The Art of Bartering

Farmgirls have long known that bartering is an effective means to an end. Trading goods for fun or in business fosters pleasant relations, trust and a healthy kind of pride in offering up what you have to trade. Money isn’t necessary in a trading transaction.

Bartering was the norm long before money was invented…

During the 17th and 18th centuries, money was scarce, so the colonists relied primarily on bartering, with commodities such as beaver pelts, corn, musket balls, nails, tobacco, and deer skins (from which we get our modern slang term, “buck,” meaning “dollar”). Rural folks in bygone days very seldom had spare cash, so they’d trade goods for services too. The country doctor was undoubtedly never short of eggs & produce, as well as being on the receiving end of whatever skills a person might offer up in trade for medical care, such as blacksmithing or carpentry.

This past weekend I drove out to our friend’s ranch (Jerry and Anita Shepperson) to participate in a bartering deal. I’m habitually long on horses while Anita is long on garden goods, milk, eggs and a variety of meat products (sheep, beef, poultry). She’s a farmgirl deluxe! Their home and buildings are situated on a much older homestead site, which has a mature shelterbelt of trees. We, on the other hand, live out on the windswept plains, not a good place for gardening. The best I can do is to tuck a few containers into spots that offer shelter out of the wind.

Back to the trade…I owned a young Morgan Horse that needed a new home. Jerry had his eye on said gelding. He and Anita had all kinds of edible goodies to offer for barter. It was a no-brainer. Jerry got his horse and I’ll have fresh milk and eggs coming for quite awhile, as well as 2 big turkeys, a whole deer, part of a beef and a lot of garden goodies. We spent all weekend butchering a beef and I returned home with coolers fully packed. My freezer runneth over!

Butchering the bartered beef

As I was driving back home, I recalled a scene from one of my favorite movies, Dances With Wolves. A Native American had befriended the Cavalry officer and to foster better relations and prevent a conflict over the officer’s stolen hat, he suggested a trade between the brave who took the hat and the cavalry officer. The thief was then bound by an imposed sense of honor to divvy up something of equal value, his breastplate. A peaceful transaction was had and the Cavalry officer’s friend smiled and said simply, “Good trade.” The art of bartering is perfectly summed up by those two words.

  1. Jeri says:

    Bartering really is a fine art! It was an absolute way of life for the pioneers who lived in this area of our nation. It’s such a simple way of doing business, but it’s very effective, especially when trading for the necessities.

    I love your pics!

  2. Mickey says:

    I still to this day barter for materials and end lots for my crafts. I have cleaned house for rock collections, traded daycare to have carpet laid, and exchanged 3 dozen homemade cinnamon rolls for sheet rock in my storage food closet.

    It never hurts to mention a trade or fair market barter, all they can say is no…..or offer to purchase those cinnamon rolls out right.

  3. CherylK says:

    I was just thinking about bartering a few days ago and wondering how a person would go about getting involved. It was nice to read about your experience. Those steaks look fabulous!

  4. Holly says:

    What joy it is to provide a need for someone, and getting something back makes you doubly blessed! Thanks for sharing!
    I wish we were of a society that did more of that. It makes you dig deep, look for your gifts and gives you value as a person. Have a great weekend!

  5. Marti Johnson says:

    I’ve been a barter-er for most of my adult life, trading fresh veggies & fruits in exchange for other things I’ve needed, mostly the more heavy-duty yard work that my husband & I are unable to do any longer. Two years ago, however, a hairdresser friend of mine said she really loved my hand-knit socks, so in exchange for a pair of knit socks, I get three free haircuts! Another good trade for us are several bags of fresh-picked Satsuma plums for a haircut. My hair grows over an inch a month, and I wear it short, so these kinds of trades work wonderfully for me.

  6. Tammie says:

    I love the pictures as well!
    I was looking at that meat. Wow, that is some deep color.
    (Can you tell I’m a city/ country at heart kind of girl?)
    I would love to spend time out in Wyoming.
    You should add photographer to your list of creative activities. (If you did and I didn’t see it, sorry.)

