When the SHTF, assuming you are able to manage to create a stable situation where you are able to survive day-to-day, those small comforts of life are what you’ll really … Read More
Back in August 2015, I wrote a post about the findings of a joint task force of experts from the U.K. and U.S. The group had released recommendations for Extreme Weather and Resilience of the Global Food System. You can read the original post on food security here:
Quite frankly, that report was pretty scary. It detailed all sorts of reasons why our global food supply was in serious jeopardy. When that report was released in 2015, I had noted how relevant it was in light of a number of catastrophic weather events going on at the time, wreaking havoc on crops and raising food prices in some areas.
Now, just a couple of years later, the situation has become even worse. Hurricanes, mudslides, drought-related fires, disrupted weather patterns, wars, and more have caused crazy fluctuations in food supplies around the world.
In March 2017, the Food Security Information Network (FSIN) released a Global Report on Food Crises 2017.1)http://www.fao.org/3/a-br323e.pdf In that report, they indicated that the number of people suffering from severe food insecurity had increased by 35% since the release of the 2015 report.
Quite a bit of that lack of food security was related to conflict. However, catastrophic weather events like droughts had also driven up the costs of staple foods, making them unaffordable for large groups of people.
If you think this can only happen in poor, war-torn countries, then consider this. In the U.S. in 2017, there were at least 16 weather events that cost over a billion dollars each and resulted in losses of crops, livestock, and other resources, as well as of homes, businesses, personal property, and lives.2)https://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/billions/events/US/2017 In 2016, there were 15 of these weather catastrophes; in 2015, there were 9; in 2014, there were 8; and in 2013, there were 9.
It might be too early to say that 15-16 catastrophic, billion-dollar weather events is the new normal for the U.S. However, new data modeling shows that there are real risks that both the U.S. and China might simultaneously experience catastrophic crop losses that could drive up prices and send more countries into food famine in the coming decades.3)https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/jul/15/climate-change-food-famine-study
In 2017, due to a weakened dollar, food prices in the U.S. increased by 8.2%.4)https://www.thebalance.com/why-are-food-prices-rising-causes-of-food-price-inflation-3306099 That trend hopefully won’t continue in 2018, but between weather and world volatility, isn’t it better to bank on building your own food security independent of global markets and events?
We think so, too! So, we want to give you some ideas to help you build your own food security at home.
Food Security Recommendation #1: Understand Your Risks
Building on the ideas from our earlier post on “Extreme Weather and Food Resilience for Home Growers,” it’s really important to know the risks for your area and plan your gardening practices to be resilient even when disaster hits.
Many governments and global non-governmental organizations have made predictive models for the likely regional effects of climate change available. You can use these models to identify trends in your area. Here are a few example models available:
- U.S.: https://nca2014.globalchange.gov
- Australia: http://www.environment.gov.au/climate-change/climate-science-data/climate-science/impacts
- United Kingdom: http://ukclimateprojections.metoffice.gov.uk/21708
Even if you don’t live in one of these areas, a quick Internet search for “climate change impacts” for your area should give good results. This search may link to articles about impacts as well as to modeling tools. Focus on search hits from government or academic websites for more comprehensive, peer-reviewed climate change data.
Food Security Recommendation #2: Consider Using Permaculture-Based Landscape Design
There have been so many weather-related disasters recently that it is hard to know what to prepare for anymore. In California, extreme dry weather and winds made for a devastating fire season. Then, the loss of vegetation from the fire season led to severe mudslides during torrential rains. Parts of Australia have also been suffering similar catastrophic cycles of drought and flooding.
In Western North Carolina where I live—a locale that we chose specifically because it is expected to be less impacted by climate change (e.g., sea levels rising, coastal hurricanes, etc.)—we’ve had extended dry periods followed by heavy rains that led to lots of vegetation losses in our area.
Drought-flood cycles are extremely damaging to plant life. In dry periods, plant roots dehydrate and shrivel. Soil also shrinks from water loss. Then when heavy rains come, the soil and roots no longer have the water-holding capacity they once did. Rather than the rain being absorbed, it sits on top of dry, compacted soils in flat areas, causing flooding. Or it moves downhill, taking topsoil and vegetation with it as it goes, causing mudslides and flash flooding in other areas.
When you use permaculture design in planning your foodscapes, you take into account these kinds of cycles of drought and heavy rain that would otherwise be damaging to vegetation. In fact, you make them work for you. Simple solutions like catching and storing water high on your land can help you better weather the cycles of drought and flood.
By applying permaculture principles, you can help safeguard your food security by making your landscape more resilient to weather extremes and diversifying your food supply to ensure you get good yields regardless of weather.
