Valley Food Storage is a company offering a wide array of food products for preppers, campers, and survivalists. They can be stored for many years (up to 25) as long … Read More
“For people who wish to harvest, process and use their own herbal medicine, I can think of no better introduction than the dandelion.” Gregory L. Tilford, herbalist There are already signs of spring. Tuesday March 20th, 2:16 p.m. is fast approaching. What can we do today while we’re waiting for the spring plants to burst. . . Read More
You won’t be able to pick up cooking oils when the grocery store isn’t available. And, most of meals we cook on a daily basis need some kind of oil. Those of us who raise or hunt animals, at least when SHTF, can render lard from tallow. But, there is another way to get your. . . Read More
There are two kinds of food bars that are useful for preppers. The first are high-calorie and plain food bars meant to provide daily rations in emergency situations. You usually buy these in 3,600 calorie packaging and eat one 400 calorie serving for every “meal.” The second kind of food bars are snacks that you. . . Read More
IF you are tired of paying $2-$5 for a tiny box of crackers then this is the article for you. I am going to tell you how to make crackers at home that are better tasting and have higher quality ingredients for a lower cost. Sound too good to be true? Consider the following. A. . . Read More
IF you are tired of paying $2-$5 for a tiny box of crackers then this is the article for you. I am going to tell you how to make crackers at home that are better tasting and have higher quality ingredients for a lower cost. Sound too good to be true? Consider the following. A. . . Read More
When people think of edible plants, trees and bark are probably not very high on the list of what comes to mind. Sure, using bark as a major food source is only something you’d do in the most desperate imaginable survival situations. However, regardless of whether you’re in a survival situation or not, bark and. . . Read More
Just saw this video of Indian scholar and sustainable-agriculture advocate Vandana Shiva talking about the true cost of cheap food and three keys to ending what she calls “the final stages of a very deceitful system.”
(By the way, Shiva is on our list of 50 Global Changemakers, here.)
She makes some excellent points, and I thought you might enjoy the video as much as I did.
Some of my favorite quotes from the video:
- “We are living the final stages of a very deceitful system that has made everything that is very costly for the planet, costly for the producer, look cheap for the consumer. So very high-cost production with GMOs and patents and royalties and fossil fuel is made to look like cheap food.”
- “Every young person should recognize that working with their hands and their hearts and their minds—and they’re interconnected—is the highest evolution of our species. Working with our hands is not a degradation. It’s our real humanity.”
- “We are not atomized producers and community. We are part of the earth family. We are part of the human family. We are part of a food community. Food connects us—everything is food.”
I also love the way she defines “true freedom” in the video: “Never be afraid of deceitful, dishonest, brutal power. That is true freedom.”
And hey, let me know what you think about her solutions to the problem of high-cost “cheap” food! What others would you add? Leave me a comment below.
Aquaponics is the combination of two food growing methods to make a more sustainable and independent system that has many benefits for a prepper. Hydroponics, or growing plants without soil and aquaculture, or farming aquatic animals, are combined so that the animal waste feeds the plants. It’s a little more complicated, but first let’s talk. . . Read More
I recently received the for Christmas and I have to say this is an impressive food dehydrator. It circulates the air for even drying and it is easy to find accessories to use with it. There are a lot of kitchen gadgets out there but this is one that I know I am going to. . . Read More
Augason Farms has grown into one of the most popular choices in the US for survival food and ingredients that can be stored long-term. They’re based in Utah, which is home to many Mormons and survivalists – two categories of people that are huge buyers of food for long-term storage. The Mormon Church requires all. . . Read More
Making and smoking your own sausage at home is an art in itself. There is nothing like it but it does take some patience and the ability to keep up with the process. Meat safety should always be a concern Some types of meat have different safety issues than others. There are a variety of. . . Read More
Pressure canners are important for any prepper that wants to preserve their own foods. For meats they are wonderful because you can have very tender meat from tough cuts and a long shelf life without refrigeration. Anyone can pressure can! Pressure canners are important for any prepper that wants to preserve their own foods. For. . . Read More
Two of the largest names in Emergency Preparedness Food are Wise Company and Mountain House. How do you shop for emergency food when you have two or more quality brands from which to choose products? In my house, we always start with the label whether we are buying MRE’s for the next disaster or groceries. . . Read More
I have never met a potato I did not like. Seriously. There was period during the 80s that I refer to as my potato years. I shunned meats of any kind and pretty much subsisted for weeks at a time on baked potatoes, asiago cheese, and apples. That, plus my morning latte, was it. I would go weeks and weeks subsisting in a diet of potatoes.
