I have probably posted on this issue before, but I think it's high time to revisit it, what with the latest financial crisis. The American system is (as we all know--I'm not trying to educate anyone on this so don't think I'm trying to offend your intelligence) a capitalist system. And it is pretty much exclusively a capitalist system. Many other nations have capital, printed money, etc., but they often have extensive systems of trade and barter. America, in general, does not have this. But let me tell you that it can be done. We can work together to make the financial burden lighter for everyone.
I have worked many a farmers' market in the past two years. I have come to befriend many farmers, bakers, and craftspeople, and, needless to say, we support one another with our patronage. I try not to buy veggies (at least during the summer) at the supermarket, as I can easily get a bounty of wonderful organic veggies at the markets and have intelligent conversation with the people who grow these delicious things. How often do you have conversations with employees at the grocery store?
But when you work a market, you will inevitably have leftovers. And while those leftovers could go to waste or to stock the shelves of the food co-op, they are most often used for bartering. And don't think for a moment that the leftovers are in any way inferior because they are leftovers. I have made many a meal on market leftovers that I got through bartering cheese. I should note here that farmstead goat cheese is fairly expensive. We sell 8oz tubs of chevre for $8, most "bloomy" cheeses for $9 (although we have had to increase the price of our most popular bloomy to $10), and most hard cheeses for $20/lb (we usually sell the hard cheeses in $8 wedges--not many people could afford a $20 chunk of cheese or use it all before the quality deteriorates) with the exception of bleu cheese, which is $25/lb. So, my "currency" (cheese) is techincally speaking worth more than, say, the currency of kale. But I am something of a renegade when it comes to bartering. When I barter with someone for cheese, I usually take a few veggies from them and call it even unless they feel comfortable making up the difference in cash.
I have traded for just about anything you can get at a market--smoked trout, veggies and fruits, flowers, and even beeswax candles. It works. This past summer, we had a family trade us two CSA boxes for cheese, as they were going on vacation and could not use their boxes. We both benefited from this, and nothing was wasted.
Here's a tip if you're trying to make your dollars stretch and you can't barter--I wouldn't press the vegetable farmers to lower their prices if they are reasonable ("This isn't a flea market, it's a farmer's market."). But as for luxuries like goat cheese, ask if they would be willing to lower their price just a dollar. I usually give students a discount anyways, and if a loyal customer comes up a dollar or two short, I am more than happy to make a compromise. This should not be taken advantage of, however. We work hard to make our product, and this should be taken into consideration. But just so you know, we aren't stingy.