On a recent Saturday morning the Key Peninsula Civic Center hosted what looked, at first glance, like a craft fair. Folding tables were set up beside the picnic shelter and people began arriving with a wide variety of homemade and homegrown items.
On offer were jars of home-canned fruits and veggies, home brew beer, dried herbs, bread, jam, pickles and preserves, eggs and all manner of baked confections. But not just food –– there was jewelry cleverly crafted from metal scraps, crocheted newborn caps, homemade bookmarks and bags sewn from pillowcases.
On the far end, a woman painted henna tattoos. Elsewhere, a man filled his table with robust tomato starts and ready-to-plant annuals.
The event differed from a craft fair in one crucial way: Not a single item was sold for cash.
It was KP Barter’s first-ever barter fair. The group, which formed in April, provides a venue for area citizens to trade their homemade or homegrown items with those of neighbors. There is no cost attend a barter fair, use a table or trade. Raffle tickets, sold for a dollar each, helped with printing costs and fees for renting the facility.
“If you made it, you can trade it,” said Alice Kinerk, one of the group’s founders. “We know that there are many Key Peninsula folks who are skilled craftsmen, excellent gardeners, bakers, and so on. Many of us are already trading with neighbors, so we thought, why not provide a central location where trading can happen in a fun and efficient way,” she said.
No trades were allowed while people were checking in and setting up. Then, after a bell was rung, raffle winners drawn and a few announcements made, the bartering began.
The mood was pleasant and casual as friends and neighbors strolled about, discussing what they had brought and considering what they might like to take home. Others, just curious about how it all worked, stopped by to browse and ask questions.
Cofounder Nicole Bothwell sees barter as a chance to make friends and improve self-reliance.
“I think the barter group contributes to our community by helping neighbors come together to discover common interests. Where else would you discover that someone has a passion for making mustard? It also helps broaden our minds, and gets us thinking about what else we could make at home, rather than having to run to the store,” Bothwell said.
For items that could not easily be transported to the fair, such as goat cheese or firewood, vouchers were available to fill out as an agreement to trade off-site. Norma Toland, another founder, received a hen in an off-site trade.
Toland said bartering gives people access to a wide variety of items.
“I believe the community benefited by creating an avenue to obtain something they otherwise (maybe) wouldn’t be able to purchase. By bartering your crafted goods everyone benefits,” said Toland.
This year, the group plan to host four barter fairs, and may increase to six or 12 events in future years. The next barter fair is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 13 at the civic center.