Somewhere along the line, I gave up such foolishness and started eating a bit more normally. Well, maybe not normally but certainly with a lot more in the way of variety and protein foods.
I wrote about my teensy weensy garden in Getting Prepared Week 6: Planning the food garden. Back then, I promised a progress report but to tell the truth, there just isn’t any progress to report yet. My seedlings are scrawny and barely alive. Too cold and not enough light would be my guess. I am going to start anew when the weather dries out a bit and yes, I am going to have to purchase some starts.
But in the meantime, I bought a couple of small seed potatoes (40 cents worth to be exact – the clerk thought I was nuts, only two?) and set my sights on growing a few taters in a tub.
Part of great cooking is using herbs to accentuate flavors in meats, pastas, vegetables and soups. Many home chefs have a gardens filled with a variety of fresh herbs. Dehydrating herbs preserves the harvest. Whether you have grown too much to use right now or need to collect everything before winter’s frost takes control, dehydrating. . . Read More
In your search for an electric grain mill, you inevitably see two front runners: the medium-priced, quick, and powerful , and the . Both are great for households, will deal with any grain, and make enough flour for a loaf of bread quite quickly. But which is the best? Let’s find out. Why have an. . . Read More
Yogurt has a lot of health benefits and is quite easy to make. Here are some of the advantages of doing it yourself followed up with how to do it and how to turn it into delicious yogurt cheese. It’s easy It takes very little time make yogurt so you can fit it in a. . . Read More
If you have the skill to make bread at home you’ll reap benefits in cost, taste, and health. But, for most preppers the key benefit is having access to this staple food even when the grocery store isn’t open. Needless to say, we’re also preparing for a time when the bread-machine won’t be functioning. During. . . Read More
What are you going to do with all that rice and beans and other prepper foods that you have put back? This is a question that I think is important to address. A lot of foods all of us have in quantity are pretty plain. The good news is that you can do a lot. . . Read More
While soft cheeses do not need to be pressed, or should be pressed only lightly, hard cheeses need to be pressed to expel extra liquid and allow the cheese curds to “knit” together to form a lovely texture. The beginner cheesemaker can avoid getting a press if they want to stick to the soft cheeses,. . . Read More
We have all heard about peak oil. But have you heard about “peak chicken?” Or peak almost everything else that composes the modern human diet—dairy, meat, corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, vegetables, and sugar?
According to a study in Ecology and Society,1https://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol19/iss4/art50/ we’ve already been there and done that. We peaked on just about every food-related product considered critical to human survival, except farm-raised fish, in or before 2010.
Thank goodness for carp, catfish, and tilapia! If you don’t like those, you might want to start working on some new recipes and get used to them….
Once you get your head around the idea of peak food—meaning that food production is stagnant or declining—then do an Internet search for “world population clock.”
Sit back and watch as the world’s population increases before your eyes.
It is interesting to watch, until you do the math and realize that declining food production + increasing population = a big problem. Suddenly that population calculator looks a lot like a ticking time bomb, and the $60,000,000,000,000 (global public debt)2http://www.economist.com/content/global_debt_clock/ question is: “When does it explode?”
The truth is that we don’t know if, how, or when the bubble will burst.
Reason to Worry
But according to the authors of the Ecology and Society study, we should be worried. Their findings show that 20 of the 27 key resources for human survival peaked within the 50-year period ending in 2010.
The fact that so much of our food supply peaked within the same time frame makes sense at an intuitive level. Growing food with current industrial processes requires adequate water and fertile land suited to maneuvering large equipment. When we run out of fertile land, we develop undesirable land by leveling or clearing the earth, adding synthetic fertilizer, and pumping in water for irrigation. That works until we exhaust our water stores and deplete easily accessible nitrogen sources.
As land, water, and fertilizer become less available, the natural result is that food production declines, prices go up, and distribution gets contentious.
Those of us fortunate enough to live in wealthy countries like the United States have been insulated from most of the deprivations of peak food.
- But if you live in rural Mexico, you probably already know what a 733% increase in the cost of a staple like tortillas feels like.
- Or if you’ve lived in parts of Venezuela in the last few years, you know what it’s like to go to the grocery store and find the shelves inexplicably empty.
- In India, farming-related debt is so high and weather events are destroying crops so frequently that suicide among farmers has reached epidemic levels.
These are just a few examples of peak-food-related issues already occurring around the world.
