Maine Restaurant Bartering With Customers for Fresh Produce

Gather in Yarmouth, Maine, still takes cash and credit cards, but they'll accept carrots, too

Bartering for goods and services used to be common practice, and now a restaurant in Yarmouth, Maine, has decided to bring back the tradition.

"Gather" restaurant still takes cash and credit cards, but they'll accept carrots, too.

Twice a week, Matt Chappell puts a sign out on Main Street in front of his restaurant that allows gardeners know he's ready to do business.

"We put a list of veggies we're interested in and use all the time on Facebook, email and the website," Chappell said.

And in they come, carrying baskets, flats and bags filled with produce and flowers.

Henry Bergeron and his younger sister Annie brought in tomatoes, kale, summer squash, nasturtiums and beans from their family's garden in Yarmouth.

"I think it's a good idea because it gives restaurants a chance to use our food instead of just our family," said Henry.

Chappell says he got the idea in July when a neighbor came in with some extra radishes.

"They were gorgeous and he wanted them to be used. That's what got me thinking about turning this into something more formal," Chappell said.

The price per pound is listed on the restaurant's website. Chappell tallies up the produce using a digital scale in the restaurant kitchen.
But instead of cash, gardeners receive a gift card that can be redeemed at Gather.

"I like to come in and see if my stuff is on the menu," said Dale Inman from Freeport, who brought in a large flat of garlic, kale and basil.

Chappell says it's fun being surprised by what comes through the doors during barter hours. He also enjoys meeting people who share his commitment to fresh local food.

"There are lots of ways I could get people to come through the doors. I could litter the mailbox with coupons, but that's a transaction. It's not a meaningful connection," he said.

He says the quality of the produce has been outstanding.

"Home gardeners grow things in such a straightforward way and they're proud of what they bring me," he said.

A typical basket of veggies brings in around $10 depending on what's inside. Gardeners get the thrill of seeing their produce on a restaurant menu and the satisfaction of knowing their excess produce isn't going to waste.  

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