How to prepare your family to survive and thrive in todays uncertain world

Thoughts on Sustainable Food Production

This is a guest post from Marie James, who writes about food preparation and preservation at The Homesteader Kitchen. She is also enthusiastic about other rural life and sustainable living topics.

The other day I was watching Doomsday Preppers, where several families shared their prepping plans and practices. Each one had a somewhat different approach to getting ready for some kind of food shortage, civil unrest, or other disruption to their lives.

I was especially impressed by some of the larders full of commercially packaged and home-canned foods. This is because I don’t have tons of food stored away. We’re consistently amassing more, but we’re not “there” yet. I feel behind in that aspect.

But I realized something as I watched each portion of the Doomsday episode. None of the families seemed to have total sustainability on their minds. One couple had rooms full of packaged food and water, but I didn’t see a garden or any livestock in their suburban yard. Another family had a large garden, but no protein-producing animals were mentioned.

It made me think about our own prepping concepts and practices. My family’s big goal is to be able to live comfortably without help from the outside world if need be. We want to have the capability of producing protein foods, vegetables, fruits, and herbs year after year after year.

This episode of Doomsday Preppers got me thinking. Do we have what we need to live independently for a long time if need be? Sometimes the big plan looks great but there are minor details to consider. The more I thought about it, the more little loopholes I saw.

For one thing, part of my poultry production plan was dependent on electricity for hatching and brooding replacement layer hens and meat birds. I’d planned to focus on a prolific egg laying breed and a meaty broiler breed. Trouble is, neither tends toward “broodiness,” which is a desire to sit on eggs and snuggle baby chicks. So if we couldn’t use electric incubators and brooders for five weeks straight, we’d be up a creek. Now I’ve revised my plan to include plenty of hens that are natural mothers—no electricity needed.

I also saw that though I have enough canning jars for supplementing our frozen foods right now, there aren’t nearly enough jars and lids for food storage without a freezer if power is unreliable. Even my current supply of reusable lids will not go very far if years go by with high inflated prices and shipping disruptions. If I had to can more meat and vegetables instead of freezing, I’d come up short of both jars and lids.

Stay tuned for part two of this article in a couple days where I will talk about some specific things to consider when putting together a sustainable food production plan.

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7 Responses to Thoughts on Sustainable Food Production

  1. You can buy 720 lids on ebay for $99 including shipping. I would not use re-usable lids on my canning meat but would use them on jams or jellies or veggie that have a short shelf life. Keep the lids dry in a rust free environment.

  2. I am currently a city dweller, in New Hampshire’s second largest city of 90,000 people, so chickens are definitely out of the question. There are plans afoot to change this situation, but one thing came to mind, when you were talking about self sustaining food sources. As someone who knows nothing about raising chickens, I don’t know what they eat but I would imagine that you would have to stock up on some sort of feed. I think that poses another problem with indefinite self sustaining raising of chickens.

    • Dinah–that’s a great price for lids! It sounds like a lot to buy at once, but it’s worth stocking up because they may be hard to come by in the coming years.

      Darrell–you are absolutely right about feeding chickens and other livestock. We are actually already moving in that direction for all our livestock just because we don’t like what’s in the commercial feed or the rising costs. Our plan includes finding local sources of feed ingredients, forming a co-op to haul and mix them, and raising more livestock feed on the farm.

      Many city- and suburban-dwellers who can’t have chickens are finding a way to raise rabbits in a garage or basement. That might be something to look into.

    • Are there ordinances against chickens, Darrell? Seattle, for example, allows them, and it’s pretty urban.

    • Darrell, actually, you can let chickens free range to eat whatever they can find in the way of insects and grasses (yes, chickens will graze) plus table scraps. Generally during the spring and summer in a decent climate they can find what they need with very little or no help. Back in the day, they would just keep and feed a dozen or so hens with a few roosters to replenish the stock in the spring. Surprisingly, our roosters would also kill and eat small snakes, frogs, mice, etc.

  3. Yes. Unfortunately there are too many ordinances in that area. That’s why I am looking to relocate much further north in this state. Less restrictions, less people, truly a “live free or die” part of my state. Referencing the state motto of “live free or die”

  4. I believe that the idea of having huge quantities of food in storage will create its own problems if ever a situation arises whereby the system as we presently know it breaks down.

    I would rather have limited food in storage and live out of my garden knowing that the food is fresh and nutritious than depend on commercially produced food that has been manufactured for profit.

    You speak about livestock but not where you get the feed for them. I am in the process of culling our four legged livestock numbers to zero as I have come to realise that the amount of food, care and time they need is more than I would have available if push came to shove. On the other hand I am about to increase my duck numbers and varieties as they are foragers and do not require the amount of grain that fowls need. I also have geese which are great foragers but I am still unsure about the long term benefits of having both geese and ducks.

    You say that you are going to have meat birds as well as layers and also some that will incubate eggs for you. I run some silky bantams and these are great incubators and they are also extremely good at eradicating codlin moth from the orchard. Another benefit of the silkies is that they are not the greatest of fliers so fences do not need to be more than a metre high for them. Also remember that fowls require grains more than ducks and geese and in hard times that grain may be more beneficial if fed to humans.

    Our plan to eliminate the need for freezing food if time got to the point where electricity became too much of a luxury is to alter our growing methods to have a better planned sowing regime whereby we use successional plantings to help eliminate the need for storing by whatever means the minor surpluses we now get.

    We live in Australia and our lids cost us 12 cents each new but we fine we are able to use them for about five times depending on the product stored.