Bartering is alive and well in Ventura (first of two parts)

The Calhoun girls modeling the homemade masks they’ve received through the group.

by Mira Reverente

When a friend recently added me to a new group on Facebook, I thought, “Oh no. Another group.” I couldn’t bear the thought of contributing to another toxic taxidermists’ tribe, peachy pandemic-related pack or lonely-during-lockdown singles group.

But my initial trepidation slowly turned into amusement and then delight. The Ventura Free Barter and Trade group turned out to be an inspiring and community-oriented group, more than any other group I’ve ever belonged to.

Just like most newbies, I looked, I lurked and looked some more, before writing my first post. The free avocados caught my attention but I wasn’t sure what to offer. Then I remembered I had boxes of protein bars. Thankfully, this gentleman named Scotty Gray was interested and the deal was sealed via porch pick-up. I never even saw Gray. Welcome to social distancing!

Gray, a facility operations specialist at Point Mugu, is one of the group’s four moderators and I am one of many recipients of his homegrown avocados. I was hooked. Reached by phone, one of Gray’s first questions was, “Do you need more?” I said, “Yes, but let me get through my stash first.”

That’s just how the group is – generous and genuine, without much expectation of anything in return. Since the avocado exchange, I have also been the grateful recipient of banana muffins, a tomato sapling, seedlings and a coffee grinder. In return, I have offered cases of water, wine, baking ingredients and even that partial propane tank that’s been hiding in my garage since the last camping season.

Flashback to a little over two weeks ago (a lifetime during these times) – right around when the lockdown order was implemented, Tammy Calhoun found herself in a store, increasingly bothered by the massive amount of hoarding and hysteria around her. A born leader and community organizer, Calhoun sprang into action right when she got home and founded the group on Facebook.

“I wanted to do something to help. I wanted to connect people without pride or shame getting in the way,” says Calhoun, a real estate broker. “I also wanted a simple system of give and take where it’s not necessarily dollar-to-dollar.”

The online community has grown to over 2,400 members in less than two weeks. Gray and Calhoun have added friends from work, church, social circles, their neighborhoods, their children’s schools, youth sports where they volunteer and it has dramatically snowballed.

The feel-good and genuine connection stories just keep increasing by leaps and bounds.

Next issue: Bartering Ventura-Style (second of two parts)

For more information or to join:, search for Ventura Free Barter & Trade

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