According to the USDA’s Agricultural Projections through 2022,3https://www.usda.gov/oce/commodity/projections/USDAAgriculturalProjections2022.pdf “Although agricultural prices decline in the near term, continued growth in global demand for agricultural products holds prices at historically high levels.” This means that for those of us who live in the United States, Japan, or the EU, our days of food cost stability are numbered as developing countries are expected to outpace us on demand, economic growth, and strength of currency in international markets.
Additionally, the USDA’s Food Price Outlook, 2017-20184https://www.ers.usda.gov/data-products/food-price-outlook/summary-findings/ for the U.S. indicates that the most notable inflation increases in food have occurred, and will continue to occur, around the perimeter of the grocery store.
The Rise and Fall of Peak Nutrition
Poultry, dairy, eggs, seafood, and fresh fruits—the most nutritious foods available—are becoming less affordable, and this is expected to get much worse.
In response to price increases, such as the market price of beef going up 10 percent in two years in the U.S., consumers have already diverted their budgets from nutrient-dense natural foods to prepackaged, high-calorie foods, which tend to be less nutritious.
Just as it makes intuitive sense that peak food would follow quickly on the heels of peak land, we can also assume that trading fresh, healthy foods for processed foods to make ends meet will lead to peak nutrition—after which our collective public health will begin to accelerate in its decline.
So, is there anything we can do to change our food future?
In light of their disturbing findings regarding synchronous peak production, the authors of the Ecology and Society study suggest that we need a “paradigm shift” in our use of resources if we are going to be able to adapt to our post-peak realities.
That seems like a polite way of saying, “we need to radically alter our methods for growing and distributing food, or we’re in big trouble.”
The good news is that you, I, and other members of The Grow Network community are already starting to work on this. The peak calculations were based on data from the 2013 FAO Statistical Yearbook5http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3107e/i3107e00.htm. That report includes figures reported by international governments like Gross Domestic Product, and is dependent on financial information provided in tax returns and financial statements.
All the home-scale food growing taking place around the world is not included in determining these peak food calculations.
The study also does not take into consideration the black markets and barter markets that are already prevalent throughout much of the world, and may be used by two-thirds of the world’s population by 2020.
Unfortunately, for the same reasons that these data are not included in peak calculations, it is impossible to determine how much of an impact home food growers, barter economies, and black markets are making in relation to peak food.
Anecdotally, though, we know that there has been increased interest in home-based food production:
- Just look at the number of self-sufficiency publications showing up on supermarket and bookstore shelves over the last ten years.
- The number of farmers’ markets have increased by nearly 500% over the last 23 years, according to the USDA.6https://www.ams.usda.gov/sites/default/files/media/NationalCountofFMDirectory17.JPG
- There’s been an explosion in intensive growing practices—raised beds, vertical gardening, companion planting, permaculture, aquaponics—methods that use significantly less inputs than industrial agriculture while producing a superior product with excellent yields.
- The Obamas put a garden on the White House lawn, and Oprah started a farm in Maui.
These are all positive signs that a transition to more sustainable food-growing processes is already under way.
A 3-Step Solution
Taking a closer look at the details reveals that our current “peak food” problem is really more of a “peak industrial farming” problem.
What the Ecology and Society study makes absolutely clear is that we cannot feed the world using only industrial farming methods because they depend on resources that have peaked, or will peak, in the near future—such as constant nitrogen inputs, spray irrigation, and mono-cropping on cleared land.
However, we can continue to improve our outlook with regard to peak food by choosing to support a few clear, actionable solutions:
1) Diversifying What We Grow
2) Reintegrating Local Farming Into Our Communities
3) Supporting Community Food Security
Let’s take a closer look at these solutions…
#1. Diversifying What We Grow
The fact that our key resources list can be narrowed down to just 27 items that include corn and sugarcane is both an indictment of our modern diet, and a mandate for change.
The Case for Corn
Corn, for example, could be an excellent “calorie crop,” meaning that it has the potential to provide a high calorie-per-acre yield. It has culinary versatility: corn bread, polenta, grits, tortillas, eaten on the cob and off the cob, popcorn, and as a supplemental feed for poultry and pigs.
But less than 1 percent of peak corn grown today actually makes it to your table directly. The rest is inedible for humans as it is grown specifically to go into our cars as ethanol or to be used as feed for livestock like cows, which would never touch it if they tripped over it in the pasture. A good portion of the corn used in our human food supply is corn syrup that is arguably a leading contributor to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Fields of monoculture corn swaying in the wind might even seem pretty—but don’t walk barefoot in those fields because they are loaded with toxic fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that require protective gear to apply.
