Yesterday I went to the grocery store. I picked up brown rice, toilet paper, orange juice, and lemons. It was an average summer trip. Sometimes we need peanut butter, or maybe olive oil, but rarely can we fill even one of the 10 or 12 canvas bags in the trunk of my car.
Obviously most of that is due to the farm. But that’s not all. Certainly our chest freezers are full of meat and it’s difficult to open the refrigerator without beets or carrots or cabbage rolling out and onto the floor, and there’s not always room on the counter due to the cantaloupe or tomatoes but there’s more to life than meat, fruits and vegetables. There’s cheese for one thing. Bread for another. And, of course, sweets. And that’s where bartering comes in. It’s one of my favorite things about going to market.
At the end of the day in Plymouth or Cambridge, several vendors dart back and forth between stalls bartering their wares. We might trade some potatoes, onions, and a bunch of gladiolas for a delicious Atwell’s Gold or fresh mozzarella from Narragansett Creamery. Or some garlic and a luscious tomato for my favorite flax-seed rye from Danish Pastry House. Fishwife will come by for some ground beef, add it to our shared tab, and one Saturday we’ll cash in that tab by picking up a few fresh-from-the-sea lobsters at her house or the market she’s attending. And the sweets! Wednesdays are a great day on the farm because after lunch we pull out a back *full* of treats from Mariposa Bakery and Danish Pastry House, all goodies exchanged for our delicious veggies the day before at the Cambridge market.
But bartering doesn’t end there. We’ve bartered some or all of a CSA share for incredible music at our annual farm day from our friends and CSA members The Lindsays, or for advertising in our favorite publication: Edible South Shore. I’ve even traded veggies for some help with my back from a vegetarian osteopath.
It’s a great way to supplement what we get from the farm and it feels good. It really makes you think about the value of things. And it drives home a sense of community. I’m still keeping my eyes open for a wine vendor that’s looking for that perfect tomato, but overall we get what we need!