I have something you need; you have something that I need (or want... it just depends on what we're talking about here). You put a value of what you think your product is worth, and I'll do the same. It's as simple as that. No federal governments putting a supposed value on it, and no extra costs in printing the money. Just you and me making a trade.
With all the chickens that we grew out this year, we've come realize how much barter power we have with them. Those birds are pasture raised on corn free, soy free feed. They run around in the open air and foraging to their little chicken hearts' content. And apparently it's hard for folks to find a good source for their chicken dinner with a 'pedigree' like that. Years ago, after sitting down and running some numbers, we found it was cheaper to grow our own instead of buying it through a food co-op or farmers' market - that was the only reason we started raising our own meat. We had the space, and we already owned layer hens. How much harder can adding in meat chickens be? (That was a hypothetical question, therefore I won't answer that right now :P). It's only been in the past year that we've started exploring this option of 'bartering.'
A friend of ours has a really good source for vanilla beans. Wanna trade for chicken?
Some friends of mine are vegetable farmers but don't have a good source for chickens. We'd love to trade for some of your extra squash and onions and tomatoes and beets and and and and!
Elk meat for chicken? Bring it!
The booth that we go to at the farmers market in town? They ENCOURAGE trading. BOOM BABY!
Why didn't we get into this sooner? It's so much fun! We're going to have to include a barter batch of chickens for next year.