For the home grower, corn can be a fun food to grow as part of a balanced diet, if you have the space. You need to grow enough corn stalks for good cross-pollination or you need to hand-pollinate, and you have to take some extra precautions to prevent contamination from cross-pollination if you want to save your seeds.
But an even better option is to focus on more nutritious foods that don’t make the peak list.
Think about cabbage, sweet potatoes, pumpkins, and winter squash. These are also versatile in soups, sauces, and pies, and they can be mashed, added to breads and pasta, roasted, and fried. Pumpkin and squash take space to grow, but there is no reason that they can’t be grown in vertical space. There are compact varieties of sweet potatoes like Bunch Porto Rico that can be grown in containers. These alternative calorie crops also store well without additional processing and they are relatively high in nutritional density, according to the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index.7https://www.drfuhrman.com/learn/library/articles/95/andi-food-scores-rating-the-nutrient-density-of-foods
Mix these alternative calorie crops up with a long list of other highly nutritious foods that you can easily grow at home or pick up at your local farmers market, such as tomatoes, chard, beets, turnips, arugula, watercress, lettuce, and you will be on your way to post-peak food health and happiness.
A Not-So-Sweet Staple
Now for a not-so-sweet subject: sugar. Sugar is a staple of our diets … really?!
Why is something that significantly increases our chances of dying prematurely from cardiovascular disease (according to the American Heart Association) a resource considered necessary to our survival? Sure, it’s got calories, but they are non-nutritive.
If you consume your calories as sugar, you must either overconsume other foods to make up the nutritive difference, or run a nutritive deficit. Both roads lead to poor health.
Currently, roughly 898,000 acres of sugarcane and sugar beets are grown commercially in the U.S. alone. That amount of land, replanted using intensive farming methods, could grow enough healthy vegetables, meat, eggs, and dairy products to feed 400,000 people a healthy, balanced diet.
If you’ve got an incurable sweet tooth, how about satisfying it with a source that takes almost no land to produce, is good for you, and the production of which actually increases crop productivity in the immediate area? This is not some manufactured miracle sweetener that we will later discover causes cancer. It’s the oldest known sweetener on the planet, so revered at one time that the pharaohs of ancient Egypt were buried with it in their tombs, while indigenous communities risked life and limb to extract it.
Of course, you guessed it: The miracle sugar alternative is raw honey.
Raw honey is loaded with good nutrition. It may also help reduce the intensity of seasonal allergies, which are expected to increase in length and severity as a result of climate change, resulting in greater losses in productivity. Keeping bees near your garden increases pollination rates and raises yields. Since every third bite of food we eat requires insect pollination, and most of this is done by honey bees, adding honey to our key resource list makes much more sense than sugar.
If you want to keep your own bees, try a top-bar hive. You can make it out of scrap materials and it does not require expensive extraction equipment. If you can’t keep bees, buy raw honey from your local beekeepers to encourage more beekeeping activity that benefits our entire food supply.
Or how about growing stevia? Stevia is an acquired taste, but once you adjust your palate, it becomes a viable alternative to sugar in beverages.
The leaves have negligible calories and can be boiled with teas and iced to make a sweet-tasting soda alternative. You can grow stevia from seeds obtained from a reputable supplier or you can grow it from cuttings. The plants do well in containers and can overwinter indoors in zones 7 and below with adequate light. When you harvest leaves by trimming the plants between leaf segments, similarly to how you harvest basil, the plants will become bushier and even more productive.
Corn and sugar are easy targets because there are delicious, available alternatives. But there are endless ways to diversify your diet:
- Swap rice for bulgur, quinoa, lentils, or split peas.
- Try goat or duck as a beef substitute.
- Use buckwheat and amaranth flour instead of wheat.
- Substitute sunflower seed meat for almonds.
Study your shopping list, identify the things you buy regularly, and then seek substitutes that can be grown in your community. You may be surprised at how much variety is available when you make the effort to look for it.
#2. Reintegrating Local Farming into our Communities
The expression “don’t put all your eggs in one basket” has never had more relevance than it does right now.
Checking Into Chicken
Chickens are fairly easy to raise at the home scale and they add fun and beauty to a landscape, so if you are seriously thinking about raising a backyard flock, now might be a good time to start. Make sure you know your LORE (laws, ordinances, rights, and entitlements) before taking the plunge. Also, talk to chicken owners you trust or do research to determine best practices in buying and keeping chickens in your area.
If it’s against the “LORE” for you to keep backyard chickens or you don’t have the space, how about rallying your community to turn underutilized common areas onto vegetable gardens and raise egg chickens or egg ducks there? Not only does this concept make common space meaningful again by doing something productive with it, but it can create opportunities for new farmers to enter the profession, and opportunities for residential “lawnscapers” to become organic “foodscapers.”
