I couldn’t sleep as news and statistics about our future danced in my head. I tried counting sheep, but as someone who once raised sheep, it didn’t work. It just led me to thinking about shearing and spinning and all the nice organic lamb we used to put in the freezer. I won’t go into particulars about what is coming down the pike re the trade crisis, foreign entanglements, climate change, shortages, terrorism, possible shutdown of the power grid, financial collapse, and our corrupt (on both sides) political system.
Brighter minds than mine are doing that. Instead, I’d like to address self-sufficiency and taking control of one’s life. I’ve always been something of a prepper, but the reasons have taken a different turn. Tis the season to be thankful, but not complacent.
If you wake in the morning, turn on the heat or air, pour your coffee from a coffeemaker, grab your car keys, and head out to fill the gas tank before hitting the highway to go work for the man, you may soon want to consider some lifestyle changes. If you wake in the morning, stoke the fire, walk to the barn to gather eggs, milk the cow or goat, check the garden for newly ripened produce, and return to the house with your bounty, you are a man or woman who works harder than most, but you are blessed and will be more blessed as time passes. Okay, most of us can’t do that, but what can we do?
If you are an urban dweller who has created a garden from a small patch of earth alongside your house or apartment building, or who plants herbs and patio tomatoes in buckets on the porch or in a sunny window, you are on the right track. According to the USDA, the number of imported food shipments has roughly doubled every five years since the passage of NAFTA in 1993. This percentage will also rise in proportion to the number of acres that are reassigned to producing plant crops for government-subsidized corn, wheat, cotton, soybeans and other food products, much of which is exported. The Trump administration is planning to cut these and other farm subsidies in the near future. Now if we can only get them to subsidize foods that are good for us and grown by actual farms, not conglomerates and billion-dollar ag companies. Funny how no administration has ever thought of doing that. Let’s support the guys and gals who crawl around weeding the organic greens, who pick the potato beetles off by hand, and work from sunup to sundown to supply their neighbors with safe, clean food.
We are shocked, shocked I say, when we learn that imported foods are sometimes tainted with chemicals or are otherwise unsafe. And our government, which has an endless supply of resources to keep track of us, seems to have no money to keep track of what goes in us. “It’s the tomatoes. No, it’s the peppers. Oops, we don’t know what is making you sick.” So there are plenty of reasons to become more self-sufficient.
Our food system is not secure. The USDA defines food security as being, for a household, “access by all members at all times to enough food for an active healthy life … Food security includes at a minimum the ready availability of nutritionally, adequate and safe foods,” and the “assured ability to acquire acceptable foods in socially acceptable ways (that is without resorting to emergency food supplies, scavenging, stealing, or other coping strategies.” No dumpster diving for you. And what are emergency food supplies anyway? Food banks? Brown bags for seniors? Food stamps/SNAP? Guess a lot of us aren’t so secure.
Stay tuned for Part II, coming next week!
Sheila Velazquez is a writer and editor whose work has appeared in more than 100 print newspapers and magazines, including Grit, New Woman, the Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, the San Antonio Express-News and Bay Area Parent. Her awards include two from the Society of Professional Journalists for a syndicated column. Sheila has contributed to online websites, including commondreams.org and dissidentvoice.org. She served as contributing editor of Organic Producer magazine and wrote biographical material for reference collections that include “Contemporary Authors,” the “Encyclopedia of International Biography” and “Notable Sports Figures.” Feel free to send her an e-mail.