Thursday, September 8, 2011

People on My Gulch: A Barter Network

Aside from bringing people in to live with me and help out with my farming, another idea I've had is the establishment of a private barter network. This would involve people outside of my farm, where I would establish intimate connections and form agreements as to what we would do during bad times. My idea differs from today's barter societies and those that may prop up in the future in that it would be more private: It would involve a limited group of people aware and desirous to trade for particular people's products, rather than offering them to the public at large, though the two selling fronts aren't exclusive.

Now I not only know that I'll have to give some things up to live this farm lifestyle that I envision -- like tropical produce (e.g. cacao, bananas, coconuts), free time, and maybe even internet and electricity -- but that I'll also be unable to produce everything I want. For instance, I don't have any sort of fish incorporated into my plans, so unless I bring aboard a fisher or fish rancher that's a culinary thing I might have to give up. However, what if I can convince the right people to connect with me and trade me fish during dire times when the market could have it unavailable?

In more stable times what I could do, along with my Gulch participants, is contact people with those desirable goods such as fish, talk to them about the farm and why it exists, and see if a private contact can be established so that we can agree to trade our goods once the market does become hostile. Successful agreements would mean that me and my employees would have access to even more good and services than the economy would otherwise allow, and that in bad times we'd have to give up even fewer values, all without necessarily integrating any more people in the farm. The people within this barter network would remain distinct and separate, so the purpose would be to create a web of contacts who would agree to trade goods on the basis of material products, not money, once it becomes either too difficult or impossible to obtain them in the market. Beyond securing a supply of certain products, it could also be a good mode of activism in spreading ideas regarding the objective estimate of the culture, the wall our economy will likely hit, and how we need to prepare to survive for a future worth waiting for.

I envision this network having two facets: a web of communications that's pooled together for the viewing of the whole network, and an additional tier in which the producer(s) only agree to make their information available to my farm in particular. In the former, the goal would be to establish a private kind of society where each member may or may not have communicated with each other in particular, but would have contributed their information to be visible to all those who join in this network, so a game meat producer and fish rancher may become aware of each other's willingness in the future to trade on the basis of goods despite never having communicated with each other. In the latter, a producer could opt to keep his information exclusive to my farm solely, which would both give people more options for levels of privacy and grant my farm a more exclusive access to a set of goods, and I anticipate some people desiring that option since I want my farm to be extremely varied and broad in what food offerings it provides, allowing a completely sufficient nutritional regiment all on its own.

What I think would make this idea easier to accept amongst local producers is that it would be an emergency backup plan by default, meaning there'd be almost nothing in the way of required action except regular communication to keep clear sincere interest. In better times, that's all we'd do: Talk. We'd continue producing as usual and using the market as usual, not interacting with each other in any way except through private contact and updating the list of open traders. Only once things get difficult, for some of us individually or everyone, would we actually make use of our agreements and begin bartering, negotiating what goods we'll accept for ours.

Aside from securing goods, it could also help me and my Gulch participants have an easier time remaining productive within their loved trades, since my project is about pursuing happiness and growing one's abilities after all. Each member could engage in the establishment of the barter network in his own way. For instance, I could set my focus on securing food goods, such as game meat from a group of hunters or fish from a rancher, while a carpenter could consult with a tree farmer for timber to fell. I can't think of many examples, but you get the idea. I could not only achieve a self-sufficient farm, but an even larger self-sufficient group of people. The barter network wouldn't be necessary, but it'd be a huge addition of value if my participants and I pull it off.

The economy may be geared for an eventual downfall, but the more and more I think about it I find there are plenty of ways to not only survive, but to also protect and cultivate your happiness as well. You just need to think, make the appropriate actions, and make peace with what difficulties you'll have to face and what values you'll have to give up. Tough decisions will have to be made and hard work will be required, but you'll be all the better off for it.

For my final planned article in the series explaining my various ideas about my farm, I'll make an efforts to construct a coherent, lengthy, and persuasive advertisement about my project to explain the nuances of the mechanics and call for people to join up with me. Given my other life interests and finickiness about time spent, these recent articles have just been dashed off to hurry and make note of something, so next time I'll exert more effort to integrate the information and elaborate on specifics, as well as attempt to persuade the heroes among us that my endeavor will be conductive to their happiness and worth joining in.

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