Laying Off Lawns
And this leads us to another method for countering peak food—let’s overcome our lawn addiction. North Americans devote 40,000 square miles of prime growing land to lawns.8https://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/edible-ground-covers That is more land than we use to grow wheat or corn, it requires half the American residential water supply to grow, and it uses heavy doses of post-peak nitrogen and chemical products that end up soiling our waterways.
In the era of peak food, we really need to kick our lawn habit to the curb.
If you are a DIY type and you already take care of your lawn and landscaping, swap your holly hedge for blueberry bushes, replace flowers with flowering herbs, grow veggies anywhere you currently grow annuals, or build raised beds right over your lawn. Fruit trees like paw paw, jujube, Asian pear, mulberry, and elderberry are less needy than many ornamental trees like dogwood or flowering cherry, so use those as your starting points for planting a “foodscape.”
Surround the trees with a living mulch of Russian comfrey and borage. As the trees grow, prune them for good airflow and a less dense shade profile so you can grow shade-tolerant spinach, lettuce, and peas under the trees. If you have good southern exposure in front of your trees, plant fruit bushes there, plus herbs like chives, lemon balm, and mint to attract beneficial insects. You can also vine grapes up the trunks, making use of that vertical space.
If you are not the DIY type and you spend on lawnscaping, reallocate your budget toward foodscaping to support a new generation of growers.
Many professional farmers and landscapers are excellent machine operators, soil scientists, irrigation experts, and pesticide applicators. But they may not have the expertise to grow a variety of foods without the aid of heavy equipment or purchased fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides.
To beat peak food and take advantage of prime growing land located within our populated communities, we need more small-scale farmers and growers skilled in controlling pests without chemicals, adding fertility with organic inputs produced onsite, minimizing water usage through smart planting, and applying intensive planting methods to increase food production.
There are plenty of people who want to do this, but we need to create the economic opportunities for them to be able to make a living at it.
To get started, talk to your current landscaper about having them do the work for you. If they don’t have the skills and they aren’t willing to gain them, talk to your local agricultural or gardening extension office, farming schools, vendors at farmers markets, or nearby permaculture schools to find people who are able to help you.
To keep costs low, you can make agreements to let student farmers sell surplus crops and keep the profit in exchange for doing the work. There are also a lot of budding permaculturists who offer their consulting services at discounted rates to develop their resumes and client bases.
Finding ways to grow food in our homes and neighborhoods should be a priority for anyone concerned about peak food.
#3. Supporting Community Food Security
Planting food instead of lawns not only increases food production, but also raises awareness of the importance of doing so. A surprising number of people are not even aware of the issues surrounding peak food. An even more surprising number of people are aware of some of these issues but feel powerless to do anything about them.
By bringing food growing to the forefront of our daily lives, we create opportunities to share our knowledge and help others collaborate with us. Our window of opportunity to beat peak food gets smaller the longer we wait and as weather becomes more erratic and resources less available, so the sooner we spread the news and help others get involved, the more impact we can have.
If you have any doubts about the urgency of building food communities, look to China for guidance. The Chinese government has encouraged its food corporations, through loans and preferential economic policy, to purchase and accumulate companies from around the world that grow and process food products (e.g., Smithfield Foods). This is part of a concerted effort to ensure food security for China’s growing population. And, it might be a wise policy given the reality of peak industrial food.
Yet not all governments are this proactive, and even when food is stockpiled or production is secured, distribution systems may not be fully developed. Also, goods may be distributed with preference for specific populations, like wealthy cities and wealthy citizens.
Realistically, unlike the Chinese government, most of us here don’t have $5 billion to buy up 25% of the pork production in the U.S. “just in case.” But most of us do have some kind of grocery budget and/or a food-growing system in place. Instead of spending our money and resources to support a post-peak industrial food system, we need to redirect our efforts toward local and sustainable food-growing activities.
Home growers can set up food-swapping networks with other growers to exchange products and increase diversity. Non-growers can take their food budgets to the farmers’ market and buy direct from local producers, or pick up weekly baskets from a local CSA. Greater demand for local food means more local growers. More local growers means more food security when declining industrial farms can no longer meet the food needs of a growing population.
We can adapt our eating and growing habits, and make the paradigm shift required to overcome peak food, if we acknowledge the problem and meet the challenges individually, and in our home communities, through thoughtful effort.
We can reach critical mass and cause real change in our society.
