Food production is one of the most essential concerns of any society. Without direct availability and ease of consumption, without the consistent flow of agricultural goods, every nation existing today (except the most primitive) would immediately find its infrastructure crumbling and its people in a furious panic. It’s strange to me, then, that long term independent food planning is the one concern that many Americans seem to take most for granted. Firearms and ammo, camping gear and bug-out-bags, MRE’s, beans, and rice; these are the easiest part of your survival foundation. The hard part is not storage of goods, but devising a solid and practical plan for sustainability in the long term. This starts with the capacity to support your own agriculture regardless of how long the grid is down, even if it is down indefinitely.
Understandably, there will be some people who do not have enough land to implement many of these strategies. They should still know the fundamentals and be ready to apply them at a retreat location or within a community should the opportunity arise.
In the first chapter of our ‘Survive Anything’ series, we covered all the consequences of a nuclear attack on American soil, and how to not only make it out alive, but even thrive after such an event:
The reason Neithercorp covered survival tactics for a nuclear strike first was simple; we wanted to make it clear that the title of this series is not an exaggeration. Truly, ANYTHING is survivable with the right knowledge and preparation. Those who promote a ‘doomer’ view of economic collapse or global war are on average people who have simply given up before the struggle has even started. Therefore, their opinions on survival are empty, and barely worth the effort to ignore. Life goes on after collapse, as it always has since the beginning of organized civilization. It is YOU who decides whether or not you will be a part of that life. It is you who decides your chances of success.
With that success in mind, let’s dive into the most important aspects of food survival in a country where infrastructure has ceased to function…
Emaciated Grocery Chains
Last winter, I witnessed perhaps the most incredible snow storm I have ever seen in my life. A low pressure system punished the Northeast with downpour after downpour, stopping most road travel and cutting power to millions for at least a week. Being that the average family has only a week’s worth of food or less in their pantry, you can imagine the chaos that unfolded. Those grocery stores with backup power were flooded with customers buying armloads of batteries, water, ice chests, and, of course, foods that don’t require refrigeration. Now, what I want you to imagine, is what would have happened if no grocery stores had been open that week. What would have happened if they had never reopened? How many people would have been in the very real position of starving to death? From what I observed that winter…far too many…
The problem of storage and backstock is widespread in the U.S. and the culprit is actually one which we have been trained to admire; efficiency. It is because of the over-application of efficiency in grocery models and in the freight sector that most outlets carry little to no backstock in goods. Instead, they order goods as quickly as they sell out, refilling shelves on a product by product basis. This means that in most grocers, what you see on the shelf, is all that they have. The speed of trucking deliveries makes this business model possible, but its operation suffers from a seriously fatal flaw…
Grocery stores may seem like a bounty of goods at first glance, but if freight shipments shut down, or even slowed, those aisles would empty within the span of a few days. Many households in America operate on the same faulty “efficiency”. They rely on the weekly trip to the grocer to maintain the pantry while also attempting to save money by reducing backstock. It’s a frayed rope holding up too much weight, a completely inflexible system that cannot withstand any deviation from the set routine. One unexpected disaster could render the entire food and agriculture distribution network immobile.
Many grocery chains also function on a line of credit from banks while operating at a loss. Profits are poured directly into the liabilities the companies incur from loans and then more money is borrowed to continue ordering goods. Some stores in the chain (flagship stores) usually bring in enough money to cover the red ink of the other branches, however, what if banks were to cut off credit completely to a grocery chain? Or maybe ALL grocery chains? The cycle of debt, to sales, to profit, to debt, becomes disrupted. Any stores that rely solely on credit to stay open for business would immediately lose the ability to bring in new stock. Again, we are faced with empty shelves in less than a week.
This scenario is entirely possible in the U.S. today, especially in the event that big banks institute capital retention in order to protect themselves from a further collapse of investment markets. Banks have already restricted loans to consumers down to the bare minimum. A restriction of loans to the business sector in the near future is not that far fetched.
Food In A World Without Walmart
The above section illustrates just a few of the weaknesses in U.S. food distribution. I haven’t included the catastrophe inherent in a hyperinflationary situation because I think the consequences of that are self evident. The point is, if you are not standing on solid ground in terms of not just food storage, but a plan for sustainability, then you and your family are in serious danger. This is not a game, and it is not to be taken lightly. It is not something to be shrugged off and postponed for some undefined “later date”. If you have not already started the process of prepping for economic downturn or collapse, then you need to start today.
