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8/14/12

Long Term Survival: Food


Haven't had much time to do a ton of writing on this subject, but wanted to put something out there to get the wheels turning.

Food storage is a hugely important thing, but there's only so much food that a survivor can put back. A solid food supply of several months should be good for weathering most problems, but we're looking at something long term and truly devastating on a global scale. In an event like this, you're looking at years before the large scale commercial farms are up and running, the supply chains are rebuilt and the grocery stores are re-opened--if ever. In a situation like this, it's not likely that your food storage will last through the troubles.

Food quickly becomes one of the prime concerns for surviving long term--probably the biggest, aside from a plentiful supply of water--and water is generally easier to come by. If you've got food sorted out, that's a huge step towards surviving a bad scenario indefinitely.

As with all important things, we want to have at least 3 ways of acquiring food. Here's some of the options:
  • Growing it - garden, fields or orchards
  • Raising it - Livestock
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Trapping
  • Gathering - wild edibles and meals of opportunity
  • Trade
All but trade requires some specialized skill, and generally also require special equipment or advanced preparations. Food production is generally not very mobile. The others take you away from your home and out into the potentially dangerous world. Always trade offs.

None of these methods are foolproof--livesstock can get stolen, gardens can fail, and the fishes can opt not to bite. The more options you have, the more likely you are to succeed.

The importance of actual skill and experience can't be overstated--we're not talking about a situation where you can run down to the corner store. A can of survival seeds and zero experience gardening? Not a good plan.

Trade is often overlooked amongst the survival crowd, but it is valid, if you have something to offer up in trade. Your best bet won't be ammo or gold, but valuable services. Something that would be valuable and rare in a surviving community--doctor, dentist, someone with legit high level .mil credentials. Information will also be valuable--scouts and messengers may be able to eek out a living. A printing operation & community newsletter could also work. Craftsmen, tinkerers and builders--guys with gunsmithing, blacksmithing, carpentry and similar skills would also do well if raw materials could be sourced.

Your trade options are something worth thinking through--what can you offer up? Of course, for trade to work, you will need to have food producers willing to trade, and enough security in the area to allow for it.

Long term hunting will require an ample supply of ammunition or the ability to make your own--black powder, arrows, etc.

Trapping and gathering/foraging hold a special place for survivors, in that they are both mobile and typically require a lower calorie output than the calories brought in. Once set, traps work 24/7 until they're set off. Gathering/foraging is all about seizing food opportunities when they present themselves.

The best situation would be a dedicated, pre-existing farm that can shift to off-grid operations when things go bad. You'd also want to be located in a food producing area--some place with other similar farms nearby. You'd have the growing it and raising it squared away, and with land, you'd have space to hunt, trap and gather. Access to moving water or a stocked pond and you'd have fishing, too. That's a lot of what makes a full-time retreat so attractive, though certainly not without tradeoffs.

Your long-term food production options are certainly something to think through and make preparations for. The skill and experience needed to be successful are key, and they're not acquired overnight.

Personally, I'm an expert in none. It's an area my wife and are I looking to build skill in--we're gardening this year, which has seen mixed results, but at least some positives. Hunting, trapping and wild edibles are on my "gain skill/experience" list, too.

15 comments :

  1. I took my first stab at container gardening this year. So far it's not a failure, but not a success either, definitely a learning curve. I'll do more reading on gardening before the next growing season to be better prepared. Learning to shoot guns and archery are some other goals. I'm ok at fishing. I live all this learning that comes with teotwawki.

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  2. I look at gardening in combination with food storage and grow just a small garden of things to keep scurvy at bay and a few fresh things in my diet if buying stuff in the store becomes a non-option. Kale, spinach, chard, and mustard greens will grow nearly year round here and are easy to grow, so I grow them. I grow peas in the spring and currently have way more green beans than I could ever eat coming out of about a 60 square foot patch. I just planted about half of my fall/winter greens and will put the other half in in a couple of weeks. The way I look at it, what I'm doing works well for me now, would work well in a short term emergency, and I'd be able to scale up if there was a longer term emergency.

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  3. I totally agree--food storage can only last so long. Its a very important prep but its going to run our sooner or later. As an apartment dweller this is a big concern of mine. I only have so much space for food storage and when that's gone I have virtually no way of supplying my own food. At best I could get a tomato plant or two growing.

    I don't think we realize how fragile our food infrastructure is. It would not take that huge of a disaster to majorly disrupt the food supply. A simple--even localized--crash of our aging power grid could do the trick. Most people have a week of food in their house--and most of it wouldn't last long if say the electricity was off. Or if something disrupted the trucking industry--a pandemic for example. Throw in the hysteria when all the sheep realize the government can't feed them and it'll be a long while before the super markets are back up and running.

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    1. You could probably get some spinach or lettuces growing on sunny windowsills.

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  4. One more thing to consider with gardening/growing/fish pond in long term survival situation....security. not only would you have to tend to and keep it going, but you'd have to guard your plot/pond 24/7....unless you just felt like sharing with everyone. It may stay hidden for awhile, but soon as it was found out, it would be raided, by critters and humans alike...be a fulltime job in alot of scenarios, requiring more than a one of two people to maintain. Just thought!

