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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Food Doom

Our agriculture is in trouble. It's highly mechanized and dependent on oil. Oil to runs the machines. Oil is a feedstock for fertilizers and pesticides. Cut off the supply of cheap oil and the industrial food production machine comes to a halt.

Doomers will then say that hungry people will riot and it's the end of everything. The problem with that thinking is assuming food production has to continue to run the way it has in the recent past. It doesn't. The best example is when the Soviet Union fell and oil was cut off from Cuba. They had some lean years, but totally changed their agriculture, putting enormous efforts into organic methods. Any bit of idle land went into production and a diversity of crops were planted.

Cuba is the inconvenient truth that there are alternatives to industrial machine agriculture. We don't all have to starve, but we do have to change the way we grow food.

Cuba is one way, but that's not to say the only answer is for a totalitarian government has to take charge and forcibly change food production.

There are other ways to produce food. During WWI and WWII citizens were encouraged to plant Victory Gardens, and they did much to increase national food production. It worked.

Of course, the world has a more urban population and many don't have a clue about growing food. Fortunately, we are in the information age. People can learn. Already there are price pressures to grow one's own. The pressure will only increase.

There are crops that produce a lot of food in a small space. The humble potato is one of them. Sunchokes are productive and so tenacious that once planted it's difficult to get rid of them as they come up year after year with no effort. There are other plants that produce well but few people have heard of. Discover what grows in your area.

Governments: Federal, State and local are often part of problem, not the solution. Does your area have laws against raising chickens, bees, or planting veggies in your front yard? There are people working hard to change such laws, sometimes successfully and sometimes not.

That's great, but why let silly laws prevent you from feeding yourself? If marijuana growers can produce mountains of the stuff, the average person should be able to grow a few carrots. Food safety is too important to let something as trivial as laws to get in the way.

I don't think we all have to starve. In fact, we should be able to eat a more healthy diet. Cubans have a healthier diet than they did before oil was cut off. Shouldn't we be eating as well as Cubans? Don't wait for a crisis. Grow food now. Benefit now.



  1. I'd like to believe you're correct on the rioting part, but I think that much of the doomer thinking is based on the fact that people tend to riot on many other things why not a sudden food shortage as well. And now in many cases, certain political figures love to pit certain groups against each other and in many cases are guilty of flat out "race baiting". " Why those country folk are hoarding food out there in the hills, while we starve. It's not fair!" would be the thinking.

    I certain once the initial die-off occurs and a state of equilibrium is reached then your thoughts on this would, in fact, be the norm.

    1. On my good days i hope that enough people wake up to make a difference. Maybe a small shock will be all it takes. Price alone should be incentive, as is food quality.

  2. I have quite a few acres but right now, we enjoy groing things in small, portable containers. It is surprising how much food can be grown that way. Since both my wife and I like salads, she grows different types of lettuce and other greens.

    1. With the price of greens rising more than anything else, it's a big savings to grow your own salads. It doesn't take all that much space.

  3. Amen,Sixbears! I'm going to link you on my blog and Facebook, hope you don't mind.

  4. I hate to break it to you but the problem is not the lack of oil or even the lack of fertiliser.
    The problem is that the soil in most chemical farmed areas has become practically sterile. Even if you can get the well composted manures and eough horse drawn or human labour you are looking at around five years before getting significant yeilds.
    In that time you are also going to gave to provide your own seed saved from your own crops which are already is a poor condition.
    To compound your problems the overuse of pesticide has reduced the predator insect, bird and bat population due to a lack of food and habitat.
    Since the pest insects reproduce faster than their predators there will also be a two year or so lag while they breed to catch up. This means massive losses of crops to insects. We haven't even covered the side effects of the lack of herbicides but suffice to say if you don't own a wheel hoe then you're going to spend a lot of time attached to a hand hoe!
    We've always been organic mixed farming but surrounding larger farms who have gone organic have taken up to eight years to get profitable yields and that's with the benefit of modern machines!
    It won't be a die off it will be a holocaust! If you own land now get yourself a huge pile of manure and let it rot because if it all goes pear shaped no one will be selling it even if you can transport it! Remember manure only gets better with age!

    1. I'm not saying it's easy or quick, but it is doable. Maybe not in the big commercial fields so much, but you'd be surprised how much land would suddenly come into production.

  5. It is doable and quite honestly most gardens have a better chance than commercial farmland as it has been less bleached. Again though unless you are growing now you will need copious amounts of compost and manure.
    For such as corn, wheat and barley you will need a couple of acres to feed a family of five.
    We give demonstations in horse ploughing, scythe harvesting and threshing and even knowing what you are doing its incredibly hard work. We also use horses, Welsh cobs mainly, for timber extraction. I can inly urge you all get growing now and learn to save seeds. have information on how to save most varieties.
    Even if life ambles on and we're all wrong the exercise and fresh food will benefit all.