Buying food with a long term storage capacity is half the battle, and I recommend purchasing at minimum a year’s supply of these goods totaling at least 2000-2500 calories a day per person. Do not forget to include salts, sugars, and ample fats, without which, your body cannot function. Being that we have covered food storage in great detail in previous articles, let’s examine some practical methods for food production after your stores run out.
Squarefoot Gardening: One of the most productive styles of gardening I have ever seen is devised by Mel Bartholomew, a civil engineer who was frustrated with the immense waste involved in single row gardening. The process involves building easy to make above ground 4 foot by 4 foot soil boxes and then dividing those boxes into grids. These grids retain water and nutrients to a much greater capacity than traditional yard gardens, resulting in up to 80% less space required, 90% less water use, and 95% less seed to grow the same amount of vegetables. Fertilizer is not necessary and existing soil can be easily used. I would not set up a survival garden any other way.
There is one downside to squarefoot gardening, however, and it is one of visibility. If you are in a situation which calls for discreet growing of crops, then the highly visible soil boxes and neat rows will stand out like a sore thumb and alert others to your presence. If you feel secure in the defense of your homestead or retreat, though, then garden visibility is irrelevant and Bartholomew’s strategy is the best by far. Read his book, or check out his website here:
Non-Hybrid Seeds: Non-hybrid heirloom seeds are basically the seeds nature intended to be planted. These are the only seeds you should ever consider using for your survival garden for numerous reasons. Genetically modified seeds are unreliable, give you a low production count of vegetables, and very few quality seeds can be taken from the plants for the next season. Not to mention, there is no telling what has been infused into the DNA of GMO’s. A company in California called Ventria Bioscience has created a form of rice which contains HUMAN DNA, and this rice has been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture! The reason? Ventria claims it can be used to treat diarrhea in children, of all things…
I don’t know what the direct health effects are of people consuming food made out of people, and I would rather not find out. I never thought I would see the day when the movie ‘Soylent Green’ was treated less like fiction and more like a documentary…
Natural Pest Control: I hate to say it, but in the event of a total collapse, it may be best to keep pesticides in stock. The first few years of a grid down scenario will likely be brutal, and if you are extremely dependent on your garden crops to keep your family fed, then you don’t want to take any chances on vermin decimating your plants. That said, there will probably come a point when your pesticides will run out, and natural methods will be necessary.
Some proven tactics of organic pest control include…
Lady Bugs (ladybugs eat pest insects and are incredibly beneficial to any garden)
Organic Pesticide (often contains garlic, chilli pepper or powder, vegetable oil, and water)
Repellent Plants (some plants naturally repel pests, like garlic, tobacco, or rhubarb. Some hot peppers are so acidic that they act as an anti-bug defense. Any peppers that contain large amounts of Capsaicin should be included in your garden plan)
Vinegar (can be used as an effective weed killer)
Cornmeal (can be applied to garden soil or turned into a juice and sprayed on crops. Cornmeal attracts fungi from the Trichoderma family, a good fungus which kills pest funguses)
Plant Daisies Around Fruit Trees (daisies attract a certain kind of wasp which is the natural predator of the bagworm, a worm that is notorious for killing crop trees. This wasp also kills locusts, an added bonus)
Herbs (strong smelling herbs repel many animals, including deer, that would attempt to feed on your veggies. Of course, you might like the idea of attracting deer to your property too…)
Grow For Your Region: The region in which you live will greatly affect the types of crops that grow well. Listed below are the various regions of the U.S. along with the vegetables that thrive best in them…
Northeast – Tomatoes, sweet peppers, snap beans, garlic, potato, bulb onion, cabbage, broccoli, mustard, spinach, eggplant, sweet corn, cucumber, radish, snow pea, asparagus
Southeast – Sweet pepper, garlic, hot pepper, broccoli, summer squash, collards, watermelon, cantaloupe, okra, scallion, lima bean, pole bean, sweet potato, potato, radish
Midwest – Corn, onion, lettuce, tomato, garlic, squash, pumpkin, turnips, beets, broccoli, cucumber, hot pepper, carrot
Central Rockies – Carrot, spinach, tomato, bush snap peas, potato, radish, fava beans, beets, shallots, leek, scallion
Northwest – Snow pea, pole bean, potato, garlic, pumpkin, squash, hot pepper, scallion, lettuce, onion, carrot
Southwest – Tomato, carrot, summer squash, bulb onion, snow pea, sweet pepper, eggplant, hot pepper, beet radish, sweet potato, southern pea, scallion
Keep in mind that these are not the only crops you can grow in your region, just some of the top producers. Many vegetables will grow almost anywhere in the U.S.