To get an idea of how permaculture works, check out this tour of Zaytuna Farm given by Geoff Lawton.
Also, if you want a short but powerful introduction to what permaculture can do in extreme landscapes, check out these titles by Sepp Holzer:
- Sepp Holzer’s Permaculture: A Practical Guide to Small-Scale, Integrative Farming and Gardening
- Desert or Paradise: Restoring Endangered Landscapes Using Water Management, Including Lake and Pond Construction
Food Security Recommendation #3: Manage Your Microclimates
Every property has microclimates. For example, in North America, it will almost always be a bit warmer along the edges of a south-sloping blacktop driveway. This is because the path of the sun will cast more sun on southern-facing slopes. They are literally like sun scoops, catching its rays.
Additionally, dark colors absorb more heat than light colors. If you painted that same driveway white, it would still be warmer due to its southern slope. However, the white paint would reflect light and heat away from the driveway and would keep that same area cooler than with a blacktop driveway.
The physical mass of blacktop asphalt material also acts as a heat sink. It draws in heat during the day and releases it back into surrounding areas as air temperatures cool at night. The same driveway made with light-colored concrete might not absorb quite as much heat as an asphalt driveway due to its color. However, it would still act as a heat sink by virtue of its mass.
The shade of a large oak tree creates a cooler area than the dappled shade of a pruned fruit tree. Large bodies of water will help regulate extreme temperatures. A wide, stone knee wall around a raised bed will insulate the soil inside better than thin wood boards because of its mass. Boulders in your landscape are also heat sinks. Even things like black trash cans can impact temperatures directly around their vicinity.
Gaining a basic understanding of how colors attract light waves, learning how different kinds of mass (rocks, soil, trees, etc.) store heat and divert wind, and knowing the path of the sun at different times of the year in your area can help you use microclimates to moderate the effects of extreme cold and heat. Using your slopes, like north-facing slopes to keep things cooler and south-facing slopes to heat things up, can also help. Working with shade patterns to minimize or maximize sun exposure can help moderate hot and cold temperature extremes.
For example, I live in USDA planting Zone 7a. With the extreme cold weather we’ve had this year, our conditions were closer to Zone 5. Some of my plants—like rosemary, which is hardy to zone 7—were killed by the cold. After our last risk of frost passes, I plan to replant rosemary bushes in front of our south-facing house and mulch them with dark stones. In that location, even if we have Zone 5 conditions again, my rosemary should make it just because the heat mass from our house and the stones, the southward orientation, and the wind protection give it the right microclimate.
Cold frames, greenhouses, and underground areas (e.g., walipinis) are also good ways to create microclimates on your property to ensure longer and more secure food production in extreme conditions. Check out this post from Marjory to learn about building your own underground greenhouse.
Food Security Recommendation #4: Go Big on Organic Matter in Your Soil
If I pour a bucket of water over some of the heavy clay soil in my landscape, water runs off on slopes. In flat or cratered areas, it sits on top, eventually making a big muddy mess that becomes algae-covered if we don’t have enough wind or sun to dry it out.
If I pour a bucket of water over the same approximate amount of area in one of my vegetable garden beds, loaded with compost, the bucket of water soaks in. Even on sloped beds, the water sinks and stays put rather than running off.
Soils that are high in organic matter are more porous and spacious than compacted soils.
If you try the same experiment with sand, the water will also soak in as it did in my garden bed. Unfortunately, it won’t stay there. Come back a few hours later and that water will be gone, which means it is not stored in the root zone for later use by plants.
Soils that are high in organic matter also preserve moisture better than sandy soils.
In order to hold water in your soil during droughts and catch it during heavy rains, you need a lot of organic matter in your soil. Here are a few easy ways you can up your organic matter quotient at home.
- Add compost.
- Mulch with things like wood chips, straw, old hay, grass clippings, and mulched leaves.
- Plant, then chop and drop cover crops like grain grasses, clover, mustard, or chicory.
- Use no-till or minimal till practices and leave decaying roots and plant matter in the soil.
Check out these TGN posts to learn more about these methods.
Adding organic matter not only slows the flow of water in your landscape and sinks it deeper into plant roots, but it actually sinks carbon dioxide, too.
Yes! Building soil that is higher in organic matter can actually help solve our CO2 problem. And solving our CO2 problem will moderate the disastrous effects of climate change and can mitigate future weather extremes. (No, this one answer won’t solve all our problems—but if lots of us do it, it will help!)
Food Security Recommendation #5: Remember ABC—Always Be Cover-cropping
Plant roots are like plumbing for your soil. They create little channels that help divert water down into the earth so it can be accessed by the plant and other biological soil inhabitants. By growing something in your soil at all times, you keep those pathways open for water to filter down into the soil.