    Love your post

  7. Megan says:

    I wish I had more folk to barter with here!! I’d much rather barter than charge someone for goods or services.

  8. Tana Lews says:

    Bartering is lots of fun and it sure saves on the pocket book. Enjoy your blog. Love the pictures of you and your horse. Have a wonderful Boo Day and a great week-end.

  9. Julie Weaver (ClaireSky) says:

    It’s wonderful to hear that bartering is still amongst us. I don’t know how it would be perceived here where I live….maybe it’s happening and I am not aware of it. I love your posts! Keep them coming!

  10. Brenda says:

    I really enjoy each of the Farmgirl Blogs. My husband barters his hard work for hard work from from friends. It’s the best way to get help when I am unable to do the helping. Everyone is more likely to offer a hand when they know it will be returned when they need the help. I am listing all the Farmgirl Blogs on my blog site because I so enjoy reading them.

  11. Grace~katmom says:

    I too love to barter, my sewing skills for what ever…
    it is a good feeling to be able to trade my talents for the talents of anothers….

  12. Katie says:

    Bartering is great! I am amazed at the way my husband and his friends barter their labor and skills! Because of his skills, he is able to trade for just about any skills we need!

  13. Tammy says:

    I live in Southeast Missouri were bartering is still a common occurence even at the grocery store. I moved from a large city and am amazed of the trust and love that goes into each item offered (plus the wonderful stories!).

  14. Reba says:

    My sister and I did this just yesterday on some "big" items. I think we both came out pleased. "Good trade" makes for good relationships in family also.

  15. Lisa LeVasseur says:

    Hey Shery! Love your blog & proud that I’ve bartered with you. It’s been great fun for me & I’m almost done with that scrapbook! Great Work Friend!

  16. Just starting a new venture with a group of women sharing an old farmhouse on an island in Western Washington. I heard someone say "now we need a good cook" and I said "I love to cook and I’m good at it." Then I added, "what we really need is someone to clean up afterward." She immediately chimed in "I’m a terrific cleaner upper after-er." So– deal. I get to fluff bread flour around and chop herbs and marinate and parboil and braise and roast and someone else gets to follow in my tracks. Then we eat! This sounds like a deal.

    I’ve traded being an art teacher for the tuition for three children through a small private school. And ski lessons for those same three children for babysitting. I’ve paid attorney fees with wood carvings. This is a wonderful thing to do, and it is so much more satisfying than playing with the checkbook.

    Cheers from one farm girl to another! Susan

  17. Martha Cook says:

    In the late 1970’s, we paid $200-worth of our dentist bill with a bear skin, professionally tanned. We had shot the bear in season. This nice rug hung on the dentist’s wall for many years, until he redecorated his waiting room. Only in North Idaho…… At about the same time, we traded 2 cords of dry tamarack firewood for a $250 solid wood smallish dining table. I still have the table. In 1975, I walked into an antique store in Idaho City and bartered for a horse bridle – kept at it until the $25 price tag came down to $12 – bought it. Love the art of barter.

  18. Tonya H says:

    I think this day and age bartering is going to be something we are going to have to do allot. I need to start practicing. I have done it a little with cutting hair for someone in exchange for some face cream that she had made.

  19. Debra says:

    A few years back, I needed a crown in my mouth. Well the dentist and I made a deal. I made a quilt for him and he did the crown. It was one of the best deals I have ever made. I grew up as an auctioneer daughter.

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  21. truuli says:

    I love bartering, I make goat cheeses and I have trades all over town. We are trading cheese and milk to our vet for our past bill. I love our vet and the fact that bartering is beneficial to both parties!

  22. RYANSusana24 says:

    I had a dream to start my own business, nevertheless I didn’t earn enough amount of cash to do that. Thank heaven my mate suggested to take the loan. Hence I took the auto loan and made real my old dream.

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