The VABF may soon offer a free online networking tool for skilled farm labor. The purposes for this tool are to make it easier for farmers to find help when they need it, and to share skills, knowledge and experience with one another in the biological farming community.
Here’s how it would work:
- VABF members would go online to offer their skills or to find people who can help with particular projects or events on their farms
- VABF members who respond online to help other farmers would earn credits for the hours they work. Those credits would be “banked” in their online account.
- The VABF members can then redeem the credit-hours “banked” in their online account by “buying” the services of other farmer-volunteers in the system. However, no money is exchanged. The credits represent hours of work rather than cash.
- Johnny Appleseed wants help installing a deer fence around his orchard. He is on the VABF time bank system, where he lists his skills as orchard pruning, grafting, cider making and pot mending. He lists a request for help on the VABF time bank system for help putting up his fence in two weeks.
- Mary logs into the system, sees Johnny’s request for help putting up a fence. She knows a little about fences, but wants to gain more experience. She contacts Johnny online, learns more about the job. They agree that Mary will work on the fence with Johnny for 5 hours. After she’s done the work, Mary gains experience and 5 hours of credit in her “time bank account” for her labor.
- Later, Mary decides she needs help shearing sheep. She puts out a request for help in the system, with some description of what she needs. Rod Shepherd replies. Rod has shearing skills. Rod agrees to help Mary with 5 hours of shearing. Mary uses the 5 hours of credit in her account for Rod’s labor. Her credits go to the “time bank,” which then allocates 5 credits to Rod for the work he has done.
- Later still, Rod Shepherd decides to improve his orchard. He finds Johnny Appleseed in the VABF time bank system, and notes that Johnny has skills. Rod puts out a request for help with pruning and grafting. He also reaches out to Johnny, who has skills. Rod pays the system for Johnny’s volunteer labor from credit hours he banked earlier. Johnny works with Rod, and gets credit hours for the time of his labor.
The basic model for this idea is called “Time Banking,” which employs computer software to help people in communities find the right match for specific help that they need. Nearly everyone lends a hand to a friend or neighbor sometimes, but the innovation here could be a game changer. It costs no money. The system would enable members to match up according to their skills and needs. It would focus on the kinds of things VABF members value, such as sustainable agriculture. In contrast to bartering or trading, which the I.R.S. considers taxable events, “Time Bank” hours are volunteer work.
One example of this kind of system can be seen at www.cvilletimebank.com.
Let us know what you think about this idea for VABF. Send your comments, questions or suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.