Friday, 4 March 2011

Food Security

Posted by Bel
From Spiral Garden

This is related to my recent post about an impending Food Crisis... Not a new topic by any means, but something that I feel is worth bringing to everyone's attention again right now.

The only two suggestions I offered to this global issue were to eat local (grow your own if you can) and eat less meat. Sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

Our local LETS group has been running a series of Simply Living Workshops, and last weekend we hosted an afternoon to share methods of growing food. With a group of around 30 people we created salad boxes, no-dig beds and raised beds. These are just three basic styles of food gardens which have been explained here on the Co-op blog as well as numerous other places on the web. All gardening methods can be learned online, through books and magazines, and from your neighbours, family, friends or community organisations. But it's one thing to learn about a garden, and start a garden... Right now is the time to follow through. And after that garden is started, tend it like crazy! I am reminded of a term I first read here in a post by Throwback at Trapper Creek, "Garden like you can't go to the store." Wow! That really hit home to me. Imagine having to eat only from my garden from tomorrow, for a long time! What was once a hobby is looking more and more like a necessity.

Image from technabob

In response to the many comments I received on the Food Crisis post, I'd like to summarise...
  • Identify local sources of food and support these producers now. Don't wait until crisis hits and you need them.
  • Eating less mass-produced meat is one way to make the available food go further. It generally takes more than 10 kilograms of grain to raise 1kg of meat for our consumption. Pasture-fed and wild meat of course have much less impact.
  • Grow nutrient-dense foods, not just what you like to eat. Sure, plant what you like to eat, but make room for foods which I call 'survival foods'. Depending on your location and circumstances these could include, but would not be limited to: sprouts (indoors), high-protein leafy greens, perennial tubers, high-yielding beans to dry and berries. Reconsider edible "weeds" and local wild foods. Get (at least) a couple of chickens, if you can.
  • Stockpile basic food, but don't rely on a stockpile alone. And please invest in stockpiling basic grains/flour, oil, dried legumes etc before you stock up on snacks or any other luxuries. In the event of any emergency, it's pertinent to have non-electric ways to prepare these basic stockpiled ingredients... A manual grain mill, an alternative cooking method and appropriate pot, recipes, salt/herbs/spices, etc.
This is the way we live our lives, except for gardening like there is no store. And that's my mission for this season. We've been tackling a huge To Do List out in the garden after our recent cyclones and torrential rain, and we're looking forward to expanding upon our ever-faithful perennial plants over the coming weeks. For me, this is no longer about saving a few dollars, learning a new skill, getting some mental-health time or exercise...

Are you feeling like it's time for action? What Simple, Green or Frugal changes seem more urgent to you in this current situation? Is this reflected in your local community too?


Linda said...

I'd like to suggest that anybody who is going to garden read Carole Deppe's "the Resilient Gardener". Its about gardening in times of crisis be that bad weather/global warming, national emergency or anything else you can think of. Her five survival foods are, squash, potatoes, beans, corn and eggs.
Her reasoning is similarvtoup yours Bel, "grow nutrient dense food"

David said...

Yep, I think we are getting closer to a global food crisis and in some parts of the world it's already there. Another thing to think about is water. I have built a automatic watering gravity feed watering system for my garden that has a 1200 gallon water tank. This could be used as emergency water if the water supply should become unavailable or contaminated. I plan within the next two years to integrate a rain catch system into the supply tank. This year a plan to have a solar powered fountain and fish in the supply tank. Ideas about basement growing for winter salad greens and maybe a few other plants are roaming around in my head. This winter has been a time for working on a food storage area in the basement. Always a plan formulating, a project in progress, and a project completed keep my life very busy.

Have a great nutrient dense food day.

dixiebelle said...

Great post Bel, very important. (I am not going to write a novel like I did in my last comment to your post on this subject!!)

Bel said...

Thank you dixiebelle. I know you're onto it. ;)

Linda, we call squash "pumpkin" in Australia and they are a good, long-storing food. And their seeds are edible. If that's the type of squash Carole means. Because I live in a warm, wet climate my top five are different.

David - excellent point. I often overlook the importance of water because we are blessed with abundant rainfall and have water sources on our farm. Your plans sound great too!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...

I'm putting in a plug for Steve Solomon's Gardening When It Counts, Growing Food in Hard Times. A little more forgiving than just 5 crops. TRG is good, I just liked the Solomon book better.

Great post Bel!

Throwback at Trapper Creek said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sarah said...

I would have thought canned beans to be a better idea than dried - dried take hours of boiling, which in an emergency situation would be a problem both for time and for fuel.

Bel said...

Sarah... I guess it depends on the type of legume and your fuel source. If you rinse and soak your beans well, for a long time, you reduce cooking time. I love red lentils as they cook so fast.

We heat with wood and have an ample supply, so slowly boiling up some beans isn't too hard for us...

But yes, if cooking dried legumes would be a lot of effort, stock up on cans (and a good opener, and a spare, if they're not ring-pull versions!)

There are so many variables with preparedness, as we all live in different climates and have different needs and resources. Best wishes!

Annette Campbell said...

Neighbors need to collaborate during such a crisis or civil society will be deteriorate quickly. Our neighborhood has already prepared for such a crisis by organizing a series of "micro-coops" for purchasing bulk goods, sharing durable items and organizing neighborhood gardens.

We've become good at "identifying local sources of food and supporting these producers right now". We share the responsibility of finding sources for a variety of foods, making deals, and food pick-ups, etc.

We use a new online tool called SplitStuff ( to organize these micro-coops among people living in our community. A friend of my husband created it. The site is just waiting for groups of neighbors and friends who want to organize like we do.

We've also noticed that this kind of group support encourages and eases the transition to a more simple, green, and frugal lifestyle.

Bel said...

Annette, that sounds great! I am part of the local LETS group, and some small co-op groups etc and I agree that community is VERY impoartant! Your neighbourhood sounds great! :)