The Okanogan Family Fair (OFF) is planning a spring event in May, 2017.  Not a regular barter fair. Education will be one of the themes.  The Summit will likely happen at this OFF event.

Location: At the Okanogan Family Faire site (aka Tonasket Barter Faire). 11 miles east of Tonasket.

Learn how to start and run a barter faire. What are the legalities and practicalities you should know about?  Barter Faire Summit will bring together people who run or have run barter faires, with people who would like to start barter fairs. What is possible? What is easiest? Things to avoid? Tips, checklists, staffing, etc, Numerous, local barter fairs can help local economies function, especially for people marginalized from the mainstream economy. But easier said than done.  I could list over a dozen barter fairs I have seen come and go over the years. By having this in the Okanogan we can draw on the 43-year history of the Okanogan Family Faire. would like to invite sympathetic lawyers, and alternative currency experts, if you can turn us on to any.

Would you like to have a barter fair in your neighborhood?  It is a fun way of doing business.  It enables economic exchange between people who have little money.  Goods can change hands directly. can be like a combined yard sale, flea market, farmer’s market, and craft’s fair. I remember reading an article by a person who studied farmers markets and she said that one of the biggest reasons they were so successful is that people appreciated the human to human contact of a farmers market vs. the cold social system of stores and supermarkets.  Social as well as economic exchange.  You get to bump into friends, talk about things. Long term economic exchanges are arranged, news is shared.  There is a give and take, you can bargain over prices.  Community is built.

Community organizers from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana are invited.  This will mainly be a camping event. We can help some out-of town guests find local home-stays.

Contact me if you are interested in attending, or helping organize, this event.

Towards local, equitable economies,

Michael Skeeter Pilarski

[email protected]

Prepare your community for a currency collapse. Start a barter fair!
If speculators are positioning themselves for a financial collapse, shouldn’t we?

Further Background

Looking at the world today, it is hard not to worry about the future of the monetary system.  I have been noting increasing talk about a collapse of the US dollar. Word is that financial insiders are positioning themselves to profit from a financial meltdown/collapse of the US dollar.  The establishment may pick the time of the collapse or it might be beyond their control.  Of course, the financial system might not collapse, but let’s consider a scenario if it does.

When Argentina’s peso collapsed in 1987 there ensued the 1998–2002 Argentine Great Depression. In the first year after the currency collapse, 3,000 barter fairs started in Argentina.  They flourished during the depression, but largely disbanded once there was a stable currency again. 

the event of a currency collapse in the US, we should start thousands of barter fairs. There will be a window of opportunity to create the regular economic system won’t be working too well.

This training is hosted by Michael Skeeter Pilarski, founder of the 1974 Harvest Festival and Barter Fair which evolved into the Tonasket Barter Faire and eventually underwent a name change to the Okanogan Family Faire. Over the years I also started the Northeast Washington Barter Fair, the North Idaho Barter Fair, the Whidbey Island Barter Fair and the Big Sky (Montana) Barter Fair. 

The focus of a barter faire is bartering but cash is also used. Consider the path of a $1 bill or a $20 bill at the BF. How many times does it change hands? I spend money at the barter faire almost as fast as I bring it in. I make some sales and then go out and buy some treats, tools, clothes, winter food, etc.  Many of the people I buy from are going to run out and spend that money too.  And so on and so forth.  The money does allow easier access for exchange compared to finding someone who will want to trade for your winter squash, or jewelry or cookies, hats, crafts, massage, tires, whatever. Sometimes people do 3-way trades. Barter as much as possible but dollar bills are okay too. I probably do ¼ barter and ¾ cash at my barter fair booth. Some people only do barter and some only do cash, but most people do both.

