Modern Survivalism Tenet Number Three Growing your own food is for everyone not just people that want u201Corganicu201D fruit and vegetables

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Every day I
get into my car and do a podcast on self-sufficiency during my morning
commute called The
Survival Podcast
. Over the past few months I have dedicated
a great deal of time to the subjects of Agriculture
and Permaculture
for a very simple reason. While the “prepper” community
is of course very big on food storage there is a finite limit to
how much food any individual or family can store. Once you stored
food runs out in a true long-term emergency you had better have
some level of production capacity.

In addition
to the limitations of stored food the “green movement”
is huge right now and new gardens are popping up in every corner
of the nation. From those that simply want better quality food to
those that actually think carbon footprints matter, it seems millions
Americans are putting in gardens in a new “back to the land”
movement. Many in the media are claiming the recession is driving
people to garden, in some ways it is true but the reality is in
the first year a garden is often a financial loss. In my view what
is really driving the new gardening revolution is that people are
actually becoming aware of the many risks to our food supply.

Consider for
a moment the actual cost of starting up a garden in year one. Most
people when starting up a garden will go with the “raised bed”
model for many very good reasons, such as soil quality, productivity,
ease of installation, etc. Additionally given that most “new
gardens” are started by “new gardeners” most won’t
be starting plants from seeds and will therefore have the expense
of plants in addition to the expenses of construction, soil, amendments,
and tools. In the end putting in a few raised beds, providing the
necessary soil mixture, getting plants, etc. will often set many
back 300–500 dollars in initial expenses.

It certainly
doesn’t have to cost this much but this is quite typical because
people choose to spend the money to get into production faster with
less physical effort. In the first year, if you are successful,
you may very well grow 300–500 dollars worth of food but odds
are breaking even is the best you will expect to do. People “feeling
the effects of a recession” the way the media describes it,
don’t make this type of expenditure for a possible output while
still paying for necessities day to day.

The individuals
putting in gardens today are not thinking solely about today’s
recession, they are thinking about tomorrow’s possible depression
along with probable future food shortages. They are thinking long-term
and understand that while today’s cash outflow is a break-even,
next years and subsequent years represent independence from at least
some portion of the “food system.” They also realize that
long term much of our global agriculture system is in real trouble
and it may not be very long before capacity of production becomes
heavily eclipsed by the most basic need the global population has,
the need to eat every day.

So what are
the biggest threats we have to our food supply today? They include…

  • Grain production
    has been maxed out and we have failed to meet global grain demands
    for 6 of the past 9 years.
  • Enough
    U.S. produced grain to feed a half billion people for a year will
    be converted to ethanol in 2009.
  • Many nations
    are now creating long-term contracts with other nations to lock
    up the grain being produced by the few remaining large net exporters.
  • China, India,
    The U.S., The UK, Malaysia, South Africa and Japan are now all
    “net importers of food.” Translation: a combined population
    of over 2.7 billion can no longer feed themselves without foreign
  • Many shallow
    aquifers have been fully depleted and the largest fossil aquifers
    in the world are now being depleted. 70% of global water usage
    is for agriculture and we are running out of the water used for
    that purpose.
  • Companies
    such as Monsanto are altering food at a genetic level taking massive
    risks with our food supply by releasing altered genetics into
    the biosphere via cross pollination.

These six threats
are just the beginning; we have also lost a huge portion of genetic
diversity via the practice of “monoculture,” soil is losing
fertility faster then it is being replenished and soil erosion is
turning previously fertile land fallow. In short global population
and demand for food is rising while the long-term trend of increasing
food production is flattening and threatening to soon go into a

This is an
area where many modern survivalists are finding common ground with
an unlikely ally, those heavily into the eco movement. The two sides
are sill miles apart on many issues; survivalists tend to be conservatives
or libertarians and the eco crowd tends to be quite liberal and
tends toward a socialist or statist viewpoint on many issues. Even
on the issues of gardening and permaculture there are often huge
differences on why the need exists but what is agreed upon is the
need itself.

Hence even
some of those of the edges of both movements are finding a common
bridge in understanding the need to create individually managed
sustainable agriculture. In other words it doesn’t mater if
it is “global warming” or “incompetent politicians”
that will be the cause of a coming food shortage; either way the
solution is individual action. That action is as simple as beginning
to produce just a portion of your own food. The potential production
on even small suburban lots is shocking. One family led by a self-proclaimed
“agrarian revolutionary” named Jules Dervaes is currently
producing about 6,000 lbs of food per year on 1/10th of an acre!
While that is the extreme, if perhaps 30% of suburban homes would
produce even 10% of what Mr. Dervaes is producing, can you see how
large the impact would be?

video of Mr. Dervaes’ home is quite inspiring
and well
worth the 10 minutes required to view it.)

Here is the
real beauty in producing some of your own food via sustainable agriculture
and long-term permaculture techniques…

  • You can
    do it now even with containers if you are an apartment dweller
  • It has
    an immediate impact on your personal situation
  • It has a
    positive impact on your health and property value
  • It provides
    insurance against a future shortage of food (personal or global)
  • Entering
    into your second year the savings of cash is significant
  • It reduces
    your dependence upon several systems (agriculture, distribution,

In short it
embodies the primary tenet of the modern survival
, “Everything You Do Should Improve Your Position
in Life Even If Nothing Goes Wrong.” Additionally unlike
so many things that create change no waiting or government action
is required. Developing some level of food production is something
anyone who really wants to can just do. In fact over 10 million
Americans have chosen to do so in the past two years.

In the end
we should ask ourselves, “What is the real difference between
a modern survivalist and a permaculturist?” The two may often
be quite different in social philosophy and politics but their end
goal is creating a sustainable and independent life. I firmly believe
that the only way to ensure long-term survival is to create that
sustainable life and it is impossible to do so without some level
of personal food production capacity. The good news is getting started
can be quite simple and you can slowly phase into it as you get
more comfortable with the process.

I’d like
to leave you with a final thought to make you think about how much
opportunity we have to produce more food within the United States.
Consider that what I am about to propose will requite almost no
real sacrifice or effort. Simply ask yourself this question: if
we were to replace just 10% of the ornamental trees planted in our
cities and towns with a similar tree that produced some type of
food, how much free food could we be producing right now? The next
time you are in your car just observe how many trees there are planted
in our cities, towns, urban and suburban areas that produce nothing
edible. Start counting them and simply think of the production capacity
if one in every ten were an apple, pear, pecan, walnut, etc.

In our arrogance
instead we have genetically modified pear trees to not produce pears,
selected pistachio trees that do not product pistachios and embraced
the fruitless mulberry. Why? Because homeowners consider the fruit
that falls from these trees to be “lawn litter”; only
an arrogant people would consider food to be garbage while many
others go without a full stomach. The danger we face if we remain
apathetic and arrogant is that one day many of us could be the ones
going without a full stomach.

1, 2009

Spirko [send him mail]
is a former U.S. Army Airborne soldier and the host of u201CThe
Survival Podcast
,u201D a daily online broadcast that helps listeners
learn ways to live the life they want if times get tough or even
if they don't.

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