But the clock is ticking….
(This is an updated version of a post originally published August 14, 2015.)
References [ + ]
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Most people start raising chickens out of a desire to be more sustainable through egg production. There are plenty of towns and municipalities that while they do not allow most livestock, they do allow a set number of backyard chickens so long as some basic rules are followed. Chickens are a wonderful way to get. . . Read More
A vacuum sealer is a basic tool any prepper should have. Dried goods last a lot longer and have extra protection from bugs and insects. There are a lot of vacuum sealers on the market today so picking one can seem a bit hard. The good news is that over the years with so many. . . Read More
It is incredibly common to see so many people talking about raising backyard chickens that it is easy to forget that there are other birds out there that are excellent for the small farm or prepper. Chickens are a great option for a lot of people in town or with a small space but if. . . Read More
Coffee is a vice that a lot of us have in common. There are a lot of people that don’t drink or smoke but they do rely on that daily cup of java to get them started and maintain energy levels throughout the day. Good quality coffee is not cheap when you go to the. . . Read More
Making real homemade bone broth is a fantastic way to stay healthy and boost the immune system during food shortages or calamity. Broth, Stock, Bone Broth, whatever you want to call it is the trending item for health right now. Our grandmothers trusted its healing benefits for their families and taught their daughters the art. . . Read More
One of the biggest chores that preppers face is the accumulation of an emergency food supply. Prepping is not a new adventure. Many cultures have lived a prepping lifestyle. The Mayan culture is one such people who could survive and grow a large empire thanks to their innovative means of storing foods. The Mayans had. . . Read More
Growing your own food is an empowering experience. You nurture a seed or small starter plant into a tasty meal. You remove a bit of your dependence on grocery stores while enjoying a fresh harvest free of pesticides. Many people dream about growing their own food, but few turn it into a reality. Anyone can. . . Read More
This post is part my wandering thought process about food production/distribution during a large-scale societal collapse and part a request for feedback/ideas. This is one of the benefits of writing to an audience such as this – free advice. I’m generally more of an opinion and thought-based writer than I am an advice-giving writer. For. . . Read More
Survival gardens are difficult to define. In this blog, the focus is on garden foods that offer extra benefit as emergency food or in a survival garden. The benefit might be higher amounts of protein and/or carbs. The blog carries forward the concepts of year-round gardening as a means of creating a stable food supply. . . Read More
If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you may be feeling on edge. You may feel as though time is running out for you to get your preparedness … Read the rest
Today I’d like to discuss cooking pots, specifically cooking with cast iron cookware and why you should not only get some now but learn to use them properly. Your life could very well depend on it! Planning your strategy for long-term survival after the end of the world should begin well before the actual end. . . Read More
One online newsletter changed my food supply …
Most days, I’m on the Internet for work. I’m usually searching for information. There are a few online newsletters to which I subscribe in order to keep up with the issues of the day and general reports. I never thought my Internet searches would lead to my making a difference in my food supply.
It was through one of these online newsletters that I found a company who was canning high-quality beef and pork from a family farm. I checked out their website and looked for nutritional information.
It is always valuable, especially for someone like me who is sensitive to heavily salted foods. The nutrition information wasn’t available on their website, so I called.
The number seemed to be local to me, so I was intrigued. I like buying local.
However, the farm was located in Ohio. It turned out that one member of the family lived relatively close to me. I mentioned to him the missing nutrition information, and he promised to email it to me immediately.
Is it really pasture-raised beef and pork?
I’ve purchased pastured beef through my local grocery stores for years. My next question to the son was about that. He confirmed that the beef and pork was raised on grass, but was finished on corn.
While I had him on the phone, I learned that it was a family farm. I inquired if the corn was organic. Most commercially grown corn is genetically modified (GMO).
The person I spoke with wasn’t certain, but promised to speak with his father to find out for sure.
Family farm becomes aware
Not too long after that phone call, I got a call from his father, the actual farmer!
We had a long conversation about his farm, the cows and pigs, and the corn that was used to finish the animals before slaughter. I was disappointed to discover that he didn’t know whether the corn was organic or GMO. He told me that it came from a silo that was filled by several of his neighbors, as well as his farm.
Alarm bells are ringing
I was especially concerned because it was very likely that the corn was GMO. I spoke with him about my concerns about food that is genetically modified. He was assured by the experts that GMOs were safe.
Rather than argue about it, I decided to praise all the things he told me that were sustainable: using cover crops, rotating pastures, and using manure for fertilizer. I could see that he was really trying to produce the best meat possible for his customers, and I told him as much.