Consider also the price haggling that goes on at the barter faire. Haggling over the price is common whether cash or barter exchanges.  When you go into Safeway to buy some food you can’t tell the cashier you want to dicker over the prices and see if they will reduce the price on some items.  But this happens all the time at the barter faire. Some stands (notably the food vendors) have a standard price and won’t deviate, but the vast majority of barter faire vendors are willing to wheel and deal. The use of money is not immoral.  It is exploitation that is immoral.

a currency collapse, the powers-that-be get together and make up a new currency/way to do business.  One scenario is that the Western world’s financial elite wants to ban all currency after the collapse and make everyone submit to only using electronic financial exchanges.  All can be seen and taxed. Funding can be denied to anyone who displeases the system.  No more under the table exchange.  Some of the cash economy is dark money but the vast majority of cash exchanges are moral. An electronic, cashless society run by the current financial rulers of the world sounds Orwellian to me.  We will see what happens, but there are going to be a lot of unhappy people in the world, should they try. They just took a big first step towards forcing everyone in India to go to electronic money.  Amazing they would try this in India where a large portion of the population only uses cash. We should keep an eye on the results of this India experiment. 

after the currency collapse, there will be a window of opportunity to create a local currency which can be used at the barter fair. This barter fair “money” enables a quicker and larger volume of exchanges at the barter fair.  There is a lot of info available on how this has been done in the past and current ways to deal with laws, legalities, etc. Let’s get some people who are knowledgeable about alternative currencies to outline what is possible.

Establishment doesn’t like competition and it has added a lot of regulations and enforcement since we started the first barter faire in 1974.  The Okanogan Family Faire as a legal entity has to interface with around 10 government agencies these days and an insurance company.  Finding venues for barter fairs is not always easy.

Not to sweep things under the rug. Barter Faires have a mixed reputation and we will talk about what we don’t want to see, as well as what we do want to see.  How to head off problems. The original barter fairs were idealistic, sweet, community events. Over the years, there crept in a partying element, abuse of alcohol and drugs, rude people, disrespect, junk food vendors. In the 1970s almost everyone who came was part of the back-to-the-land counter-culture. Today it is quite a wide cross-section of society. The percentage of loud party goers peaked in the early 2000s and the size of that contingent has been shrinking the last 5 years. 

Over the years the BF has had a wide range of policies and enforcement.  There is a big security team.  We have had a no alcohol policy for many years with varying degrees of success but it has helped.  Marijuana is around and now legal. Other drugs are discouraged.

It might be wise in some instances to not use the term ‘barter faire’ in your event’s title. Use sharing fair or country fair for instance. Consider a one-day event where people set up their booths early and took them down at the end of the day would need a lot less space.  Of course you don’t get as much community building as a full weekend camp-out, nor enable as much business.

What’s different from a farmers market?  The emphasis is on barter for one thing.  Could use the term “Trade Fair”.  Most farmers markets have hoops to jump through. Vendors have to meet certain criteria. Usually they happen weekly and vendors have to come for multiple weekends.

A barter fair can be held once or twice a year, or more often if need be.  Anyone who shows up can get a spot (there might be some criteria).  There is usually a fee to get a vendor spot.

The BF has always been a big family friendly event and thousands of children come and have a good time.  Many grow up and keep coming and participating.

If you could take all the good attributes of the BF and leave all the bad attributes behind, you would have a fabulous event.  The summit aims to outline how that can best be done.  There will be a discussion of the original spirit of the barter faire.  Barter, sharing, respect, generosity, community, DIY and a focus on food people have grown and crafts they have made. 

There is lots to talk about.  Multiple ways to do things. Let’s share ideas.


Barter Fairs I know currently happening.

Okanogan Family Faire

Santa Barter Fair

Hope Mountain Barter Fair

Cascadia Skillshare & Barter Faire.

you know of other barter fairs please let me know.

Photo by Chrys Ostrander


MICHAEL “SKEETER” PILARSKI is a life-long student of plants and earth repair. His farming career started in 2nd grade and his organic farming career began in 1972 at age 25. Michael founded Friends of the Trees Society in 1978 and took his first permaculture design course in 1982. Since 1988 he has taught 36 permaculture design courses in the US and abroad. His specialties include earth repair, agriculture, seed collecting, nursery sales, tree planting, fruit picking, permaculture, agroforestry, forestry, ethnobotany, medicinal herb growing, hoeing and wildcrafting. He has hands-on experience with over 1000 species of plants. He is a prolific gathering organizer and likes group singing.