Every survival/prep­ping web­site and book has some sec­tion on grow­ing your own food dur­ing a SHTF event.  There are ads for seed com­pa­nies show­ing a per­son push­ing a shop­ping cart down isles of emp­ty super­mar­ket shelves and the cap­tion reads some­thing like “How are you going to feed your fam­i­ly?”. And even one of the seed com­pa­nies is now run­ning an ad on a pop­u­lar con­ser­v­a­tive TV talk show with images of a beau­ti­ful house with a gar­den in the back­yard that pro­duces bas­kets of awe­some look­ing veg­gies.

Pow­er­ful imagery indeed.

But let’s look at it from a real, prac­ti­cal point of view.

Farm­ers, be it a fam­i­ly farm or professional/career farm­ers, work long and hard hours every sin­gle day to prod­uct food. It isn’t a hob­by or mere­ly drop­ping some mag­ic seeds in a pot and out sprouts a food tree.

Stop and con­sid­er the sheer amount of land need­ed to prod­uct a years’ sup­ply of food for 1 per­son. Accord­ing to var­i­ous sources opin­ion is it takes any­where from ½ to 40 acres of land per per­son to pro­duce a life-sus­tain­able crop. And you’ll prob­a­bly want to plant even more for pos­si­ble trade sur­plus, ani­mal feed, and just pre­cau­tion against unfore­seen short falls in the har­vest due to insects, dis­ease, bad weath­er etc (more on that lat­er).

Much depends on your grow­ing region, cli­mate, how much vari­ety you want/need etc.

The qual­i­ty of the land you expect to farm plays a lot into this. Just because there is soil doesn’t mean it’s good for grow­ing all types of veg­eta­bles and fruits. And it’s impor­tant to keep in mind that much of the soil in and around urban areas is heav­i­ly con­t­a­m­i­nat­ed with lead, cad­mi­um, and oth­er heavy met­als (as well as chem­i­cal tox­ins) that ren­der it unsafe for grow­ing human (or ani­mal feed) food – not to men­tion where can you find ½ to 40 acres of open land near an urban area?

And if you’re think­ing of “con­tain­er farm­ing” just imag­ine the num­ber of con­tain­ers you would need! (as well as the soil)

Sim­i­lar­ly a clean water source is vital. You can’t rely on Moth­er Nature to pro­vide rain every day, espe­cial­ly in the beat­ing heat of the sum­mer. Just a few days of no rain dur­ing the mid­dle of sum­mer would destroy most crops.

Which leads to the very real pos­si­bil­i­ty of crop fail­ure. Could be drought. Could be unsea­son­able weath­er. And, pre­sum­ing a real rus­tic exis­tence, most like­ly you’ll be plant­i­ng with­out the ben­e­fits of mod­ern her­bi­cides and pes­ti­cides. So the nat­ur­al preda­tors of plants will like­ly rav­age your crop fur­ther reduc­ing your yield.

There is the issue of nutri­tion too. You can’t sur­vive for the long term on just corn or wheat or rice. Veg­eta­bles and fruits have to be care­ful­ly bal­anced to get a decent spec­trum of vit­a­mins and oth­er nec­es­sary nutri­tion vital for human health.

And there is also the real­i­ty that is takes time to plant and grow the crop. What do you eat until then?

You also need to con­sid­er the real­i­ty of secur­ing of your crop. This is espe­cial­ly impor­tant in urban, near urban, and sub­ur­ban areas. You have like­ly seen arti­cles over the years about inner city gar­den­ing and farm­ing in vacant lots as part of a com­mu­ni­ty revi­tal­iza­tion pro­gram or com­mu­ni­ty alliance pro­gram. A good social pro­gram idea no doubt. But if this is the kind of real dai­ly food source some­one is expect­ing main­tain dur­ing an SHTF event, just imag­ine the secu­ri­ty night­mares of pro­tect­ing such open areas and lots! These kinds of com­mu­ni­ty gar­dens can (prob­a­bly will be) quick­ly loot­ed for what­ev­er food can be found. Pro­tect­ing it will either be impos­si­ble or pit neigh­bor-against-neigh­bor in vio­lent con­fronta­tions. In less dense urban set­tings (near urban and sub­ur­ban) it’s easy for your neigh­bors and passers-by to see into most people’s yards. Rows of corn or stakes for beans can eas­i­ly be iden­ti­fied and not­ed for raid­ing. Even in rur­al areas with a big spread of grow­ing land either covert or mass raid­ing of your crop is a pos­si­bil­i­ty too, espe­cial­ly as peo­ple fan out from more dense­ly pop­u­lat­ed areas looked for eas­i­er sources of food. In either of these sce­nar­ios are you pre­pared to pro­tect your food source? The answer isn’t that easy.

This arti­cle is not in any way meant to dis­cour­age some­one from try­ing to grow­ing their own food. Even with­out an SHTF event grow­ing your own food is fun, edu­ca­tion­al (espe­cial­ly for chil­dren), and if suc­cess­ful can cer­tain­ly help off­set at least a lit­tle of the gro­cery bill. But I believe too many peo­ple are under a false impres­sion of being Farmer John and liv­ing off the land dur­ing an emer­gency. It is far from that sim­ple.

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