There is another crisis that I feel I should let you know about so that you can prepare if it should become a bigger problem. All around the world, goods are sitting on docks waiting to be shipped by boat, but the companies buying the products are not able to get financing to pay for the goods because of the credit crisis. As a result of the big drop off in shipping in the last several months, the cost for rental of a large cargo ship has dropped over 90% as ship owners try to attract business so that they can survive. Ships that were getting over $200,000 a day to haul cargo are now only able to get $5,000 – $9,000 a day. This shipping crisis is an indicator of a much bigger problem. If things don’t change soon, imported items will start disappearing from store shelves when current inventories are depleted. This has the potential of becoming a serious problem because around 50% of the food in America and much of everything we use on a daily basis is imported. To read more on the shipping crisis, search www.news.google.com for "shipping crisis".
In these times of economic uncertainty, the principle of preparing for winter helps us understand how to prepare for the uncertainty of the economic future. If you want to be self-sufficient in raising your own food, how many months’ supply of food do you need to store up for the winter? Three months’ supply? Four months’ supply? Six months’ supply? Our ancestors understood the importance of raising food and storing it up for the winter when they couldn’t grow food, and neither could anyone else around them. We have lost touch with what it means to store up food for the winter.
As a boy in the 1970’s I loved to explore my grandma’s basement. There were so many things to look at. It was so full of stuff that there were only paths to get around the basement. In one corner there were shelves that went from floor to ceiling, full of jars of canned fruits and vegetables from her garden. Plus there were boxes stacked on the floor that had more jars of canned food. The lid of each jar had on it the year when it was canned. I quickly discovered that she had at least two years’ supply of food from her garden in that corner. She used the oldest jars first, so she was always eating from what she had grown two or more years before. There were two freezers and they were always stuffed full of food year round. It was just her and my one single uncle that lived in the house, and yet every year she still planted two large gardens, one on either side of the house.
I thought at the time that my grandma was excessive in having so much food stored in her basement. However, in reflecting back on her food storage method, I learned an important lesson about how much food needs to be stored for food self-sufficiency. Just enough food to make it through the winter is not enough. If a person wants to be self-sufficient as much as possible food wise, you need to have more than just one years supply of food. In gardening, you never know how much of a particular vegetable will be produced each year. One year you will get a great crop and the next year little or nothing. If you only have enough to last one year, you will be without that particular vegetable until the next year.
There is another reason for storing several years worth of food. Grandma lived through the Great Depression and raised 12 children. She understood the importance of having food on hand. A two years’ supply of food enables a person to have time to adapt to whatever happens. A person with only a one week supply of food is quickly in an emergency crisis if something happens and they are not able to purchase food. There are a lot of things a person can live without. If a person can’t afford to live in a house, it is possible to live in a tent. However, if a person can’t purchase food, sawdust will not substitute!
My grandfather used to tell the story of a man who wanted to cut the cost of feeding his horse. So he started gradually converting the horse over to eating sawdust. He slowly increased the amount of sawdust that he added to the feed. Everything was going well and he almost had the horse converted over to eating all sawdust, when the horse died! 🙂
The principle of preparing for winter for self-sufficiency is, that a person needs at least one year’s supply of food and preferably two years’ worth. In preparing for economic uncertainty, if we have shelves full of food, and the clothes we need for the next year or two, it gives a satisfaction and comfort that having $10,000 in the bank does not give. You feel like a squirrel that has stored up its nuts for the winter.
Thank you for your support this year. It is your support that makes it possible for us to provide clean, healthy, nutritious, pasture-raised meats and eggs for you. Now, more than ever, it is important that small local farms have the support of the consumers around them. We have been hearing a lot in the news about the credit crisis and the government’s $700 billion dollar bailout.
What we have not been hearing much about is the poultry industry crisis. Pilgrim’s Pride, the country’s largest chicken producer, is on the verge of bankruptcy. They were not able to meet their financial obligations at the end of September and their lending institution gave them a 30 day grace period. Their stock has dropped to less than $3.00 a share from a high of $40 a share in July of 2007.
The other big poultry producers have also been experiencing huge losses due to the high grain prices and their stocks have been dropping as well. Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson made appeals to the government to ease the ethanol production mandates for this year to reduce the demand and the cost for corn. The appeals were rejected. The government is more interested in energy production and bailing out Wall Street than in domestic food production!
The supply of cheap imported chicken and a reduced demand and oversupply of chickens has prevented the poultry industry from being able to raise their prices when grain prices went up dramatically this year. Chicken prices should be much higher in the grocery stores than what they are. With the price of conventional grain where it is, the price of conventional chicken should be about the same as what organic chicken was a year ago.
For years I have observed one poultry company buying up another. Then another company would buy up that one. With each buy out, the smaller company was merged to make a bigger poultry company. It was a dog eat dog world. I wondered what would happen when the biggest dog (poultry company) died and there was no one to take its place. We are about to see that happen.
With each year, we are losing more and more of our food independence and have to rely more and more on other countries to feed us. Along with that dependence on other countries for our cheap food is an increased health risk because of the reduced food regulation in other countries. The past two years has seen a huge increase in the problem of food poisonings from Salmonella in tomatoes and other vegetables to melamine in Chinese milk and pet food products. For years, the big factory farm model has been promoted as the best food production method. The big factory farm model is failing as we thought it would. And we see how very foolish it is for us to rely on other countries to provide our food for us. It is important now more than ever to encourage the development of smaller local farms and know where your food comes from.