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Famine is one of mankind’s oldest enemies, having existed throughout human history. Regardless of whether the famine was caused by drought or pestilence, the result is usually the same: people suffer and many die… sometimes entire civilizations.
Modern farming techniques have greatly reduced the risk of famine for the countries which can afford the necessary infrastructure to support those farms. But even with the massive infrastructure we have in place, we are still susceptible to drought. Just look at what happened in Southern California a few years ago, when the government decided to give the water in the reservoirs to the Delta Smelt instead of saving it for the farms. Those farms dried up and shut down.
While that affected the cost of food, it was merely seen as a blip in overall food prices. But what if the same thing happened over a larger area? We are currently seeing drought across the United States which has caused our largest reservoirs to be at record-low levels. This is causing some hydroelectric power dams to cease electric power production. In the coming years, California and the Southwest will be scrambling for water.
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In addition, the water levels in some of our largest aquifers are dropping as more water is being drawn out of them than can percolate through the ground to refill them. That wouldn’t be a problem if those areas had sufficient surface water to meet agricultural and other needs, but the aquifers are drying up because there isn’t enough surface water.
Just to make matters worse, we’ve got the supply-chain problems which are causing shortages of just about everything. Not all the food we consume here in the United States is grown here; many things come from overseas, including such widely-diverse products as tea, apple juice, and bananas.
What this means is that we are headed into a nationwide famine. While it might not reach that point all that quickly, we can expect to see ongoing food shortages. The high prices we’ve been seeing are not going to end and in fact will continue to rise. Inflation is just making that worse, as food usually has higher inflation than other consumer goods.
So What Happens When Food Becomes Scarce?
We’ve been seeing food shortages ever since the start of the great toilet paper panic in 2020. Expect those to continue, but not just because of people panic buying. Rather, what we’re going to see is farmers having trouble producing and packagers having trouble getting enough food to package. Augason Farms, one of the biggest producers of “survival” food, has suspended operations for a minimum of 90 days because they can’t get the raw food they need to work with.
Following the law of supply and demand, we can expect these food shortages to cause the price of food to rise even faster, making it that much harder for people to buy. The rich won’t suffer or even have to tighten their belts. Those who suffer the worst will be the poor, especially those who earn just enough that they can’t receive food stamps. After that it will be those who live paycheck to paycheck who will have to start figuring out what to cut out of their lives so that they can afford to eat.
At this time, there’s no way of telling how bad things will get. That depends largely on how bad the shortages get and how many people are going to bed hungry. But it’s not outside the realm of possibility that we will see food riots, both in the grocery stores and in front of City Hall.
So What Can We Do?
If you’ve got enough money that you don’t need to worry about how expensive food gets – more power to you. If I was in your shoes, I’d be thinking about what I could do to make sure I had food for my friends and neighbors. But that’s a personal decision for each of us to make. Most of us will be more concerned about making sure our own families have enough to eat.
Build a Stockpile
Famine is a classic case for why prepping exists in the first place. Building a stockpile of food and other critical supplies can ensure that we have food to eat, even when that food becomes scarce.
The big question is how much food to stockpile. There are two major considerations here: how long will the famine last and how affordable will food be when it’s over? Regardless of what the answer is to those questions, it is clear that the basic adage of “the bigger the stockpile the better” is true.
Any food stockpile needs to be built using foods which are non-perishable and will last for a prolonged period of time. That might require repackaging some foods which don’t come packaged for long-term storage. However, it’s actually unlikely, looking at the current situation, that we’ll need to worry about that food lasting 20 years before we have to use it.
There are two ways of looking at stockpiling food for a famine. The first is to buy as much inexpensive food as possible, so that it will last as long as possible. We could call this the “rice and beans” plan. The other is to buy expensive but necessary foodstuffs in the expectation that they will rise in price faster than the rice and beans will. I’d recommend a combination between the two, concentrating on the essential items at both ends of the scale while ignoring things that are unnecessary.
One thing that might seem unnecessary that I wouldn’t pass by is seasonings. Many of the spices we use come from overseas and might become hard to find. Yet those spices will help ensure that we can prepare appetizing meals for our families, even when variety of ingredients becomes a bit short.
If you are not gardening already, it’s time to start. The more food you can grow on your own, the less you have to buy. While it can be challenging to grow enough food to provide everything your family needs, there are those who have succeeded in doing so. But even if you can’t, growing can help ensure that your family will have food to eat when others don’t.
There are two important things to consider here. First, if you wait until the famine hits to start growing food, you’ve waited too long. It takes at least a year to get a garden producing well. The second is that you’ll need a bigger garden than you think. On the average, adults eat about a ton of food a year. That’s going to take a whole lot more than a 10’x 20’ garden to grow.
Of course, the garden isn’t going to be enough by itself. It can provide vegetables, but it can’t provide animal protein. That’s going to be a bit harder, requiring growing chickens, rabbits, or fish. Each of those has its pros and cons, so it’s probably best to do all three if you can.
What About Hunting and Fishing?
For those who can, hunting and fishing may be a way of augmenting your food stocks during the famine. While living off the land entirely is an unrealistic expectation, it’s not unrealistic to try for a deer or try to catch a few fish. Just remember that others will probably be out there too, as many people may be trying to find alternate ways to feed their families.
I’ll have to say though, unless you are an avid hunter or fisherman, the effort you’ll put into hunting or fishing will probably return a smaller yield than what you would get growing food at home. There’s a good reason why our ancestors moved from being hunter/gatherers to being farmers; that’s because they could grow more food than what they could hunt and gather.
Better Add Rainwater Capture
Considering that a large part of the upcoming food shortages are going to be caused by water shortages, you should be ready to get by without as much water from the local water authority. That means either drilling a well or installing rainwater capture. For most of us, rainwater capture is a more logical option, as it is considerably cheaper.
As part of your rainwater capture system, make sure that you have adequate storage for the water. A couple of 55 gallon drums won’t be enough. You’re going to need to be able to store 1,000 gallons of water, or more; that either means getting a huge tank or an above-ground swimming pool.
One Last Thought
Since we know that a time of famine is coming, it only makes sense to start preparing now. That doesn’t just mean making sure we have food to eat but also that we can meet all our other needs. With that in mind, it would be a good idea to develop some sort of side hustle, in order to increase your income and provide a second income stream.
This is something that financial gurus are recommending anyway. But considering that costs are likely to go up faster than wages, adding an additional source of income may just be what you need to do in order to ensure that your family is okay.
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