Monday, September 13, 2010

Reply: About Farming and Survival

Jada said...
I have many generations of farmers behind me. Despite the variations of their enterprises, they all share a common theme between them. One person works in town, for a steady paycheck. That's because, while farmin keeps food on the table, it's not much for putting money in the bank. My garden and orchard produce enough to keep my husband and I drowning in vegetables and fruit, and our 4 hens keep us covered up in eggs. We give a lot to friends, and we also make a nice chunk of change selling surplus heirloom onions, tomatoes, and peppers at the farmer's market in the nearby city. HOWEVER, our income comes from having two full time jobs. If we had to survive on what we made "farming", we'd be evicted in no time. That held true back when I ran livestock on large acreage as well. People think they will farm and make a living selling their produce in a bad time. The competition is bad enough now, in good times! When there's 50 people at the market all selling tomatoes and onions, you're going home with most of what you brought, unless you sell it for pennies. Now imagine how many will be trying to sell produce when times are hard! Good luck surviving on that. And, sadly, the bank won't take eggs and squash for your house payment... and no matter how much everyone may wish for it, I doubt the banking industry will go under to the extent they stop demanding payment on home loans. Grow enough for your own family, and maybe some extra to help your friends and neighbors, but don't expect to make a living on it.

Thanks Jada for putting it into words so well. I couldn't agree with you more and I'm sure its been true for many country men and women all around the globe, at different times. It all boils down to the Ying Yang of survival: Having options, alternatives, plan A, B and if possible C. Not relying on one soruce of income alone, one location alone. I think what was done in the old days and how we THINK things were done in the old days have subtle and sometimes not so subtle differences, and we idealize the notion more and more as time goes by, losing focus of how it was actually like in the old days and the kind of life people had back then.



Kelle said...

I agree, grow food and raise animals for your own survival and to share the excesses but not as an income. For that you'd be well off not to put all your rabbits in one hat, diversify yourself, become a master of many trades and remember work ethic and knowledge( everyday, hands on, not just book learning) count for a LOT!

Both my Dh and self have many talents, from hairdresser, cook, baker, homeopath, blacksmith, cylinder engineer/ mechanic, wood worker/ construction, general mechanic, welder,lumberjack, gardener,seamstress, etc.... and most of all NOT afraid to try our hand at anything and we have strong work ethic too!

We enjoy your blog and all of the insight gained, thank you.
Blessings from,
The Never Done Farm(USA)

Anonymous said...

I think the person MAY be able to survive farming, but not in the very beginning - things will be way too dicey to have roots grown down deep where you have no choice but to find a hidey hole with no bottom. But anyone can gain that security by learning what grows naturally AND knowing what can be eaten AND practice eating these items NOW.

A lot of information, way easier said than done.

Decent book I found on the net worth reading - GOATWALKING. Premise is a nomadic goat herder can live in very sparse terrain that most looters / robbers would rather not live in. Lotsa free space.

Anonymous said...

If you want to grow something. Grow something practical for YOURSELVES you can live on; grain & beans(five years worth).

Also keep planting yams, winter squash, greens. Something for a cow.

Four buttered tortillas, a little bit of the other things with 4 ounces of milk a day and you will be strong enough to work very hard daily.

Keep your day job.

Then all you need is a few pennies for those fruits and veggies people will be begging you to buy at the market.

Anna said...

I am from a part of the USA that is developmentally behind the rest of it so I grew up kind of in the past (but not). My relatives all did the following for generations:
-farmed, to put up food for themselves for the winter
-cut wood to sell to the paper mills and for firewood
-worked construction if a local job came by (not often)
-odd jobs, like mechanic or sawmill operator

The women, when not busy with food prep, would do stuff like:
-teach piano lessons
-sell Avon
-do upholstery
-cook for lumber camps
-home health care
-teacher's aide or substitute teacher

This was in the 1990s. So there are a lot of people who already live that way, even in the USA.

Anonymous said...

Hi FerFAL, Thanks for the great book and blog.

On the subject of farming I would agree that small farmers have always been at the disadvantage to Agrabusiness. While relatively cheap Oil is plentiful it will remain so. Farmers markets are growing but are still a novelty used by a minority of people who choose cheap and convienient.

As we begin to slid down the bad side of Peak Oil and oil becomes regionally limited or too expensive local agriculture will gain the advantage. There will be no fruits and veggies being flow in from Argentia :) or other countries where big busines still finds it profitable to exploit other countries. At some point it may not be profitable to ship as much food across state lines. The key is the availability of oil.

I agree that in these days a small family farm is not able to keep going on its own without a "day gig". But you not only get your own good fresh veggies but you gain understanding of one of the core survival skills.

Soon there will be those who will no longer have access to Safeway and you will consider you a life saver even if you only have some tomatoes left.

gaga said...

The price of food has gone down 75% since the 1960's due to the green revolution. It due to rise back up again, so things should get easier for farmers.

One thing that has occurred to me that the effect of the Nazi then Soviet occupation on Poland was similar to an economic disaster. The Eastern block became dirt poor. Food was difficult to find. The Poles responding (and the concept still exists) by having a thriving sub economy outside the government. Families stick together, barter is common, favours swapped. Millions of subsistence farmers eek out a living - but they are dirt poor.

The communists gave them tractors and Poland is still paying back the debt to the USA, but thats another story.

The last cause said...

Well, I think people, especially those who farm, are underestimating the impact of Inflation in several year long bad situation.

For example:

The fixed cost for mortgage on the home where the produce is grown (assuming a regular mortgage) will stay the same the price on the produce will rise as a natural consequence of inflationary pressures.

And Cities will remain what they are, filled with people who do not farm, but do engage in other vital industries, they do not have time nor talent to farm enough to feed themselves.

So the key would be bringing the food to that City market, for that I'd have to suggest that different means be used to preserve the produce in transit, such canning or dehydration etc.

FerFal once wrote a story of some pig or cattle truck that crashed on the highway near a shanty town, the people literally slaughtered the cows or pigs on the highway with machetes and carried the pieces home for dinner.

THAT is the sort of mindset that happens during hard times, and food should not be looked at as it is becomes just as much of a commodity as oil or sugar.

Anonymous said...

This is the kind of thing that can destroy farmers, and suck the profit right out,

"Enter Senate bill S. 510 Food Safety Modernization Act, already passed in the House as HR 2749. Some have demonized the bill as ultimate food fascism where the FDA will micromanage even small farms and co-ops to the point where it will become illegal to grow, share, trade or sell homegrown food..."