I took an early morning walk around our small acreage this morning. The sun was streaming, the air still cool enough to demand a sweater. I reveled in the smells, the colors, the sound of bees lazily darting from flower to flower, enjoying the abundance of future food.
I read a lot that is disturbing about the ability of the world to feed its 8 billion hungry mouths. We are running out of the arable soil, clean water, and vital, petroleum-based resources that make our just-in-time food system work. Let there be a glitch, a cyber attack on a computer system, a geo-political dust-up that interrupts our oil supplies, or a severe economic dislocation and we could quickly find ourselves facing long lines at empty store shelves. So what’s a person to do to prepare for such an event?
Step 1: Eat a more local diet. Know what grows in your locale and when it’s in season. Local food is not reliant on a fragile delivery system and less expensive. It is likely adapted to your climate and able to withstand localized weather events.
Step 2: Explore the ways locals preserved food in the past. People who came before lived quite well in the absence of fresh strawberries in January but they enjoyed them as jam and dried. They managed without bagged, frozen French fries but they enjoyed potatoes year-round because they had root cellars. Apples were cellared, juiced, sauced and fermented into wine.
Step 3. Look for old cookbooks. Our grandmothers knew how to feed their families when the pickings were mighty slim. We can learn to make the best out of what’s available but we need to practice now.
4: Stock you pantry with the basics. Flour and oats, baking powder and salt, herbs and spices, if you have the building blocks at your fingertips you can manage. I stock up on canned tomato products and beans, pasta along with evaporated milk, oils and vinegar.
5: Grow what you can, right where you are. What I saw this morning was future food. Landscape with edibles, grow herbs on the margins, plant in pots and window boxes.
I am not suggesting that any of us is likely to be entirely food self-sufficient but we can each make a dent in our reliance on a food system that is increasingly fragile in a complex world.