There's a new business-to-business food program here in town using the good old fashioned bartering system to feed small business owners and provide valuable services to food producers.
It's called The Edible Exchange and it's an offshoot of the The Barter Group, a longtime local company that facilitates bartering. In this case, the focus is on food produced by local farmers and ranchers.
Lori Baker, founder of The Edible Exchange, knows the barter business. In 1993 she joined The Barter Group, based in Scottsdale.
Here's how it works:
If you are a small business owner in the local food community, you can set up an account and start exchanging your business' products or services for "edible exchange dollars" to be used at other Barter Group members' businesses. The Edible Exchange dollars have the same value as a cash. The scrip is obtained at The Barter Group's physical office and sold in $10 and $25 denominations.
So, say you're a masseuse and you want to get some grass fed beef. You take your Edible Exchange dollars to the farmers market and use that instead of cash. Then that grass fed beef farmer wants to get help with media. He can use his Edible Exhchange dollars with a marketing company that's a member of The Barter Group. Make sense? No, you can't use your backyard lemons to get tickets to a play, you have to be a small business owner -- sorry.
Baker's company's "standard fee plan is 6% cash on each transaction and a $20.00 monthly maintenace fee (1/2 cash 1/2 trade)," she explains. Right now, it looks like they are offering the first 30 Edible Exchange members a free membership. (As of publication time, they're at 21 members.)
There's also a limit to how much scrip you can purchase. Here's how they explain it on the site: "We can sell each member $25 per week for most Edible Exchange vendors. That means you can spend $25 on meat, $25 on produce, $25 on fish and so on. Vendors with shelf stable foods have no restrictions (within reason)."
So far the vendor list is a real a who's who list of food trucks and farmers market purveyors -- folks like Torched Goodness and Pinnacle Farms. What's also a nice benefit is that the food vendors aren't limited to just the food from The Edible Exchange, they can pull from the entire network of 450+ vendors providing just about any product or service needed. Here's a link to the list of companies participating.
Here's an introduction video we found on The Edible Exchange's site featuring Baker:
And here's one about The Barter Group. Look out, it feels like an infomercial but if you're patient, you'll see members like Susan Wilcox from The Herb Box talking about how they use it and love it.