Photo by Jenny Underwood
The sentiment that our world as we know it may come to a collapse is one we hear increasingly often. The general consensus can seem to be, oh well, I’ll just grow a big garden and live off the land. While this may be possible and is definitely an aspiration I want to attain, total self-reliance is not something that should wait for an emergency situation! Instead, we all can be learning, practicing and growing our food now and not waiting for later.
Planning for Food Self-Sufficiency: Consider Family Size
Heirlooms vs. hybrids. Many people overlook this area. You need to be planning what types of food you eat and what you’ll need to grow. Chances are if the world blows apart because of disaster, war or government you may not be ordering seeds or going to the local farm store for sets. You should have a way to start seeds, then harvest and save your own seeds for future growth. This can be a bit problematic if you only grow hybrids, so I recommend at least growing some heirloom varieties. Our biggest problem with this part will be corn seed.
Quantities. Don’t forget how much food you need to produce for you and your family. If you’re only one person, this can be less complicated. For our family of six, we’ll need to grow a large amount and greater variety. For example, we’ll need about 480 pounds of potatoes for an entire year and roughly 100 quarts of pasta sauce canned. Overall, we’ll need about 250 quarts of canned tomato products. So plan accordingly.
Varieties. Realize some foods grow well in your area and others don’t. For example, we can grow lettuce very early here but come late May it starts to get bitter due to our hot humid weather. However unlike very cool climates we can grow wonderful crops of sweet potatoes. And that leads me to my next point.
Start Planting Now! Gardening Experience Requires Years
Do not — I repeat, do not — wait until you are required to have a garden out of necessity to start growing. You do not magically become a great gardener overnight or even in one year. It takes literally years to become an excellent gardener who can produce the bulk of their own food. You need practice, advice, failure, and success to find out exactly how to do it in your specific area.
Case in point: My husband and I grew corn for the first time in a very long time this year. We thought we had all the bases covered, and had our electric fence up early. Guess what? A racoon got in it last night. A neighbor told us it simply wasn’t hot enough so off to the farm store my husband goes today to get a much hotter one!
We thought we were doing everything right, but our inexperience smacked us. Hopefully the hotter one will fix the problem and save our corn harvest. Thankfully, our survival isn’t depending on that corn just yet but honestly, our goal is to someday soon produce or harvest 90% of our own food, so it’s very imperative we figure this out now not later.
We’re also learning now how to deal with pests, deficiencies, growing supports and weeds and mulches. We’re finding what works well for us and what doesn’t. But what if we’d waited until a catastrophe hit? Could we afford mistakes, failures or do overs? Nope, and neither could you! So start planning and start planting now. You wont regret it and one day you’ll thank me for it.
Jenny Underwood is a homeschooling mom of four who lives on a fifth-generation homestead in the Missouri Ozarks, where she gardens, forages, hunts and preserves food for her family. Connect with Jenny at Our Inconvenient Family.
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