Urban Homesteading: A response to the economic crisis
Although I grew up in a major American city, I got very familiar with growing food mainly from my parents who were from the rural south. We supplemented our diet by growing and caning all of our own vegetables. At one point we maintained a large garden for this purpose. Prior to starting the garden, we’d go out to pick bushel baskets of vegetables and fruits from several farms on the outskirts of the city, bring the stuff home and help my mother can. This entire operation was family affair and at that time we had a pantry and freezer full of food amounting to at least a year’s supply. My parent’s didn’t call it “urban homesteading”, but were just trying to save money with five young ones to feed.
Since those days, my lifestyle has changed quite a bit and like most people, I’ve fallen into the trap of not bothering to store food, let alone grow it. Of course, the thinking is why store it when I can just run down to the grocery store, which is open 24 hours, and just get what I need? Why slave over growing it when I can spend my time beautifying my landscaping by planting a few more daylilies and rhododendrons?
That sort of thinking isn’t a problem unless something changes that impacts that calculation. I read somewhere that the grocery stores in any given area have at best about a 2-3 day food supply. That makes sense given that most businesses use “just in time” inventory models to minimize carrying costs and excess inventories, but that also means that the system can be dramatically impacted by almost anything that would disrupt the supply chain, so an event like a hurricane or earthquake could create a lot of hungry stomachs very quickly. The same would occur with a disruption of oil supplies or a widespread financial crisis. It’s my understanding that most of the food we consume has been shipped an average of 1200 miles, so just an increase in fuel prices can impact one’s food budget. That need not be.
As I look around my yard, I see a lot of stuff growing, but there’s nothing that’s growing that’s edible. I’ve decided I’m going to change that. I spoke with my father today, who’s always a source of wisdom, and we were talking about that garden we had back in the day and growing techniques. I remembered that we had so much yield out of that garden that we couldn’t eat all the food and wound up giving a lot of it away to our friends and neighbors. As he recollected, the garden we had was on a plot of land of roughly 60 by 300 feet. We could have had something a quarter of that size and we would have probably still have given stuff away.
Not being more self reliant as far as food supply is concerned is a huge exposure for a lot of people and if the various prognostications about impending severe economic contractions are true (which I believe they are), there’s a risk in not being prepared. It seems to me that the last 30 years or so have seen us being positioned to be more reliant on big brother (i.e. government and corporate consolidators) rather than ourselves. Well, that ship is about to run aground and we may need to jump ship to survive. Basically, we need to minimize the need for money. If I start growing my own stuff and it turns out that there are no further economic upheavals, then my risk is that I spent time growing stuff while saving money “unnecessarily” . I think I’ll assume that risk rather than the other one.
Anyway, here’s an interesting video about a suburban California family who have created a bountiful garden from an tenth of an acre and have used it to exit the rat race and create a business. They’ve virtually eliminated the risk of supply disruption and price inflation by going local—and there’s nothing more local than one’s backyard. These guys did an extreme change in lifestyle, but most people don’t need to go that far.