Why Preppers Need to Focus on Local Food for Self-Reliance
Years ago, I was reading the book Surviving the Apocalypse in the Suburbs. (Great book that I highly recommend!) The premise of the book is that our future economic woes will be based on the scarcity of oil.
The author, Wendy Brown, makes an excellent case regarding our dependency on oil, but the thing that really stood out in my mind was how she had changed her family’s diet well in advance of this economic crisis. She focused her efforts on local food for self-reliance in the long run.
She discussed at length the fact that on her suburban property, in her particular climate, there were things she could produce, and things she could not. Taking it a step further, there were many things that were not available within a 100 miles of her area. So why, she asked, would she want to base her family’s diet on foods that might not be readily available in the future? Why would she want her children to have to endure yet another drastic change should things all go to heck? Instead of rice, they focused on potatoes, for example, because that was realistic for a long-term diet in her location in rural Maine.
Eating locally means stepping away from the Standard American Diet
Eating locally is something we personally focus on. Of course, I also prep, and most of the preparedness calculators recommend things that don’t grow in any type of abundance in my area. And by “things” I mean hundreds of pounds of grains.
Several months ago we swore off grains as a family due to some health issues with my daughter, and we haven’t looked back. I think it’s entirely possible that many of the chronic health problems being experienced in our country could be related to the exceptionally high grain-and-carbohydrate intake of the average American. It isn’t even because people are just gorging on junk food. We’re being strongly encouraged to load up our plates with “health whole grains” despite a growing body of evidence that whole grains are anything but healthy.
Did you ever pause to think that perhaps the Standard American Diet (SAD) is only standard because it benefits Big Agri? We’re being persuaded that to be healthy we MUST consume the low-quality carbohydrate crops that corporate farms can grow in abundance and at a high profit. From a long-term production standpoint, the way most Americans eat is positively absurd.
But…what if we just said no to food from afar?
Focus on local food for self-reliance.
From a self-reliance standpoint, doesn’t it make a lot more sense to eat what grows near you? Sure, you can stock up on hundreds of pounds of rice or wheat, but if it doesn’t grow in your area, eventually you will run out. If you want to survive for the long term, you need to produce your own food. And if your skills lay in other areas, you want to focus on eating food that you can acquire locally. (Find some local farms and markets HERE)
Sticking to local foods all year long can seem like quite a challenge, especially if you live in a place with dark, cold winters. Many people rely on supplementing their local goodies with a serving of grains at every meal, even though no farms with the same area code as you even produce grains.
The number one thing I noticed when our family opted out of grains was that previously, when I tried to stay with more local foods that I could grow or acquire easily, it was always grains that caused me to veer off plan. Because, well, grains don’t grow here. But when we changed our eating habits, suddenly, self-reliance seemed a lot more achievable.
All of those things that seemed like necessities before, suddenly weren’t. I didn’t have to make exceptions like, “I’ll buy everything locally except for flour, which I’ll buy in bulk once a year. Oh, and rice…and quinoa…and…and…and…”
~~ Okay, except for coffee. Sorry, but there’s no negotiation there. When the SHTF and I finally run out (which will take a while, I assure you), I’ll deal with my addiction then. ~~
Where I live, I can easily produce vegetables, fruit, meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. Who wouldn’t be thrilled with a diet full of those delicious foods?
An ancestral diet helps you focus on long-term sustainability.
Obviously, we do have some rice and quinoa in our food stockpiles. I’m not suggesting that your food storage efforts grind to a halt. If an epic disaster struck, having foods to fill in the gaps would be extremely important and it would be irresponsible not to have some items put aside. By all means, continue building your stockpile and filling it with healthful, nutritious foods.
However, place your real focus on long-term self-reliance. Learn to produce your own food. This does not mean you must grow every bite yourself, but you should figure out what can be acquired nearby. One day, “buying food” may not be as easy as going to the nearest superstore. Plan on focusing on local food for self-reliance in an uncertain future.