For annual growing areas, planting cover crops in off seasons is critical. However, even for the rest of your landscape, having some sort of cover crop is necessary for extreme weather resilience.
Many of us grow lawns as our primary perennial cover crop. Traditional lawns, though, are shallow-rooted and do not contribute much to soil health. Growing grasses with deeper root systems like perennial rye and other prairie- or meadow-type grasses can be even more beautiful and give you deep roots to help sink water further into your soil.
Using vegetative perennials (i.e., that die back in the winter) with expansive root systems is also a great way to prevent soil erosion and build biomass in your landscape. Yarrow, Russian comfrey, curly dock, burdock, vetches, and even invasives like mints are useful for covering bare soil in a hurry. Since these plants lose their leaves each year and can be heavily pruned in the growing season, they make great green manure or mulch plants, too. Tap-rooted trees like black locust and paw paw also drill water and air down deep into your soil.
In addition, having a continuous cover of plants (or leaves from those plants) keeps your soil cooler on hot days and warmer on cool days. This protects all the biological life in your soil like bacteria, fungi, worms, and more so that they can work year-round. Their continued hard work means that your soil will get better year after year so that your plants will have more disease resistance and resilience during bad weather streaks.
Bare soil = No biological life = More pests, more diseases, and greater weather sensitivity for your plants
Covered soil = Year-round biological workers = Healthier plants better adapted to your weather extremes
If you are willing to do the research and the work, there are plenty of things you can do to mitigate your risks from a changing climate and more volatile weather patterns. These ideas are barely the tip of the iceberg (which is lucky for us since glaciers are now melting at an alarming rate)!
What about you? What other ways are you safeguarding your food security against extreme weather patterns?
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The post 5 Keys to Food Security in Extreme Weather, for Home Gardeners appeared first on The Grow Network.
In my recent interview with Dylan Charles of Waking Times, I explain that you really only need 2 acres to produce all the food you need for a large family … and you can produce half of the calories your family needs in an average backyard.
You can listen to the interview, titled “How Growing Food Can Diminish Stress and Evoke a True Sense of Security,” here: http://www.wakingtimes.com/interview-how-growing-food-can-diminish-stress-evoke-true-sense-security/
So, since my Texas homestead is quite a bit bigger than 2 acres, I cultivate the equivalent of a half-dozen backyards where I just try things out.
I test various growing methods, compare the usefulness of different products in the same category (self-watering planters or game cameras, anyone?), and strive for high-efficiency, low-work methods for food production. (I mean, I travel a LOT—my food supply has to be at least partially self-sustaining!)
In the interview, I also joke that growing your own food is the “antidote to waking up” in a country that’s bankrupt and still teetering on the verge of economic collapse.
I’m sure you agree—gardening provides such a sense of security and relief!
In fact, growing your own really nutritious food with as little work as possible is the focus of my new video, “Grow Half Your Own Food (in your own backyard in just an hour a day).” We actually just did a free 72-hour screening of the film this week, but if you missed it, or want to be able to refer back to the information in it, you can still buy the video here: http://thegrownetwork.pages.ontraport.net/growhalf
Then, let me know in the comments below: What benefits have you gained from growing your own food?
Preppers battle lots of things. Possibly the court of public opinion being their greatest enemy. While we have a group of people who are trying to warn the world about the coming disasters, the public laughs it off and carries on in ignorance. Another, less diabolical, prepper enemy is space. In order to be prepared …
“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 [ + ]
I am always leery of any list that starts off with the word “best.” The reason being is that “best” is a subjective term that may or may not apply to the unique situation that we each face. As such, the word “best” in this blog is applied based on circumstance. Let’s get started. The. . . Read More
Rice has long been a staple food to put back. A lot of preppers have a considerable amount of calories tied up in the form of rice or rice based products. While consuming rice in small amounts after cooking the way most of us in the United States do, it is not going to cause. . . Read More
Putting back food is an essential part of prepping. Spices may not have a lot of calories or nutritional value necessarily but they can go a long way towards making all those staple foods you have put back taste a lot better. I am sure that in a real situation we would just be glad. . . Read More
My mushroom growing experience started many years ago when I learned how at the work college I attended. The Natural Resources Crew at Warren Wilson College had a Shiitake and Oyster mushroom project that allowed theme to make use of limbs left over from the forestry operations on the hundreds of acres of forest owned. . . Read More
There are a ton of greenhouse kits available on the market but like everything else: which one is best for you? There is a lot more that goes into choosing a greenhouse beyond its price. As mentioned in an earlier blog, a greenhouse is a tool and its features are what define its ability to. . . Read More