We ended the call on a positive note, and I thought that was the end of it.
Have you read this article on Food Safety and Nutrition by Tasha Greer? Click here to read it.
The food supply changes
About a week later, I got an email from the farmer’s son.
Imagine my surprise and joy to read:
“I’d like to let you know that we have researched the GMO issue, and we have decided to switch our operation in Ohio to completely GMO-free grains and hay. We are starting the process next week and will keep our customers and potential customers in the loop as to when we are completely GMO-free!”
I really didn’t expect one phone call to make that big of a change!
The moral to the story is to communicate and ask questions!
Whether you get the same result that I did or not, every person who takes the time to look into a product and ask questions will cause the market to change … and hopefully improve it for others.
It is true that the food sold in the U.S. is changing. For those of us still dependent on grocery stores, more and more of them are selling organic produce, pasture-raised meats, dairy, and eggs.
If the largest distributors, like Wal-Mart are providing organic foods for their customers, organic and pasture-raised is a big deal.
According to the OTA (Organic Trade Association), Americans spend almost $50 billion on organic foods annually. (1)
Check out this chart by the Organic Trade Association: Organic: Big Results from Small Seeds
If there is a product you like, but it’s not organic—talk to the producer, especially a small farmer. Anyone who takes the time to do that is important to them. What these farmers realize is that one person represents potentially hundreds or thousands of their customers.
You can make a difference! Sometimes, it’s just a phone call away.
Have you made a difference in your food supply? Tell us your story in the comments below.
- Organic Trade Association. [https://www.ota.com/resources/market-analysis]
… On topics that include growing your own food, herbal medicine, homesteading, raising livestock, and more!
One of the first steps in prepping your family for an emergency is setting up a 30-day food supply.
This may seem like an expensive task, but it can be affordable – and east — if you do it the right way.
Store What You Eat
One way to get your 30-day supply of food going is to store 30 days worth of the things you already eat. Some people will get around this via the prepackaged route with a prepackaged 30-day supply of food, but this is a mistake. Your first 30 days should be made up of the food from your everyday pantry.
This takes no special ordering or online researching — just your normal shopping trips to the local store. Fresh food, of course, is so much better for you, but we are talking about storing food. Fresh food just doesn’t keep.
One for You and One for a Friend
Another way you can build your 30-day supply is through a “one for you and one for a friend” approach. That is, for each grocery trip, buy your regular groceries and buy a couple of the same things for your emergency food supply. An extra can of tuna, an extra can or two of veggies, and some extra oatmeal only adds a couple dollars to your bill.
If you are consistent about it, soon you will have quite a stash of extra food. Then, look at all your extra stuff, figure out where you are short, and concentrate on adding to that area.
Don’t Forget Comfort Food
How many of us lived on Ramen noodles when we were first out on our own? Ramen is cheap and stores well, but it has hardly any food value. But it can be used as a base for a large pot of soup with a couple cans of veggies thrown in.
Comfort food does have value in that it will help make things a little more normal in an otherwise stressful situation. Stress can keep people from eating when they need it most, so store up chocolate, candy, chips or other things that usually wouldn’t be on such a list. Just don’t overdo it.
Don’t forget condiments and spices, along with any special foods your family likes to eat.
How Much Water?
Experts tell us we need to store one gallon of water per person per day. I know from personal experience (during an ice storm) that I didn’t use nearly that much in the short term with no power to run the well. In the long-run, though, water usage would have gone up as more cleaning would have been necessary.
Most homes have at least 40 gallons of water stored in the hot water heaters. You can also buy a bladder that fits in your bathtub to fill when you think there will be an outage.
When you want store-bought water, be sure to buy the higher-quality jugs, since the milk-jug type will start degrading and leaking in a short time.
Record Keeping and Rotation
If you are truly storing what you eat, then rotation will be a simple thing. Get a Sharpie and write the month/year on the top of each can as you put it away. Do the same for any boxed dry foods that you use on a regular basis.
When you cook your daily meals, just use the oldest date first. Then your “storage” food will always stay fresh.
A 30-day supply of food can be yours with just a little thought and planning. A small effort now can mean 30 days of food security for you and your family.
What advice would you add on storing 30 days of food? Share your thoughts in the section below:
I stopped at a supermarket recently to pick up a few items. I live out in the country and stay pretty well stocked up on food and supplies most of the time, but I keep a running list and make a habit of crossing items off it whenever I happen to be in town.
I walked into the produce section and encountered a shocking scene. Instead of the mounds of fresh fruits and vegetables piled high like I’m accustomed to seeing, I instead was met with the sight of bare wooden shelves.
