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Barter Fest on June 12 encourages community trade

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Posted: Monday, June 6, 2011 1:35 pm

The Cowry Collective and underWAREs will host their first Barter Fest on June 12. The two St. Louis bartering groups strive to strengthen community and grow independent from the conventional dollar. Barterists are encouraged to trade or showcase the "wares" they offer, including a variety of foods, drinks, and crafts, services such as bike repair and live (or scheduled) haircuts, and more. 

The swap will take place on Sunday, June 12 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the GYA Community Gallery and Fine Craft Shop at 2700 Locust.

Not a barterist... yet? The event is open to the public and will also feature live music performances as well as a potluck and a clothing swap. So bring your dancing shoes, a dish, and the stack of clothes you never wear.

So why barter? "Creative community building" is how Chinyere E. Oteh likes to describe The Cowry Collective, a local timebank serving the Black community in the greater St. Louis area. "Living in a capitalist economy where we often feel separated from each other as we pour more and more of ourselves into money-making, bartering is a wonderful way to truly value yourself, your experience and skills while getting to know others in your community."

"Being able to get backyard chicken eggs and home-brewed beer from neighbors is much more fulfilling than going to a supermarket," says Geraldine Co of underWAREs' Barter Circle, which is currently up to 70 members, offering a diversity of goods and services from garden labor to carpentry to child-friendly "sock monsters." "It's amazing to see what the barterists are capable of, albeit small scale." Co and partner Joseph Fischer update the barter directory monthly for a print zine, and the pair also host monthly underground dinner parties at secret locations with rotating chefs. The dinners are affordable too - at only $10 to $15 a head, the inclusive dinners are another way to bring the St. Louis community together around food.

"Bartering is a healthy, empowering exercise in which we showcase our individual talents and passions and source locally," says Fischer. "We strive to foster community in St. Louis through these exchanges and build the uniqueness of our city."

If you are interested in participating in displaying goods/services at the event, please contact Joseph at 708.256.0994 or

For more information on The Cowry Collective, visit

For more information on underWAREs, visit


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