This continues my series on five levels of redundancy. The basis of survival are food and water, shelter, safety (self-defense), medical, and communication. Water and shelter are the top priorities. Thereafter is food. We are blessed in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain with abundant and inexpensive food sources. We spent less of a percent of income on food compared to the rest of the world. US and Canadian farmers are the most productive, most technology savvy, and best equipped in the world.
There several risks related to food. The most immediate risk is the long supply chain. Food is produced on an industry scale with large corporate farms, middleman processors, distribution warehouses, and then the grocery store. In days past, grocery stores kept extra goods in the back of the store. These days, grocery stores only have a breakdown area in the back to unpack the food arriving on trucks. Most volumes of food is stored far back in the supply chain. When there is a disruption in the supply chain, grocery stores are empty within hours. In emergency, if you go to the grocery store late, then you go hungry.
There are several long-term risks related to food production. Long-term risks include:
- The decreasing amount of farm land due to residential encroachment.
- Soils are being depleted of nutrients from the repeated use of artificial fertilizers and lack of multi-year crop rotation.
- Soils are also being depleted of nutrients due to erosion.
- The average age of farmers is over 50 years old, and there are not enough younger farmers filling the people pipeline.
- Mono-crop production and GMO seeds are limiting the diversity of available foods. A single farmer typically only produces only one or two types of crops, which require further processing. Thus a farmer is just as dependent upon a grocery store as you are.
- Fresh water resources around the world are lessening, which I believe will be the cause of the greatest disasters in the next 50 years. Many regions of the world depend on water run off from snow-capped mountains and glaciers, which are in rapid retreat. There are serious droughts in Eastern Europe, Midwest USA, and China.
- The population of the world continues to grow unabated, which will eventually put stress on the world’s ability to feed itself. Canada and USA will never go hungry, due to vast farmland resources. But a growing world population will result in food becoming more expensive in Canada and USA, since food importers will be willing to spend more money on food.
All these risks are increasing, accumulating and already presenting themselves. The Arab Spring uprising in 2012 originated as riots due to increase food costs. Food inflation in the USA is underreported. Every week in groceries stores, you can find the cost of food increasing or the packaging shrinking with the same price. By 2050, your children and grandchildren will be living in an age of expensive or absence food supplies. The day and age to prepare is here and now.
Five Levels of Food Redundancy
Level 1 – Short-term Food Pantry
I divide up my home’s food pantry into two parts. A short-term and long-term food pantry. My wife managed the short-term pantry. I managed the long-term food pantry. the short-term food pantry is compose of my wife’s week-by-week supplies of food for regular meal creation. The size of this short-term food pantry is about 3 or 4 months of food. It consists of frozen food, refrigerated food, canned food, and boxed/dry food. We emphasize canned food in the short-term pantry, since it does not require electricity for preservation. Our kitchen pantry is essentially an in-home grocery store, and looks like an aisle in a grocery store. The store term pantry contains foods which generally have a shelf life of about 2 years. But some canned foods such as canned tuna, canned salmon, and canned beans have a shelf life of 5 years. My favorite is the DAK canned hams. I call these man popsicle or meat popsicle. I’ll open a DAK canned ham just to create a nice big sandwich. Also in the short-term pantry is dried pasta, canned vegetables, canned fruit, jellies, jams, baking supplies, breakfast cereal, oatmeal, and many more. Also the results of my home canning are stored here. This past October, I canned 20 quart jars of canned apples, which I canned from the applies our family handpicked in the area mountains. The short-term pantry must be rotated on a monthly basis. Any food nearing expiration becomes the meal of the week. I have a rule in my house, eat what is put in front of you. There is not spoiling our children with easy to make, fun food. Even if my wife serves beets, which I don’t like, I’ll eat them to preserve this family rule. Eat what’s on your plate, or go hungry. No dessert unless you clear your plate. No exceptions, even for the adults.
Level 2 – Long-term Food Storage
I managed the long-term food pantry. It consists of food which can store for 10+ years. In the long-term food pantry are mega-pails and #10 cans of rice, wheat, beans, TVP soy, potato flakes, dehydrated and freeze-dried vegetables, dehydrated and freeze-dried fruits, and more. Also have some meat in the long-term pantry in the form of Spam, DAK canned hams, and Yoder’s canned meats, which store almost indefinitely in cold dry storage. The long-term food pantry is rotated every 6 months.
