Thursday, June 2, 2011

Food Security

There needs to be some degree of food security and reliance in every country or their sovereignty is seriously threatened. Think about it for a moment: If a country must import the majority of its food, it is at the mercy of those countries from whom it obtains its food. Does that sound very conducive to a stable, friendly environment between nations? History is filled with stories of nations being overthrown or conquered simply because they could not feed their people. Hungry soldiers don’t fight well. That’s why General Patton in WWII was famous for his comment that an army travels on its stomach. It’s true.

The concept is the same for families and communities as well. When you don’t have to worry about where your food is coming from, you can focus on those things that could make your life better, like your work or your family or your hobbies. Having a supply of food is a wonderful way of removing that layer of worry and concern from your life. Having the ability to produce your own food provides a level of freedom that few people actually enjoy today.

On the internet, I see advertisements for companies that want to sell me all the food I will need to have for a year or two or three. It’s all packages neatly in #10 cans, sorted into boxes of 6 cans and stacked in nice, neat and convenient piles. Add to these highly processed (dehydrated, freeze-dried, powdered, etc.) products the bulk grains and legumes and things that you would need for the same time frame, and you have quite a pile. These bulk foods come in 5- or 6-gallon pails, gas-charged with nitrogen to keep out bugs and ensure a good storage life and lined with mylar bags. They seem almost bomb-proof.

Although I agree with the philosophy of storing a year’s supply of food and fuel, I disagree with the attitude that most of these companies take when they are hawking their wares. It is one of fear and doomsday and end-of-civilization-as-we-know-it. That’s a bunch of crap. I cannot stand fear-mongering whether it is done by left-wing political hacks or right-wing food storage purveyors. And the worst of these that I have seen are the ones that are selling the “garden in a can” or the “grow an acre of food” deals where people are selling seeds. I hope all of them go out of business if that’s the best they can do.

I love seed companies. I get their catalogs every year and read them cover to cover. I have learned more about growing food from a theoretical standpoint by reading seed catalogs than any course I took or textbook I’ve read. These are not only an intellectual treasure trove; some of them are nearly works of art in themselves.

The difference in the way seed companies market their products, which are not fundamentally different from the end-of-civilization folks is the fact that they are marketing their seeds and plants with a feeling of “you can do it!” They talk about success. They focus on what you need to do to make it happen. They preach possibility rather than disaster. They make you feel hopeful rather than all is lost (or just about to be). I hope the seed companies who do this make fortunes for themselves and their families.

The other day I was visiting a friend of mine who is an attorney. He’s not the most, well, hands-on kind of guy I know but he’s trying. He’s really smart and I admire what he has accomplished but he struggles with things I consider basic.

We were looking at his garden on my visit and discussing the possibilities of his yard. His fruit trees have some borers in them and he’s probably going to lose them. He’s had difficulties with his tomato plants but he’s probably going to save those. He’s struggling with his irrigation system and I’m sure he’ll either solve the problem or hire someone to do it. Either way, he is determined.

While we were talking, he mentioned his discouragement to me in the middle of discussing his plans for grape arbors, improved garden beds and the like. He mentioned that if he gets one cucumber from his plants (and he had a nice one growing) that his wife said it would probably be the most expensive cucumber in history. We laughed at that but it’s probably true.

I told him my philosophy that gardening wasn’t all about yields and success and outcomes but that it was mostly about the process. Getting better, overcoming challenges, improving practices, applying new ideas, learning from others and growing personally were all benefits of gardening that cannot be quantified by dollars and cents. My philosophy about Stealth Farming is that it’s more about developing the ability to provide that food security that we need than it is about the size of your beefsteak tomato or the yield of your grape vine. It’s the journey that’s the most important.

There is no such thing as security. It doesn’t exist. Think of all the planning and preparation that folks do just to have their homes wiped out by a tornado, flood, earthquake, political upheaval or other calamity. Didn’t they think they were secure? Could those things happen to you? Of course they can.

But what we need to have is the experience, the training, the practice of producing and providing for our needs. That is where the value of Stealth Farming comes in. That is what we produce in our backyard gardens. That can’t be taken from us. As long as we can think, we can duplicate our efforts, no matter the calamity which befalls us.

You can never market that product in a can. You can never scare someone into developing it. You can only help, encourage, inspire and lift someone to that point. You have to be positive. You have to see the possibilities or your effort will be in vain. You have to believe in yourself.

Believing in yourself. That’s the Stealth Farming way.

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