An expanse of empty shelves in a big regional chain store is unnerving. We all realize that it does happen in extenuating circumstances, such as a blizzard or hurricane. And it is not unusual to find very few choices of hams available the day before Easter or the hot dog buns sold out on the Fourth of July weekend. But to find produce suddenly stripped bare on a random Spring day? Americans are not used to that.
I had seen temporary signs posted in the entrance, asking customers to excuse the appearance inside and citing the reason to be a recent warehouse fire further south, but had not paid them any real attention. In a first-world society where goods are easily acquired and food is abundant, we can afford to be dismissive of such notifications.
Or can we?
A store worker advised me that it could be another few days before a shipment of fresh produce and other goods arrived. I often joke that where I live, in a rural area of a rural state, is “at the end of the food chain.” Food travels a long way to reach my grocery stores, often the width of the continent, sometimes leaving me with the choice of two-week-old peppers or rock-hard peaches. Even after crossing the state line, deliveries are made to stores in the handful of smaller cities further south before getting to my neck of the woods.
It Was Right Here in America
Suddenly, it was no joking matter. The warehouse fire made me realize what it really means to be at the end of the line.
“Wow,” I exclaimed to my husband after leaving the store. “It felt like I had stepped into Argentina.”
It could have been any food-insecure place on the planet. But it was right here in America, in a place where people expect to have access to anything and everything, all the time.
There was nothing urgent on my list, and I knew there was a full pantry of canned and frozen goods at home. Being unable to purchase the food on my list that day was nothing more than an inconvenience for me.
But it was jarring to be faced with empty shelves, and it led me to ponder what-ifs. What if the fire had been at a major regional hub instead? What if it had been something with an even greater impact, such as a widespread power outage or a couple of major highway bridges washed out by floods or a damaging earthquake?
If I had been scared, I would have run through the produce section and scooped up everything I saw, from rutabaga to endive, whether it was on my list or not. But then again, if I had been scared, chances are other people would have been scared, too. If the situation had been serious, there might have already been a run on the store by the time I arrived, cleaning out not only the fresh foods but the cereal and canned corn and boxed stuffing mix and frozen pineapple and everything else, as well. What then?
It is widely believed that grocery stores stock only three or four days’ worth of food at any given time. Modern transportation and computerized inventory management are generally considered reliable strategies for the 21st century.
If the three-day inventory rule is accurate, it is likely calculated using sales during normal conditions. In case of an emergency, there is no way to know how long the store’s goods would last.
Are Most Americans Prepared?
Another what-if I considered is this: even during the minor interruption of food supply that did occur, what if my cabinets were bare and my refrigerator empty? It was just a few days, and there were still plenty of alternative food choices in the store. And there are other grocery chains—although most towns within an hour’s drive have only the one—so it still would not have been truly life and death. But for those large numbers of people who do not keep at least three days’ worth of food on hand, something as small as a regional warehouse fire could have a significant impact.
This tiny little glitch in the food supply chain was a powerful wake-up call — even for me, a person already cognizant of possible shortages enough to consider myself something of a prepper. The experience of being surprised by empty shelves on an otherwise normal day made the concept of true disaster feel real somehow, and drove home how very fragile our food supply chain really is.
I wonder if most Americans are truly aware of how very close to the precipice we live our lives. A look around the world at empty store shelves and looting and long lines — waiting for basic food supplies — should prompt us to acknowledge that it really could happen to us. A severe weather event, a worker strike, a drought, a flood, an electronic mishap, a grid-down situation — any number of things could come between us and our ability to attain affordable food, with little or no warning.
Of the many reasons for stocking up and being prepared for the unexpected, people sometimes overlook the simplest and most likely to happen scenarios. But these events can be extremely valuable. They can remind us that emergencies can and do happen when we least expect them and help us remain aware of our own need to keep an adequate household food supply on hand.
Food insecurity on a wide scale may be less likely here in America than in many other corners of the globe, but it is folly to be so complacent as to assure ourselves that it can never happen here. My recent encounter with temporarily bare shelves is an excellent testament to the importance of being prepared for the unexpected, from the tiniest of inconveniences to absolute disaster.
Do you agree or disagree? Have you ever experienced empty shelves? Share your thoughts in the section below:
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Here in the U.S. there is plentiful food on the grocery store shelves. The food supply system is working. At least today it is. But will it always? Because the supply of food to the cities, urban areas, and suburbia implies that food is being produced and transported in from rural areas or imported, we […]
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