When food comes close to expiration in the long-term pantry, I’ll either move it to the short-term food pantry or donated it to a charity for a tax write off. I’ll add to the long-term food pantry whenever I see sales. I include MRE’s in the long-term pantry, although MRE’s have an expiration of 5 years or less. I keep several cases of MRE’s for just bug-out situations, and not for a primary home food. MRE’s are bulky and expensive. Super-pails and #10 cans are much more cost-effective for long-term food storage.
Some of my favorite long-term food vendors are: Augason Farms, Honeyville Grains, andMRE Depot. These three vendors have excellent quality at reasonable prices. (I receive no advertising from any vendor. This is a personal use endorsement.) But there are many other high quality providers of long-term stored foods. My goal is to have between 1 and 2 years of food stored in the long-term pantry. This is a hard goal to reach, no doubt. But since the food stores for 10+ years, adding a little bit more every year soon adds up. Currently have 1.5 years of food in my long-term pantry. Why have so much food? For several reasons, including:
- A hedge against food inflation
- A deep reserve against a long-term disaster
- A buffer from a job loss or long-term illness
- Feed my friends and family after a major disaster
- Preparation for an anticipated economic collapse or next great depression
- Makes me feel content that I have provided for my family
Level 3 – Your Own Food Production
There is not better source of quality food than your own garden. Gardening is an art and science. It takes years to get it right in your location. Expect to fail miserably in the first couple of years starting a garden. It takes time to enrich your soils, find the right crops that best fit your growing season and soil, and learning the skills needed. Every different food has its own growing requirements. Thus the sooner you start, the sooner you start to enjoy the fruits of your own labors. During the Great Depression of the 1930′s nearly everyone had a garden, if had even the smallest plot of land. Doing home canning is an essential skill, if you own a garden. In order to make your garden food last throughout the winter, you’ll need to preserve and store it. There are many ways to preserve your food, including dehydration, freezing, home canning, and pickling.
Even if you don’t have a plot of land, consider having window boxes or deck planters to raise tomatoes, herbs, small peppers,
Having fruit producing vines, bushes, and trees is a huge blessing. I grew up with a cherry tree in the backyard. It was stripped bare by myself and my brothers before my mother could harvest. It takes many years for fruit trees and vines to mature. Starting now is like an investment in your future food.
Another means of producing your own food, which every family can do, is seed sprouting. Please see my past article: Seed Sprouting As a Primary Survival Food
Another means of providing your own food is to raise small animals. On a small plot of land, you can raise chickens or rabbits. Chickens have the benefits of also producing eggs. Rabbits also produce pelts. Both chickens and rabbits provide fertilizer for the garden. If you have a larger space of land, then consider raising turkeys, geese, miniature pigs, or miniature goats. With even a bigger space of land, consider raising milk cows, cattle for beef, hogs, and sheep. During the Great Depression of the 1930′s, a family that had a milk cow rarely went hungry. You cover the milk into butter or cheese. Milk, butter, and cheese can be bartered for other foods.
A very important part of survival prepper is having garden seeds. Even if you don’t have a plot of land to run a garden, I recommend every family have a store of garden seeds. I must have over 100,000 seeds in my personal seed bank. In my seed back is a variety of seeds for grains, vegetables and fruits. In the event of a full on economic collapse or great depression, a reserve of garden seeds has many potentials, including:
- Barter and trade
- Helping our neighbors become food independence in a long-term food emergency situation
- Guerrilla gardening (creating little hidden garden plots in many out of sight locations within walking distance of your home)
- Turning over the front lawn into a garden, once our HOA relieves every one of the local gardening rules during a long-term food crisis
- Travels with us during a bug-out situation, where we would need to set up a distant homestead
Level 4 – Build Your Own Local Food Supply Chain
Actively visit your local farmers markets. Get to know the local farmers and form a relationship with them. Attempt to connect with local farms to make direct farm purchases of food. I am fortunate in my area that there is a robust farmers market and many farmers and ranches surrounding my town. Many of the farmers in my area have direct purchase programs. Notably, I can order an entire fall hog or a half/quarter side of beef from local ranchers. An area beekeeper providers our family with the most delicious flower honey you can imagine – yum! Farmers markets are a great source of food for home canning. I like to buy green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and fresh flowers at my small town farmers market.
