Why Work Trade Works for Me

I love Tuesday mornings. I wake up before dawn, practice a bit by candlelight, make a smoothie, pack my lunch, grab my hat, put my muddy sneakers on, and get in the truck. I arrive at Liz’s farm in the still rosy early morning light. We move the chickens to fresh grass, fill their grain and water buckets, and collect their eggs. We move on to the vegetable fields, harvest greens, green beans, and okra while it’s still cool, talk shop, and plan the rest of the day.

Liz and I became friends through work trade. My partner, Patrick, and I live our lives split between Central America and New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and when we first moved to New Smyrna, we looked for ways to plug into the community. The first place we looked was the Farmers’ Market. As we wandered around the twenty or so stands, a handmade sign spoke to us: Green Flamingo Farm – Local, Sustainable, Delicious. We were stoked out of our skulls to meet young farmers in Florida, and came out to volunteer two days later. We weeded and seeded with Liz and her farm partner Mary, and went home with a bag full of organic veg. Now, four years later, Liz is one of my dearest friends and I am still giddy every time I get ready to spend a day at her farm.

Pat and I are lucky enough to experience the benefits of work trading from both sides of the deal. We host farm volunteers and yoga instructors at our farm in Costa Rica. Yoga teachers come to live (for free) with like-minded people, share their knowledge, and develop their teaching skills. We receive not only the benefit of their teachings but also their friendship. For those offerings we are more grateful than we can express. Volunteers make our life there productive, dynamic, and fun. I feel just as grateful now, here, working for vegetables on the other side of the equation and the other side of the Gulf of Mexico, as I do there meeting fresh new faces every day.

In my experience, work trade brings out the best in people. We who engage in work trading on both sides can meet on equal footing from a place of mutual respect, and work toward common goals. We give and receive real benefits in a sphere set apart from today’s monetary system. Furthermore, when we work for free, we tend to do what we love, or what we see as an act of true benefit to the whole. Engaging in work trade agreements gives us the opportunity to meet and work with others who strive to live and act from a place of truth, awareness, and compassion. So go, be brave! Find a way to give, receive, and have fun!

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