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Barter markets are gaining momentum

What would you pay for a blouse by a fancy international designer?

Howick resident Nikki Brighton paid for it with a bunch of mint.

Brighton is one of dozens of people across the Midlands who have caught on to a growing trend of barter markets, where people come together to swap goods or services.

There are six barter markets across the Midlands, from Hilton all the way to Nottingham Road, with another in Ashburton set to start soon.

The markets have been running for about five years and keen barterers meet at least once a month. From vegetables and home-made bread, to livestock, furniture, clothing and yoga lessons, nothing is off limits at these markets.

Brighton, a long-time patron of a barter market in Howick, told Weekend Witness the markets were not just for “swapping brinjals for broccoli”.

“I run mindfulness courses and have swapped them in return for someone’s writing skills. There’s also unusual produce: you can’t go to the grocery store and get yugoslavian finger fruit or african horned cucumbers, but you can here.”

She said produce seeds were also a popular item among people at the markets. “On social media groups someone will say ‘I am selling a chicken’ and another person will mention a wardrobe they have that they don’t need. So this changes the way we see the value of things rather than the price of things.

“And it really fosters a sense of community. We meet like-minded people,” Brighton said.

Sarah Derrett, who began the first Midlands barter market, said she had noticed people coming from as far afield as Ballito to take part. “A few of us had market stalls and after the farmers’ market was closed for the day we would find ourselves with unsold produce. So we began trading with each other.

“From there we started social media groups and it just grew from there.”

She added: “The Midlands has amazing people who are artisanal and produce quality food, so it is ideal for this.”

Derrett said she once bartered six weeks’ supply of bread and vegetables for two piglets. She has also traded some of her bread for military artefacts.

“But normally people trade everyday stuff,” she said. “I think what people like about it is the ability to meet the producer who is responsible for what you’re eating and be able to interact with them. That aspect of it really draws people.”

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