Growing Your Own Food in a SHTF Situation

Growing food shtf

Past articles have talked about what crops to grow, and in some cases how to raise a particular crop and so on. This article however, will attempt to point out a few things that some of you may not have considered about your food and raising your own during an extended crisis.

Some Facts to Chew On

People living in the United States at the beginning of the 21st century are consuming more food and several hundred more calories per- person, per day than did their counterparts in the 1950’s, according to the USDA (USDA, 2000).

“In the late 1950s, the per capita calorie consumption was at its lowest level in the last century. The aggregate food supply in 2000 provided 3,800 calories per person per day. This is 500 calories above the 1970 level and 800 calories above the record low in 1957and 1958” (USDA, 2000).

In 2000, the average person consumed on average 195 pounds of meat yearly, which included red meat, pork and poultry, while only, consuming on average 15 pounds of fish. The meat consumption was up by 57 pounds annually. According to some experts today however, the consumption of meats is down compared to 2000.

The study was conducted in 2000, so in all likelihood the calorie consumption and meat consumption has changed. In the year 2000, 62 percent of adults were considered overweight, but not necessarily considered obese.

“A person is considered obese when they are 30 pounds above their healthy weight”.

What is a healthy weight, that is a question for another day and only you and your health care provider can answer that.

Ok Now That You Have Digested the Facts

The point of the data is to point out that modern farming, food processing and readymade foods along with technology has made food readily available. The availability of foods can logically be considered one of the reasons for the growing problem of obesity in the country.

The study did not point out however, that even though food is readily available for various reasons, it is not free. In a SHTF situation how well you eat will be directly related to how much effort you put into it, along with having the right skills, knowledge and the plants themselves. Being prepared is vital to your survival.

You Don’t Know Until You Know

Backyard gardeners today have fertilizers, pesticides and soils bought in bags that virtually guarantee results. You have a reasonable expectation of yields even though you have just a basic understanding of gardening.

The Internet is full of stories of people claiming they can support a family of four on a ¼ acre of land while others say it takes ½ acre while still others say it takes a full acre. You will not know until you know, because you cannot use the standards of today to predict what the results will be in the future.

Today if your tomatoes look like weaklings, you give them a dose of fertilizer, spray for fungus and pests, and talk soothingly to them. The squirrels, rabbits, deer and other animals know their place so your crops in the backyard are swaddled in comfort and safety.

You go to sleep dreaming of that beefsteak tomato slice on your hamburger at tomorrow’s barbecue. All the other foods for the gathering were bought at your local grocery, so gardening for some if not for many today is not a life or death struggle.

Imagine your food supply is down to six months, it takes that long or even longer in some cases for a crop to mature if it matures at all. You plant the seeds in soil that is dubious at best because you have no idea what contaminates may be in the soil. You have no fertilizer other than the scraps from your last meal and water is always a problem because you cannot count on rainfall.

It seems like that ten minutes after planting the seeds weeds have already sprouted to compete for the nutrients and water. You cannot provide any more fertilizer than what you have. The lonely tomato is now in a life or death struggle, for water, nutrients and even sunlight and how well it does may determine if you will survive or not.

Your research has shown that growing foods organically today means you will have at least a 25 percent reduction in yields, so for every ten plants you put in, 2.5 of them will die or be destroyed by insects, animals, or simply not yield at all. The figures may be conservative because now you have a water problem, a bigger animal and insect problem and your seeds even though they were canned and sealed may not be what you thought.

The Data May Tell the Story

When people stopped producing as much of their own foods shortly after the Second World War, people’s waistlines increased, (look up victory gardens). Was it because the troops came home, and houses were built in record numbers during this period? Farmland was sold off so more houses could be built and thus suburbia was born. Cheek to cheek, the houses sprang up, no room for victory gardens anymore but that was okay because food was plentiful at the local market.

What about Now

You have a SHTF seed survival can or packet or even a seed vault. Great to have, but all you get are seeds in the can. Knowledge and skills cannot be bought in a can and what about seed harvesting for future crops. Will bees even survive (you will need bees more so then ever) or will the population be reduced after a catastrophe, questions that cannot be answered right now.

The overuse of pesticides in today’s gardens has reduced the number of bees, so much to learn so little time.

It is not this articles’ intent to scare anyone, or to prove it can or cannot be done, but to simply point out there is more to growing your own food in crisis than just having a trowel and a packet of seeds.

You will need a way of tilling up the soil. Today you rent or you may already own a tiller. Pull the cord and the machine does much of the work. How will you work the soil, an acre or more, without machinery? Irrigation is something you must consider as well, unless you want to carry water in clay pots and dribble a little on each plant, and where will the water source come from. All things you must consider. Rainfall is generally never enough to sustain a healthy garden.

These are things to plan for now. Make sure your seeds will still germinate a month, year or two years from now by knowing the shelf life. The only way to be sure however, is to harvest your own seeds and store them properly. Who are you going to call when that survival pack of seeds is nothing more than a container of duds when the SHTF. Most importantly, you need the skills and the knowledge. Guesswork will hasten your demise when the situation becomes real.

Some of you living in a rural environment may already have an established garden. How many of you have considered how much food you buy from a grocery store. You may buy less, because of the garden and livestock, but how much less. If the grocery stores closed today, could you feed your family?

Food storage will be a problem. Seeds will be sought after not only by humans but also by rodents. Rats and mice depend on humans for their survival. Rodents will continue to rely on humans as long as there are humans on the planet. You will need a rodent and insect proof plan for food storage. Keep in mind what you use today may not be relevant during a crisis, so you have to adapt as the situation changes.

Get your pencil sharpened and begin now planning for when you do have to survive on your wits and skills alone.

USDA. (2000). Retrieved from