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    1. Agreed - food production would require-generally-at least a small community to help maintain security and put in the labor necessary. In some communities, you would see confiscation of private lands for the greater good. In others, you would see a local, produce=based economy evolve, where food became the currency that people worked on-militia, service folks and others.

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  5. I think this is one area where the sea really shines, but you need some equipment and skills to gain before it becomes a success. Fixed position gains you diminishing returns as you use up your resources - its why Native Americans were so nomadic. And that during a time when population was no where near as crowded as now. That is my nightmare scenario - watching my kids starve. We see that in Africa now - imagine that HERE!

    I see a massive die-off if or when the grid goes down due to starvation - we don't have the skills our ancestors had. The majority of us (myself included but I'm trying to reverse this) wouldn't recognize many natural food sources or how to prepare them even if they were lain at our feet. STUDY WHAT NATIVE AMERICANS CONSUMED IN YOUR LOCAL AREA - that would be of major benefit I think.

    Fishing / hunting - yeah, you and everyone else. It won't take much time for territories to get hunted and fished out. Livestock - will be stolen or killed on spot and massive amounts of meat wasted.

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    1. What is just as (if not more) than food - water. Water storage is going to be a problem as well. If you don't live in an area with major dependable rainfall or have another natural water source, you need to look at this closely.

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  6. UGLY ROOSTER

    I hugely endorse the greenhouse. My family has always had one, but not my immediate family. So, earlier this year, I sourced out 2000 square feet of glass. Someone replaced old windows in their house. It will be my Fall building project. I will build it to be modular-semi mobile.

    Using only a few 2x4's and screws, total cost should be well under $100. Year round growth and a controlled environment. Looks like the highest possible yield power square foot. Add that to a regular garden, and you really have something.

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  7. I can't stress enough for people to start gardening NOW.... Not when things get tough! I am in my first year of my garden and boy oh boy has it ever been a learning experience. My yields have been low due to inexperience, mistakes, and the heat wave. I have learned so much though in this first year. I can't even begin to imagine trying to learn all that I have when your life is on the line depending on the food you produce. It takes time to get your soil right, learn where things grow best in the garden, which plants HATE each other, how to compost etc. I have managed to preserve a few things, but no where near the expectations I had when I started in the spring.

    Another valuable skill to learn NOW is how to preserve that food you are growing. Sticking it in the freezer should not be your only method. Learn to can and dehydrate now instead of when things get tough. I lost an entire run of preserves because of my inexperience canning. I also lost some of my dehydrated food because I didn't do it correctly. I now have the correct equipment and books that reference the amount of time you need to process foods so as not to kill your family with botulism.

    I feel next years garden will be more successful but I know that I will make mistakes again. At least I am learning NOW instead of when my families lives are on the line.

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  8. Not to scare everyone, but there are a lot of very experienced gardeners in my area that were not able to grow anything this summer due to the drought in our area. I try no to let my mind wander to the fact that we would be starving if we had to live off the garden right now. I've started looking into alternative methods to adapt to weather extremes. But gardening is a scary long term plan to me this summer.

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  9. It may sound a bit silly, but, pre-SHTF, even in an apartment with very limited sunlight, do you have space for a 2ft x 10 inch x 6ft bookshelf, 20 bucks at IKEA (or whatever) and another 30 bucks at your local hardware warehouse for flourescent fixtures, cheap pots, potting mix and plants/seeds, can get you fresh herbs and lettuce year-round. You do have to remember the watering schedule. I have found that "sunlight" CFL's work even better than "GroLite" bulbs. Just a thought. The more you practice, the better you get.

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    1. Wyzyrd -

      Do you have a set up like this? Would be interested to see.

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  10. I have had a garden since 2000. I still get failures. Every year some things do great and some things fail, that's just the way it is. I think the reason so many newbies fail and become disappointed with growing food is that they try to grow too much variety and can't keep up with it.

    If I were starting again I'd stick with 10 crops and no more. Potatoes, beans, leeks, onions, pumpkins/squash, lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, zucchini. These are all easy to grow and versatile in the kitchen. Ignore all the gourmet stuff, just focus on these and learn how to store them.

    I've been reading up about perennial veg. These are veg that grow permanently, in other words you don't sow seed every year, they grow on a bush or tuber that lives for many years.

    The other thing I've started doing is to set some vegetables free in our uncultivated land, I've let them go wild. My thought is that if someone raids our veg garden, I've got wild veg growing in hidden away places that perhaps they won't spot. Perennial veg is perfect for this.

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  11. Gardening should be a regular way of life. Tons and tons of resources available just by looking. Try early planting of cold hardy plants like broccoli, cabbage and several varieties of greens. Also, plan to plant two runs of beans. October beans are great for two plantings. We put up almost 100 quarts of tomatoes last year and plan on doing the same this year. Herbs
    are easy and can be planted everywhere. A 2" pot can provide enough chives to tickle your taste buds all summer. Plan on your area running out of game and resources quick. Small water sources will be guarded and general anarchy will ensue so be prepared. YOU MAY NEED TO GUARD YOUR GARDEN. Also there are really good books on stealth gardening. Live learn and and survive. Share when you can. Peace and love, East Tennessee

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