Community Philosphy Blog and Library

Good Food Communities: Starting a canning club or bartering club

Some of you may have noticed some very interesting conversation happening in the Food Preservation group over the last few weeks. Torry, Pat and Harriet have been bouncing around ideas for making the most out of the food that’s available locally, when it’s available throughout the year: keeping it high quality, diverse and affordable, all while having a fun canning get-together. We hope that sharing this kind of story may inspire others to think about how they might like to gather with their local folks for play, food, skillsharing and frugal solutions for themselves and their local farmers. Enjoy!

Pat, who has organic farmer buddies and who is, by anyone’s definition, a jack-of-all-trades, has the most ambitious plan: A bartering club:

I have always liked the social aspect of group activities as opposed to working alone. It makes the work more fun and often its easier/more efficient if there are several people doing the task (assembly line kind a stuff). I also think it would be a good idea to can what is ripe when it is ripe and put the excess in a community stockpile to be bartered to those that didn’t show up for that particular canning and get some for themselves. Thus the need for the value points or some system where there isn’t a need for face to face bartering). Say the club goes out to the fields and picks blueberries, makes jams, jellies, preserves & pie filling with 100lbs of blueberries (I can pick about 10lbs an hour so if 5 of us go it would only take a short morning). Now those five folks spend the day canning the blueberries and take home a few jars each. There will still be a lot more jars than can be used by the five, so they would be left in the community stockpile and each be given a credit for whatever amount of points canned blueberries are worth. Next week a different group of folks goes out and cans turnip greens and does the same thing (now the community stockpile has blue berries & turnip greens and two separate groups have credits that can be used for either. Maybe after the summer is done there is a stockpile of 25 or 30 items and 40 or 50 people have credits…..Kind of a nice to be able to get canned potatoes when you need them instead of having to have a big pantry containing a little of everything. Just a thought. The club would be good even if we just canned what each of us could use and barter among ourselves.

Harriet, a downright celebrity among HOMEGROWNers (she wrote A Householder’s Guide to the Universe and teaches preservation classes in Portland, OR), and “kitchen warrior” says:

I was thinking a little more on the line of going to a farmer and saying….if you give me a bushel or two of tomatoes I will return  jars of canned tomatoes for your pantry.  The barter would be between me (or the canning club) and the farmer since I know a lot of busy farmers that can’t put up the harvest.  But your system puts a “cash” value to each type of canned food to create its own monetary system which I totally like as well.  It seems there would be some standards you would need to set and some labeling requirements but with enough people being really into it, it could work.

I think I will start more directly with farmers and grow the system slowly.  I’m thinking a canning club will be like buyers clubs but with the added dimension that the farmer is exchanging or discounting some of the produce for his or her share of the canned goods.

Torry, the crown king of barter and trade on HOMEGROWN.org (he founded the Resurrect The Barter group and leads online swaps for the community there) has this to say:

I’m starting this discussion to brainstorm ideas about starting a barter circle.  I’m hoping to get something going here in the Greater Greensboro area, something along the lines of cashless exchange for homegrown and homemade products.  I have to admit, usually I am the ‘maker’…when someone has an idea I’m a good implementer, however on this one I am upside down.  Community awareness events, start-ups, websites, networking, none of these things are my forte’.  Hints, tips, tricks, anyone?

Do you have a canning club where you live? Does a bartering group sound like something that you would participate in? What are ideas that you have for the group? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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6 Responses to “Good Food Communities: Starting a canning club or bartering club”

  1. Good work ye ole administrator. This will be an exciting thread. With so many folks putting their mind to working around or outside the mainstream economic system this is sure to be a lively conversation.

    My assumption is that we are all inspired by the opportunity to create a system that is fair to farmers, householders, soil, critters and social justice. We are working like the dickens to create a more equitable and compassionate world. That it ends up looking like jars in a pantry or potatoes in the root cellar is just one of the snapshots of what this world might look like. But good golly miss molly, we are on the beam and the kids??? OMG, the kids! They are coming on like gangbusters with energy and commitment galore. Somethings happen here……. Of that I am clear.

  2. We’ve been having food swaps for the past year and a half or so and the movement has really taken off around the country (and even abroad). It’s a great way to diversify your homemade, homegrown or foraged bounty! We’re working on a main swap network website, but for now here’s the list of existing swaps by state and country: http://hipgirlshome.com/foodswaps/

    I’ve also taken produce directly from a farmer and returned it canned (to be used as presents for farm volunteers), keeping a few jars for myself in exchange. I don’t know the regs about farmers selling home canned products, but I know it sure helps to move produce along in utility (and extend its shelf life). Great ideas HOMEGROWN folks!

  3. Pat Johnson Says:

    While the Pensacola Can Can Club has not yet begun to barter, we have canned a huge amount of produce over the summer. 1100lbs of tomaotes, 1000lbs of peaches, hundreds of pounds of boiled peanuts, pickled okra, meats of various kinds……and now we’re all set to make sauerkraut and then can that in November. We’re also going to do a sausage making event (brats, Itailian, chirizo…) in between shreading the cabbage to ferment and it being ready to can a month later. We’re over 100 strong to date with about 25 showing up at any given event. Its really turned into a social event where we all go home with something to eat instead of the usualy empty wallet we get from most other social events. And what a great/diverse group of people. Everyone works and pitches in to get everything canned so there are no freeloaders and everyone seems to get along well reagrdless of their background, social/financial status… in theie day to day lives.

  4. Try to remember each time you buy a fair trade product you actually help support families as well as causes all over the world.

  5. Lisa Robin-Henning Says:

    I am interested in starting a canning club. Do you have any website/blog/book suggestions on how?
    Thank you

  6. Pat’s Pensacola Can Can Club certainly provides an excellent example. It’s simply a matter of finding motivated folks to share resources. Join their Facebook Page if you have specific questions.

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