Most Nutritious Plants: The plants and vegetables with the highest nutritional content of vitamins and minerals are: Sunflower seeds, soybeans, almonds, leaf amaranth, broccoli, navy beans, collards, potatoes, dandelions (yes, the weed), lima beans, northern beans, kidney beans, okra, spinach, kale, butternut squash, sweet potato, peanuts, avocados, and watermelon (believe it or not).
Focus On Grains: Grasses that produce grains are hearty and grow almost everywhere in the U.S. Grains are the mainstay of our diets because they are so abundant and because they can be stored for years, even decades if needed. Families and communities hoping to restore food production after a breakdown in infrastructure will need personal gardens, but also reasonably sized tracks of land set aside for wheat, rice, barley, oats, etc.
Wheat is one of the few plants that can grow during the winter, but only if nitrogen content in the soil is adequate. Growing legumes in a garden patch can add large amounts of nitrogen, after which, wheat plants can be rotated in. Wheat also needs loose soil to grow well, and compacted soil can ruin a crop. The squarefoot method can be used just as easily for wheat as with regular garden vegetables and could help avoid the soil compaction problem, along with certain space issues.
‘Hard Wheat’ is the best type to plant if you live in a dry temperate climate with cold winters. ‘Soft Wheat’ is better for climates with more moisture and mild winters. After harvest, your wheat kernels should be stored in a cool dry place (40-60 F is optimal) and sealed in containers that prevent oxygen exposure.
Grains are the single most important food item for the survivalist because of their longevity. Civilizations are built and rebuilt on grains and grain storage. The average adult requires around 275 pounds of wheat a year, and the average child requires around 175 pounds a year. A well maintained acre of plants will produce around 40 bushels or more of wheat. A bushel contains around 60 pounds of wheat, meaning a standard acre could yield around 2400 pounds of grain; more than enough for two families every year. If the squarfoot method is applied, the yield could be significantly higher and the space could be reduced tenfold. Extra grain can be easily packed away, saving you in the event of a bad crop or other unforeseen problems. Grains combined with beans also make a complete protein in the event that your diet is low on meat. The advantages of grain production for survival are endless.
Indoor Growing And Hydroponics: I realize the word “hydroponics” is synonymous with wacky weed, Maui Wowie, and that shy neighbor in the aviator shades that lives on the corner lot of your block. Of course, its none of my business what that guy is growing in his basement, nor is it the government’s, but before you go out to order a subscription of ‘High Times’, let me assure you that my primary reason for bringing up hydroponics is one of survival, and not “mind expansion”.
Hydroponics is simply a method for growing plants using electric lights that simulate the rays of the sun, and this includes vegetables. There are many benefits to growing your food indoors.
If you are in a survival situation which offers minimal protection and greater danger from looters or others, you may want to consider the hydroponic option. This method would be a considerable edge for those who have chosen to stay within a city or suburban landscape with less open land and more people in tighter quarters. A hydroponic garden in your home or apartment might show up on infrared surveillance, but otherwise, no one would be the wiser to your food supply.
Hydroponic plants grow 30% to 50% faster than outdoor plants and their vegetable yields are often much higher. Some hydroponic systems don’t even require soil for growing! ‘Active Systems’ use a pump to supply nutrients to your plants while ‘Passive Systems’ use a wick to absorb nutrient solutions and pass them on to the roots of your crop. You can build your own hydroponic system using guides available on the web, or you can purchase pre-made systems. Pre-made systems with special lights are likely to run you around $1000, though deal hunters may be able to put something together much cheaper.
