The revolution has begun!
In the past couple of years, barter markets have begun to flourish in the Midlands.
Many of us feel overwhelmed by the speed and chaos of modern life and are searching for a slower, more considered and mindful way of living. While we may have plenty of money, often we don’t have a strong and caring community. Small, local groups have simply got going, creating an antidote to the fast life and gathering like-minded folk along the way.
The Barter It Bru crew gathers on the first Saturday of each month in Lidgetton or Lions River to share a diverse range of produce and skills. There is always wood fired Love Bread, oyster mushrooms, real milk, heirloom seeds, plants, often orange juice, clothes and books. “I really dislike seeing waste – fallen fruit rotting on the ground or veggies thrown away.” says Sarah Derret, “what is not valuable to one person might be useful to someone else, so bartering is the best way to share excess.” The actual value does not always matter – a bunch of fresh mint for a designer blouse – why not? If both parties in the exchange are happy, then everyone wins!
The barter meets always fill Kita van Nieuvenhuizen’s heart with joy. “There is nothing quite like giving and receiving. The barters are a bit like Christmas actually – a beautiful abundant Christmas that comes around more and more often. I always walk away with such a glorious abundance of goodies ranging from massive goose eggs, heirloom seeds, avos, lemons, the best loaves of bread around, and sometimes even a fabulous new item of clothing… What? All these goodies and all I traded was some homemade Worcester sauce? Everybody wins when we barter and trade!”
The Hilton Produce Exchange meets in James Craib Park beside the Tennis Club, each swapper contributing R10 to the group of volunteers who maintain this public space. The variety of produce that emanates from suburbia is nothing short of astonishing! From African horned cucumbers to the biggest Zucchini ever, with a myriad of other organic, home grown loveliness in between. Lots of folk come specially to catch up on local news, going from stall to stall with their tray full of granadillas or curry leaves, so see what they can swop, and make new friends. While some are a little sceptical about the bartering concept, they soon get the hang of it and love the fact that they go home with a basket full of goodies without spending a cent.
Danny Sanele “Wow, I say this market is a wonderful thing. It is great to interact with different people from different backgrounds!” Trish Gatland agrees “I love the community connection with home-growers, especially as I am a novice to the concept of self-sufficiency. I appreciated the understated acceptance of my newness to the idea and the opportunity to grow. It has become a non-negotiable aspect of our lives, now.” Allen Goddard is encouraged by all the people who are saving seeds, converting garden space to food growing and becoming more independent of commercially grown food. “This is what I understand to be the Green Revolution,” he says. Paula Usher thinks the market is the best idea ever and has started who own veggie patch and can’t wait to start sharing!
Karen Zunckel enthuses, “Often we all have the same excess crops in our gardens, so we have to get creative adding value to the vegetables to make them appealing. I have made preserves, dried fruit and vegetables, stock powers, pickles and learnt all sort of new techniques because of this.” Processing food to last beyond the season is truly building food security. “We’ve had someone bring a trailer load of horse manure, others ginger bread, kumquat juice, carrot soup and books. We’ve always been delighted by the variety of things we come home with. That’s the bonus of a produce exchange. We bring a limited number of things to trade and leave with a great selection.”
Miller Street Common hosts the Howick Exchange. Here the good vibes and conversation is as good as the produce and often the group lingers long into the morning beneath the trees. There is always kombucha, rhubarb, cordials and chutney. Depending on the season there are figs, naartjies, tree tomatoes, gooseberries and plums from homestead gardens just a few streets away. Nothing growing in your garden right now? Massage and readymade meals, hay mulch, firewood and yoga classes are all traded too. Xola Keswa is impressed that the Midlands community is working on food resilience, fighting food miles and easing economic pressure. “I was pleased to have something to do with all the extra green peepers in our garden, but most of all I enjoy the networking and sharing ideas.”
Dargle Trade is such a fun morning on the veranda of il Postino – held on the third Thursday of each month. Sharon Barnsley hates having to travel to town to shop, so loves the fact that local swapping cuts down on that. “From time to time, the abundance of home grown produce is overwhelming, so it is great to share with others that would enjoy it and, if they have anything to swap, that is the cherry on top.” There are always interesting surprises in Dargle – like persimmons or artichokes and occasionally blueberries too.
Il Postino restaurant snaps up all the fresh lettuce to use in the kitchen and serves delectable cappuccino in return. Eidin Griffin has absolutely adored every Barter meeting that she has been too. “I generally trade my seeds and unlike markets, I don’t have to worry about packaging them and spending time/resources on that but simply turn up with a few bottles of extra seeds and small unmarked paper packets or bags. I now also arrive prepared with an empty glass bottle for fresh milk (from a cow with a name- Starfish was my favourite creamiest milk last year), a basket and a big smile and go home laden with warm fresh bread, jams, eggs and even books. My best moments are spending time catching up with other like-minded folk and sharing ideas and experiences about homesteading and living more sustainably.” Rose Downard particularly loves the barter markets because they are all about giving and sharing, rather than making money. “It is a great way to encourage people to live locally, to plant and grow more for themselves and to share. It is always fun to come home with something different!”
The Curry’s Post Produce Market is barter or buy – giving options for those without gardens, but hopes to encourage more moneyless exchange in future. On the third Sunday of each month one can trade for heirloom tomatoes, veggie seedlings, charcuterie, berry jams, and artisan bread in the grounds of Mulberry Hill. Judy Douglas was awestruck when she visited the Hilton Produce Exchange and felt encouraged to dedicate more time to growing her own organic veggies. Inspired by the generous and gentle way of people in the Midlands, she gathered some neighbours and started the Currys Post version. “It is great to see people from the district supporting each other, creating a cohesive community.” she was pleased to report after the first gathering.
Megan Hodson is new in the Midlands and recently attended her first barter. “It was a lovely experience – meeting kind, generous, like-minded people and seeing the amazing things their gardens have produced. This is such an important initiative, getting people growing and sharing produce so we can all move away from the supermarket–dominated society and find more beneficial ways of doing things. I look forward to joining more meet-ups.”
Our local barter groups epitomise acting locally, thinking globally. Small, simple actions, like baking bread, can make a significant difference to our immediate environment and the planet. If enough of us participate, we really can create a new and better way of life – away from rampant commercialism towards working, playing and living better.