People in Wine Country are far too clever to forgo the good life and that’s why this economic downturn has created an up tick in trade. It doesn’t matter if cash is in short supply because there’s no shortfall when it comes to creative barter.


Wine has been the common currency in trade in Northern California’s Wine Country, but these days the strapped have broadened its scope. I’ve heard of surgery for sushi, boot camp for administration work, dinner for a painting, and yes, even a house makeover for the saucy portrait below, framing a woman with a Ball Python snake.




Napa photographer Christophe Genty took the picture of Napa interior designer Cindy Dinsmore posing with the friendly snake. In return, Dinsmore is planning to treat Genty and wife Nancy to a house redesign. While this is an even exchange, Dinsmore said trade is a constant mindset. “I know I can always barter 20 percent of income and take 80 percent in cash,” she said.


Napa is developing a more organized network of trade with It works by trading hour by hour, regardless of what professionals typically charge.


Coordinator Juliane Poirier is enthusiastic because she knows it will help people facing economic hardship and create community spirit as a byproduct. “Napa’s time back is just getting started. Our recruitment is still in the planning process … In one Oakland neighborhood a time bank reduced crime and increased social participation and interracial good will.”


While Napa’s time bank is new,  the concept has been around for 20 years, the brainchild of human rights attorney Edgar Cahn, author of No More Throw Away People. Right now time banks are operating in 40 American states and 22 countries on six continents.


“The economic downturn has prompted people to become more resourceful and many are turning to time banks to meet practical needs and are getting far more out of the bargain than they imagined – in particular a sense of belonging and the conviction that what they can offer matters in the lives of others,” Poirier said.


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