The downside to hydroponic growing is that you are paying for the light that you would normally get for free from the sun. Not to mention, in a grid down scenario, you lose your light source completely (we will cover strategies for survival electricity in the next installment of this series). But, if you have the ability to produce your own electricity, then indoor growing may be a godsend. Keep in mind that with hydroponics, food growing can be done year around, even in winter. Pests are much easier to control. And, your crops are also much safer from a threat I see rising to the forefront in the near future; GMO pollen. GMO pollen has the ability to “infect” healthy non-hybrid plants and mutate their seedlings. What would happen if your acre of veggies was suddenly hit with a blast of GMO pollens from breeds that use engineered terminator seeds? Say goodbye to next year’s crop, unless you have indoor gardens and extra seeds to back you up…
Sprouting: One easy way to get nutritious greens any time of year without special growing lights or fancy equipment is to sprout beans. All you need is a wide container with small holes in the bottom, and any number of sprouting beans or seeds. These include; lentils, garbanzo, mung, adzuki, pea, peanut, alfalfa, barley, pinto, and others.
The beans are spread in a thin layer across the bottom of the container and sprayed lightly with water daily. Some indirect sunlight is recommended. After around 3 to 5 days, they will begin to sprout, producing healthy greens even in the dead of winter.
The Omnivore’s Advantage
Vegetarianism seems like a spartan way of dieting, but really, vegetarians have a difficult if not impossible time when it comes to survival environments. Vegetarianism is a luxury, one that you cannot afford if you hope to get through a grid down event. The key to survival is flexibility and adaptability. Forgoing a meal of meat is not an option if you wish to avoid starving.
While killing and dismembering Bambi for your stew pot is not the most pleasant of exercises for many, its something all of us might have to get used to very soon. Traditional hunting, though, is not the most practical way of obtaining meat during a collapse, and counting on hunting alone could very well end in empty plates for you and your family on a regular basis. Here are some strategies for making sure that never happens…
Raising Chickens: Chickens are some of the easiest livestock to raise. They require little space. If allowed to roam the yard they practically feed themselves, they lay eggs which are a fantastic source of protein, and, when they stop laying, they can be eaten.
One problem to watch out for with chickens is ‘fowl cholera’. Symptoms include greenish yellow diarrhea, difficulty breathing, swollen joints, darkened wattles. Infected birds die quickly and there is no treatment. Destroy all infected birds, even those that survive (they become carriers and infect new birds immediately). Other diseases and sicknesses usually require some care and warm shelter, while the bird’s immune system takes care of the rest.
Raising Rabbits: Rabbits are another very easy to raise meat source, though they cannot be allowed to roam like chickens and dry warm cages are necessary. As we all know, rabbits breed like there’s no tomorrow, so you will have a never-ending supply of new stock. Rabbit food is relatively inexpensive to store, though veggies from your garden often work just as well. In fact, planting a couple quick producing crops just for your rabbits may be an effective feed source. Rabbits also need clean water regularly, because they dehydrate easily.
Bring The Game To You: Running around the forest with your scoped bolt action may not be the cleverest way to put meat on the table during a collapse, unless you have a lot of well armed buddies to keep watch over you while you lounge in your tree hide for half the day. There is too much wasted time and too many risks involved. During a societal breakdown, sometimes you have to work smarter, not harder.
Bringing the game to you is not so difficult as long as you know what they like. Leaving salt licks and corn on the perimeter of your land will bring deer, and in some places wild pig. Wild flower and clover patches attract rabbits which can then be snared. Wild turkeys like crabapples, beechnuts, and acorns during winter, and clover during spring.
Another more expensive option is to build a small artificial pond on your land. Animals for miles around will congregate there to drink, especially if there are no other streams or lakes nearby.
Don’t Be A Liability
Preparation is not just about you, it is about all the people you save by not becoming part of the problem. The more Americans prep, the less Americans starve in the midst of calamity. Fewer empty stomachs means less fearful minds and less panic when the other shoe drops. In this sense, survival preparation is not a hobby, or a mode of self interest, it is a duty. Frankly, if we care at all about the continuity of our ideals, our belief in freedom and independence, then we should also feel obligated to become more self-sufficient. If the economy were to slip into oblivion tomorrow, would you be a pillar of strength, or just another frantic helpless man-child waiting desperately for a handout from the nearest criminal bureaucracy? Would you be a strong-point in the protection of liberty, or a weak link holding the rest of us back?
The strength of one can have reverberations in the lives of thousands. Preparation makes us strong. Adaptability and knowledge makes us unafraid. Training and experience makes us successful. These are the principles upon which America was founded, and these are the principles which will allow America to live on.