By Josh Boyd
It is no secret that living a self-sustainable lifestyle requires you to meet your every need, without being reliant upon goods from box stores and big businesses. However, many homesteaders and micro-farm owners fall into the trap of feeling as if a self-sufficient lifestyle is out of reach, due to their inability to procure all that is needed from their own property.
In reality, this could not be further from the truth. Those who are crafty, can turn a single resource into a bounty of goods, from which an entire family can thrive. With a little ingenuity and a knowledge of other local commodity producers, one can barter their way to a sustainable way of life.
The Value of the Barter System
According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, bartering is defined as, “to trade by exchanging one commodity for another.”
To understand how bartering comes into play when homesteading or living a self-sufficient lifestyle, you must first take a look back upon the days of yesteryear.
Bartering served as a way of life for many of our prior generations, especially in rural settings. When money was tight, but goods were needed to sustain life, individuals would offer whatever they had at their disposal to those that possessed the commodity that was in demand.
A transaction of this nature required no money to change hands, and was dependent upon each party requiring a good or service that the other possessed. If you were to have a wealth of a desirable commodity, it was entirely possible to stock supplies for the winter ahead by trading any excess to those who had that which you were in need of.
One of the most obvious examples of bartering is that which pertains to goods. In most cases, this is a simple transaction that centers around the swapping of consumables.
If you were to have several laying hens that produced a multitude of eggs every week, any excess eggs could be bartered to acquire other goods without monetary purchase. If you did not have a garden of your own, but your neighbor’s garden yielded a sizable amount of fresh produce, you could exchange several dozen eggs for vegetables to be canned for later consumption.
The same type of trade could then be initiated with others in the community, that have additional commodities at their disposal. In theory, your prized laying hens could be used to acquire a sufficient supply of fresh bread/baked goods, milk, cheese, meat, and additional items such as handmade soaps.
One can also barter services in a similar manner. In most cases, everyone has a certain skill at their disposal, that is of worth to others in the community. Using this skill in order to obtain a service that is of equal benefit, is as simple as offering up a mutually beneficial barter agreement.
For example, if your homestead lacks a garden to grow an adequate amount of produce for self-sustainable living, but you do not have the time or equipment to prepare a sizable seedbed, this is a task that can be bartered out.
If your neighbor has a tractor at their disposal, and you are handy with a wrench, they will likely disk up a garden for you if you would volunteer to fix a pesky mechanical issue or two that they have been experiencing. In the process, your neighbor’s equipment is left in better shape than it has been in years, and you are provided with a garden that will continue to sustain your family and way of life.
Self-Sufficient Living on a Budget
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the barter system is that it allows an individual to obtain goods or services that they would not otherwise have at their disposal, without so much as a penny switching hands. For past generations, bartering had less to do with convenience, and everything to do with survival.
The barter system is as old as man himself, and is as timeless as it is useful. If you are looking to live a more self-sufficient lifestyle, but have limited resources at your disposal, barter any excess goods of value to provide yourself with all that is needed for complete sustainability.