Take bread for example. Around here, this is totally unrealistic. Actually, it’s unrealistic for many of us. Did you know that it takes 9 square feet of growing space to grow enough wheat for only ONE loaf of bread? And the work, holy cow, the work! My personal long-term plan doesn’t have me out there plowing acres of fields, planting and growing wheat, harvesting it, and milling it into flour. Unless you have the right climate, enough acreage, the off-grid equipment, and the know-how, it may not be overly realistic for you either.
(excerpt from What to Eat When You Go Grain-Free)
We stick fairly closely to the Primal Blueprint, a plan developed by Mark Sisson. (We do include beans and organic corn on occasion.) There’s some crossover with the Paleo diet, but we consume dairy products, which are forbidden on that plan.
“Eating ancestrally is about ingredients, and local culture and that means what’s available to you where you are. So eating this way it will look different in Greece, Coastal France, Japan, Africa, Maine, Hawaii, California, or in the Rocky Mountain West.
Those who have done their research in this field of traditional diets, whether their approach be Paleo, Mediterranean, or following any of the Blue Zones recommendations, the goal of this style of eating is health. And those who follow an ancestral lifestyle, or way of eating, have been found to showcase some of the lowest rates of some of the most common epidemic diseases: diabetes, heart disease, neurological and behavioral disorders, cancer, high blood pressure, and others.”
This ties in with the research of Dr. Weston Price, whose book Nutrition and Physical Degeneration was originally published in the early 1900s. Price was a dentist from Cleveland, Ohio, who traveled the world to research dental health in relation to traditional diets. What he discovered was that the change in nutrition affected far more than dental health.
Through his travels, he learned that people who had veered away from their traditional diets had much higher incidence of poor health, chronic disease, facial malformations, crooked teeth, and dental problems. His findings go hand in hand with the importance of eating the traditional and local foods that we were designed to consume. It’s simply not in our DNA to hunt or gather a box of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese.
(End of excerpt)
Because grain-free diets like Paleo and Primal tap into the ways of our hunter-gatherer ancestors, nothing could be more realistic for a prepper. A diet high in whatever you can acquire nearby is what self-reliance is all about. I’m not the only prepper who feels this way, either. Check out this article by Todd at Survival Sherpa.
Keep in mind that local for me may not be the same as local for you. While I can acquire almonds and citrus fruit from my area, you may have long, cold winters that mean your local menu is very different. A steamy tropical environment will provide you with different abundance yet again and would mean that a root cellar is out of the question, whereas those in a cool to cold climate could store a season’s worth of homegrown food underground. You may live in the middle of wheat country, which makes a loaf of bread far more viable for you than for me.
You may not be able to grow fields of wheat and rice, but there are lots of things you actually CAN produce yourself, or easily purchase from or barter with someone nearby.
- You can grow vegetables specific to your climate.
- You can have an orchard that will thrive in your particular climate, or trade with someone who does.
- You can raise meat animals like chickens and rabbits, or larger livestock if you have the space.
- You can raise animals to produce eggs and milk (On smaller properties consider dwarf and mini breeds).
- You can preserve food in a multitude of ways. (Canning is my favorite)
- You can save seeds so that you can do it all again next year.
- You can breed livestock to expand your flock.
- You can keep bees.
- You can hunt/snare/fish for meat
Unless you live in Antarctica, it’s entirely likely that at least some, if not all, of these things are within your reach. And for now, if you can’t/won’t do these things yourself, there are probably people in your vicinity that can and do.
Don’t just prep, produce.
I believe in not only prepping, but in producing. If you rely heavily on things that are grown far away, what is your plan should your stockpile run out? It’s not possible for average folks to store a lifetime supply of food, so a Plan B is essential. Or, if you’re like me, production is Plan A and the stockpile is your back-up.
This doesn’t mean that every single person who’s going to survive has to become a hunter or a farmer. Those lifestyles are not for everyone. There are many different ways to produce, and if you can produce something viable, be it a good or a service, you’ll be able to barter for food. But, you’ll only be able to acquire what’s available, and that could mean some major changes for most Americans.
Should disaster strike and the stores close, you’ll have many adjustments. Your diet doesn’t have to be one of them if you begin now, the habit of either producing or acquiring your food locally.
So, share in the comments: Do you produce your own food? What foods are easy for you to produce in your part of the world?