Another aspect of build your own food supply chain is to partner with other growers or producers. Say you run beehives. Then you can trade honey with the neighbor who raises chickens for eggs. Or you trade your home canning skills to help a convert a neighbor’s garden into storable food. If you raise rabbits, trade the rabbit meat to the hog farmer and trade the pelts to someone who makes hats, gloves, and coats. You can build your own local community of trading partners. But important to recognize in all of this, you must be a producer of some valuable goods or services. If you are a tradespersons, such as a gunsmith, carpenter, or plumber, trade your services to the local growers and ranchers. It is important that you build this network of trading partners well ahead of a disaster or economic collapse. After an economic collapse, the initial trading and bartering for food will only be conducted with trusted partners. If you have no means to produce any type of food, and have no valuable skill service to barter, then it becomes important to build a reserve of gold and silver coins. A good stash of gold and silver coins can be bartered for local food production. But again, make your connections now. A good place to start is by befriending the farmers who come to the local farmers market. If you live in a town that does not have a farmers market, then that is a good indication you need to move to a better place.
Another component of building your own food supply chain is hunting, trapping, and fishing. If you are able to hunt, trap and/or fish, you’ll likely need to exchange your recent catch for other types of food. Not everyone is able to hunt, trap or fish. These are skills to be gained over years. In the next great depression, every knucklehead will be stomping through the forest looking for food, and thus chase away a lot of game. After the knuckleheads realize that their efforts are in vain, then the real hunters and trappers will return. If you are a skilled hunter or trapper, you’ll need a big reserve of long-term stored food to carry you through the first couple years of TEOTWAWKI. Hunters, trappers, and fishermen (and ladies no less) should gear up now. After an economic collapse or long-term disaster, there will be no guns, ammo, traps, and fishing gear to be bought. So build up your supplies well ahead of time. If you do intend to hunt, trap, or fish to provide food, you’ll need to be ready to preserve your catch. Thus it would be wise to have a smoke house or portable smoker. And have lots and lots of salt to preserve your catch. You’ll need to be ready to preserve your catch, without the benefits of refrigeration and electricity. Having the skills to make jerky to preserve meat will be a valuable skill for every hunter.
Level 5 – Food Scavenging
Food scavenging is a last resort effort to gather food. If you are in this situation, you’ll be desperate and on the verge of being a full on refugee — a sad situation. Food scavenging is a skill unto itself. I recommend that you purchase books or cards about how to identify wild foods in your location. In most rural and suburban neighborhoods, you can find a full meal by just walking 1000 yards in either direction of your home. Birds, bird eggs, snakes, frogs, and crayfish can make a good meal. There are likely dozens of edible wild plants around your home. Only gather mushrooms if your are truly knowledgeable. Edible and poisonous mushrooms look very similar.
It is good to know alternative places where food might be stored. In a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI, you might be scavenging in unlikely places. Some of which include: vending machines, desks of business people, abandoned homes, abandoned restaurants, abandoned schools, abandoned factories, and abandoned stores.
Or you can rely on FEMA for emergency food. Not a good long-term strategy. You’ll go hungry, as FEMA does not store enough food to feed everyone.
If you have prepared yourself with levels 1 through 4, hopefully you can avoid level 5.
Obtaining food is a skill and an investment of time. The one thing you can depend upon is yourself, your family, and your close friends. Thus building the means to produce your own food is life assurance. In 2050, there will be a new classification of who is wealth or not. Those that will eat 3 full meals everyday will be considered wealth. Those eating two meals per day will be middle class. And the poor will be fortunate to have one full meal per day. Don’t think it can happen? Look at the current economic crisis in Argentina, Spain, and Greece, where people struggle everyday just to earn money for food. If you have employment now, then you will never be sorry for building several levels of food redundancy. My dream for a legacy to leave my children is a plot of productive farm land in the country, where my children and grandchildren can produce their own food, and never be hungry.
I hope and pray that your family never goes hungry.
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