With soaring food prices, changing weather patterns and a good dose of turmoil, how do we empower ourselves and provide food security for our families?
It's a big question and something we focus on heavily here at our homestead. One thing is for certain, you don't have to be a homesteader or even have a garden to take some steps (although it does help!) I've written some of the strategies that we focus on. Some are specific to gardening, others are suitable for everyone.
Over the past two decades, food prices have risen by 2.6 percent EACH year! In the United States food prices rose prices rose 8.2 percent last year (2017). source
When Volatile Weather Strikes
We've been having a tough spring. Temperatures have soared to 36C only to plummet to below zero within 24 hours. This type of weather has broken 90 year records (both the high and low) and this unusual killer frost has damaged crops all across the Maritimes. It's not over yet either. Tonight we've got another frost warning. We will manage by using blankets and buckets and heavy straw to insulate everything as best we can but farmers and those with larger crops than us are having a tough start to the growing season. This is just on our little corner of the world.
Crop Loss = Limited supply, Heavier Imports and Higher Prices.
So what do we do?
This situation got me thinking about how vulnerable we truly are when it comes to food. How can we best ensure that our loved ones always have something to eat?
Even if you don't grow food you can help insulate yourself from inflation and food shortages. Food keeps getting more expensive and filling the cupboards can be a challenge.
We work hard to keep a good supply of all the basic essentials such as flour, rice, beans, oats, salt & baking materials etc. We plan this out, purchase in bulk and price shop in advance so we know we are getting the best price for the goods we are buying. It really does make a difference to our overall bottom line. We highly suggest cutting back on weekly shopping trips by implementing longer term planning into your food purchases.
One lady shared her story with us last year and it stuck with me. A small family business, they were doing quite well for years but one day they ran into serious issues. Some of the big contracts they had delivered on (done the work with many out of pocket expenses) were in arrears and some were going bankrupt. It was a bad year for their community and they took a big hit. They went from riding high to literally being on the edge of bankruptcy. She had gotten into growing a small garden and canning a year earlier and had a nice stock of food in the pantry. This pantry kept them afloat for six months. No money in the bank but they still had food. She shared the story, counting her blessings and wanting people to know how easily circumstances can change.
Learning New Skills
Another way we are building up our food security is by learning new skills. I am learning to identify wild edible plants in the surrounding forest. We've been sampling a wide variety of wild edibles and really enjoying them. I do recommend you look up someone experienced in your area before nibbing on wild food but it's really easy to learn.
My husband is interested in learning to grow mushrooms. He is also going to make time to go fishing and hunting to add more diversity to his meat supply. He knows how to hunt but this is a new area and the choice of animals is different as well.
We plant quite a wide variety of crops and even within the same family, we plant numerous varieties. If the squash fails, we've got beans to fall back on. If one type of tomatoes fails, we've got a handful of others that might do better. We also look for shorter season varieties so we have some tomatoes. squash and beans that require less time to produce, often shaving off weeks. For us this can be the difference between having something and having none at all.
Diversification is really helpful, you might discover some stars among the varieties - plants that grow for you no matter what.
Save Seeds to Build Hardier Stock
We save the seeds from our best performing crops. We think that this is such a valuable step towards building food security. Saving these seeds creates a natural diversity within plant populations. This means that the seeds that you plant will adapt to the growing conditions of your garden. Year after year the seeds that you save will become stronger and more reliable in your climate. Here's a guide on getting started with seed saving.
Plant Hardy Perennials
When someone tells me that an edible plant (wild or cultivated) grows like a weed around here I'm like "Really!!" where can I get some? By planting hardy perennials and plants that can tolerate draught and cold it means there's something to eat no matter what. This makes so much sense. Potatoes can be vulnerable but Jerusalem artichokes are really hard to kill. Raspberries can grow in rock. Plant perennials makes so much sense. For more on perennials you might want to read: Grow A Perennial Food Garden!
Adapting our Methods / Paying Attention To Patterns and Changes
For us, it's cold weather that has been the biggest detrimental factor followed by draught. We aren't at risk of flooding but when flooding happens elsewhere (Florida for example) it impacts us here in Canada because suddenly oranges cost a fortune. One of the major factors when we bought this homestead was that it was on a hill so there is very little risk of flooding and one advantage that we've since learned about is that the higher elevation also helps insulate us against spring frost.
To help protect our crops we are thinking about adding grow tunnels, and cold frames. Cold frames can be made inexpensively, a grow tunnel is a much bigger investment that we'll have to carefully plan out over time. We do have a greenhouse but it's just not big enough for our needs.
To deal with draught we've adopted the strategy of using heavy mulch and cover crops wherever possible. This protects the soil and locks in moisture. We are also studying the use of swales.
It takes time to get systems in place but we are inching forward to being better insulated from the weather challenges that we have been encountering. We have such an advantage over our ancestors because we have access to both information and resources that they did not.
Overall, we have learned that diversification in how we obtain food is the best way to insulate ourselves from whatever comes. We try not to be reliant on any one method. In our books, diversification is key.
I would love more ideas! What have we left out? What things do you do to provide food security for your family?
Building a greener, more beautiful world one seed at a time.
Homesteading | Gardening | Frugal Living | Preserving Food| From Scratch Cooking|
Photo copyright: @walkerland