Just because the weather is turning chilly doesn’t mean all foraging opportunities are over and you must wait for spring to be out on gathering foray’s again…. not by a long shot! Editor’s Note: This article by Donna is a great complement to Eric’s recent piece on Fall Foraging here. Wonderful to have two resources. . . Read More
There are a lot of good reasons to invest in a food dehydrator. Those include: Increasing the shelf life of garden-grown foods Easy way to dry meat and make jerky Having better control food quality Overcoming dependency on local food distribution systems Etc. While the list of why a food dehydrator is a good addition. . . Read More
It is not dehydrated, freeze-dried or cooked in any way. It will provide 182 generous servings. It is inexpensive and easy to store. It will all fit nicely into a quart canning jar. It is a power packed green food source. It will provide fresh greens daily for one person for six months. It is. . . Read More
I have always loved corned beef so back when we were raising cattle I decided to try my hand at making our own for St. Patrick’s Day and some quick meals in the winter months. One thing to remember when it comes to corned beef is that it is essentially pickled beef. The “corning” process. . . Read More
For most people, the coming of autumn brings thoughts of orange and red leaves twirling to the ground, crisp weather, pumpkins, harvest festivals, and Thanksgiving. But for foragers, it means that root season has arrived, and it’s time to get digging! Some of autumn’s best edible wild plants also happen to be the most common. . . Read More
As someone that has rendered quite a bit of lard over the years I was curious about rendering tallow from beef fat so when we got our pork fat for rendering this year we also purchased 30 lbs of beef fat from a local producer of grass fed beef. Hickory Nut Gap Farm was luckily. . . Read More
It is fall in the mountains of Western North Carolina and that means it is time to start thinking about that last minute putting back that needs to be done to get through the year. It is the natural prepping season around here that mountain people have been doing for a very long time. When. . . Read More
Over the years, my husband and I have raised a lot of pigs. It started out when we were living in a travel trailer on the property I was given. We were looking for ways to eat well and have a little extra while putting everything we had towards building our own house. There was. . . Read More
When it comes to canning vegetables, it is important to find veggies that keep the best and have a high nutritional content and offer a good value for your dollar and time spent. Here are some things to consider and a few of the best veggies for long term canning. What is most readily available. . . Read More
In this review, we discuss Patriot Pantry as a provider of emergency staples. Specifically, we discuss the quality of their food, the ease of preparing, and its nutritional value. Special thanks to them for supplying a 72-hour kit which included: Maple Grove Oatmeal Granny’s Home Style Potato Soup Blue Ribbon Creamy Chicken Rice If you. . . Read More
Milk is a staple food in a lot of homes. During a SHTF scenario, however, your access to inexpensive and readily available liquid milk might quickly disappear. The supply chain is much more fragile than what many would imagine and without refrigeration and pasteurization it is very hard to make milk stable enough to stay. . . Read More
For those that are in colder or more temperate climates it may seem like you are severely limited in what you can grow. The truth is that thanks to some innovative fruit breeders and horticulturists, there is a plethora of fruits out there that you can grow at home without fearing each little cold snap. . . Read More
When you want to add to your survival strategy by including survival seeds, it is helpful to know where to find high-quality seeds and what potential problems you should look for before you buy. In this blog, we look at: What makes quality survival seeds Best practices for seed storage and vaults Pitfalls to consider. . . Read More
Fermentation is a lot more pleasant when you have the right tools and containers. Crocks come in an amazing variety of styles and prices. Backdoor Survival wants you to be able to make an informed decision about what is best for your space and purpose. First, let’s go over what you need to look for. . . Read More
There are a lot of reasons why fermentation is such a popular method for preserving foods. The health benefits include better digestion, tastier vegetables, value adding, and it is a method that is very easy to get right the first time you do it. This post is intended to educate fellow preppers on why they. . . Read More
Raising your own chicken can be a good way to make use of leftovers from other farming enterprises, table scraps, and keep insects from being such a problem. Some chickens are best for eggs and some for meat with a few that fall in between. The first thing that needs to be said to avoid. . . Read More
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:
Guest article, by ‘NRP’… You ARE what you EAT. We use approximately 275 chemical food “additives” in this country: The short list: Azodicarbonamide, calcium carbonate, calcium sulfate, ammonium sulfate, DATEM, sodium stearoyl lactylate, potassium iodate, ascorbic acid, Tartrazine, Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), Propyl gallate, Sodium nitrite, TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone), Silicon dioxide, silica and calcium […]
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 […]
Do you know where your food comes from? Do you care? When you shop at your grocery store, do you ever look at the food product to see if there’s a label or sign identifying the country of origin? Here’s what you should know… According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Foreign Agricultural Service, […]