lower population density areas as well. I find it easier to just get to know the people I'd want to barter with, at least at the acquaintance level. Farmers in general seem quite open to such arrangements in my experience. I think it has to do with their direct experience of the work that goes into producing things. They're more likely to understand the value of things.

Daniel, thanks for the suggestion. I'll check it out.

Sue, we have lots of those informal arrangements too. They're very satisfying in a different way. Sounds like you've really made some good barters.

MooMama, good point about trading labor on farms for food. I heard of at least one such standing offer at a local-ish poultry farm, though I've never done that.

Sandy, that's a great arrangement, and I know it's especially convenient for you in terms of transportation because of your route to/from work. I agree that in the old days these sorts of arrangements were the order of the day. We could use a lot more of that these days.

Alice, sweet! That's a deal I'd take any time.

Heather, it's funny what things are easier, and what things are more difficult in the city vs. the 'burbs or more rural areas. But it sounds like you've made a pretty good run at it, with some nice returns.

Kate said...

Barter411, oh yeah? Where are you located, and what do you have to barter?

Kate said...

P.S. Sue, I have posted a few tips on stock-making a while ago. You can check them out here:

http://livingthefrugallife.blogspot.com/2008/11/two-gallons-of-lamb-stock.html

If that's not sufficient, please let me know and I may get around to posting something more comprehensive. It goes without saying though that the best stock comes from good ingredients.

Maryam said...

Hi Kate,
I just stumbled across your site while looking for information on raising rabbits for meat. I am amazed and impressed with all you have accomplished. I live in Warfordsburg on a 150 acre farm/spiritual retreat center and we are also learning how to be more self sufficient. Is there a good way to contact you? I would like to extend an invitation to you to visit our farm and if possible, I would love to visit you to learn from your experience. Sincerely, Maryam

Kate said...

Maryam, Warfordsburg is a far piece for me, but I'd be delighted to have an interested visitor. To contact me, pick any of my posts more than a month old and leave a comment including your email address. The comment won't be published and I'll contact you by email.

Elizabeth said...

I've had several good bartering experiences: rabbit meat for the use of a chicken plucker, organic chicken eggs for raw milk (for making cheeses), etc. But the newest deal is that I'm going to watch over/ take care of a neighbor’s elderly, live-in mother (I’m a nurse) while they go on a winter vacation and in exchange, the husband is going to put in a perimeter fence around our property! He thinks he's getting the better deal and I think I am! Can’t beat that!

Laura @ Living Our Way said...

This is a great arrange. It does cost a lot to raise ethical meat. We ran out chickens in the backyard for meat and I had to purchase organic chicken at Walmart. My husband says it's cheaper than raising them but then we don't really know much about how the ones at Walmart were really raised.

Dmarie said...

wow, major win win!!

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

Nice deal! I'll trade just about anything for just about any other thing, and I've done arrangements similar to yours -- I recently got a huge batch of cucumbers to pickle in return for half of them back, pickled. Since your arrangement was the same, I'm tempted to think that half back is SOP.

Favorite trade to date: turkey feathers from our flock for three kinds of home-cured olives.

Barter on!

Kirk said...

We've done a work-share at our favorite CSA, and I trade 2 pints of homemade maple syrup for a haircut. I'll probably be sportin' a pony tail in the lean years!

Jennifer Montero said...

We've got a sweet deal in haircuts for produce. Husband gets his hair cut for half a dozen eggs. I go to the posh salon in town, and the only way to afford it was to cut my own hair twice, and let the stylist tidy it up (and even up the ends!) the third time.

The stylist offered to exchange her services for meat box of equal value: lamb, chicken, and game. Not only does it maximise the return on our meat - she pays 'retail' price - but it means I get to be pampered a couple of times a year, guilt-free. Hey, I truly earned it!

Practical Parsimony said...

I love bartering! I love your blog. This is my first time here. Unfortunately, I am still searching for the barter of fruit in exchange for my canning it. My friend that was my barter buddy died two years ago. I never asked her where she got everything, or I could go to them myself.

The funniest barter happened at a yard sale. I wanted a chair--$2--but had spent what I had in my purse at the same yard sale. These people did not know me, but since I had already written them a check for something, besides spending cash, they now knew me. He was a policeman. I traded a dozen fresh eggs from my yard for the chair. Two years later, I saw they were having another yard sale. They remembered me. Wonder why?

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