Let me share with you the attitude of the proud, those who will starve in a survival situation. A few years ago, I attended church with a pretty wealthy family who's kids really liked my garden and decided to put their own together the following year. The parents, being accustomed to having everything they ever needed at the drop of a hat, wouldn't even help the kids except to till the ground. I asked the Dad what he would do, not having any skills in that area, if a crisis or survival situation actually called for him to provide for his family with his own two hands. To my surprise he says to me "how hard can it be to throw some seeds out there ?" Well, my first thought (after choking on his prideful attitude) was obviously, you wouldn't know. My vocal answer to him was this, "If you think you can sit on some stock of seeds and just get out there when your hungry, and think your going to have the know how to deal with issues or over come the learning curve required to get food on the table, you're going to go hungry." It takes years of practice to learn to do anything well. No matter your career, interest, hobby, or sport. Even seasoned farmers and gardeners will tell you it's a game every year. The skills needed to know how to react and knowing what to do for certain things like diseases or bugs, need to be gained years before you actually have to do it for provision. Read the book before you take the test. Don't think seeds will just grow themselves, that is the gardeners job, as God said, "He put man in the garden to tend and keep it". And believe me it takes a lot of tending and keeping, even for a small garden.
The next topic I want to share is size or the amount of land required to produce the proper amount of food needed. You cannot grow 2 tons of food on a .25 acre lot. Sorry to bust your bubble, it ain't going to happen. I've tried. To my disappointment, it's a joke. Make sure that you can grow things on a large enough scale to actually feed your family. Most big producers will not fit into a raised bed. Reserve the beds for small fruits like strawberries, lettuce, spinach, squash, and some bushy plants if needing to save space. In a real survival situation you will need room to grow hearty things like corn, potatoes, beans, peas, and such. Listen to people who have lived through a war or famine. It's all those type crops that got them through. A few raised beds will NOT keep you fed. Unless you are very diligent about succession planting, have a green house for winter and can eat greens everyday. There are ways to do it smaller, with a green house but that is going to require a lot of work and energy. So get busy figuring it out now. You cannot do the big producers and hearty things successfully in raised beds and get very much food.
You can do some of these things in a large green house in winter. I know an Amish man that rotates his poultry and early spring growing in a huge green house and that works, but farming is his full time job. Maybe you should consider getting one if your budget will allow. To feed a family of even just four, most of the year, your going to need at least 1/3 to 1/2 an acre garden. And you'll still need to succession plant. Keeping up with a garden is a rewarding way to live, but like the Amish friend told my husband once..."there's only so much time in a day." So decide to get proactive now rather than later to figure out what works for you. The people who can pull a rabbit out of the hat, garden for 50 all year on .25 an acre or less, are full time gardeners with nothing else going on, with paid help and that IS their full time job. For most people it isn't realistic. If doing fruit trees or fruit, you'll need more space or try edible landscaping. They do not go into that figure of 1/2 acre for a family of four. They are extra and need their own space.
I know how frustrating it can be to spend so much time trying to get enough food to make it worth my time, only to end up with a few cobs of corn, a few melons, a few tomatoes, and a few peppers at the end. That was when I did it on .25 acre lot. Now, I don't even play. My kids and I grow a full acre garden of veggies with no problem every year. I learned to throw out the books, roll up my sleeves and figure it out my self. Some books are helpful, like seed saving books, but sometimes sweat gives you better results. For more production try the oldies but goodies, the big producers are those row crops mentioned below. Look at these crops for the most bang for your time and money.
*We must have caught someone's eye, because the helicopters searching for weed, fly over us often. I guess one lady and a bunch a kids growing an acre garden is really something suspicious. Lol...I've learned to just ignore it. The kids think it's cool. :(
We grow an heirloom variety of purple okra that is found at the local farm supply for a very cheap price. We grow it because 1-it's navite here and grows well, 2- seeds are very reasonable to buy locally on a large scale and 3- it's a good producer. The co-op seeds are also tons cheaper than these fancy seed catalogs. I do grow the fancy stuff, we have a tomato in every color of the rainbow. We have orange water melons and even a white cucumber. It took years of trying to see what would and would not work well in our soil, climate and garden. The local co-op seeds are usually native to the area and do better than seeds from other places. We also know how to bring in the bacon, by sticking to some row crop staples that don't go out of style, like purple hull peas and green beans. By growing these in large quantities we feel our time is worth the effort. If you've spent lots of money on heirloom seeds that will not survive your climate, or produce little to nothing, you will starve.
If it comes from similar climates, in another country, it might work as well. One of the best buys I ever made was on winter squash seeds from a Guatemalan Blue Squash. It is the only winter squash that can take our heat and humidity in Mississippi and still be very productive. Even though, all the seed catalogs have Watham Butternut as a favorite, but ours always bombed. Nothing but a couple of raggedy little squash for all my time and work. It's better suited for the north and cannot hang with the southern heat. The squash from Guatemala, however, is an awesome producer here. I am always shocked at how much we get off of one 30ft trellis. Below is a medium sized one. They get huge and put out loads of squash. It's worth my time to get that food. I wouldn't know this if I had not been actively trying to figure out these things, before it could be a needed skill. And though I hope the grocery store is always an option, if anything happens we can do it.
You need to make sure you have enough seeds to do the job. Buying from the co-op makes this affordable. Buying from an expensive seed supplier does not cut it if you need seeds by the pound. Johnnyseeds.com is a good one for online bulk purchases of seeds. I ALWAYS plant more than what I need, and end up glad I did. I garden with kids and critters with two and four legs around me all day. There is no planning for some of the unreal things that happen around here. So whether it is a natural disaster like a storm or the dogs chasing a rabbit through my beans, I plan for that by planting twice as much as I wanted to get, so I at least get what I needed to get in the first place. In raised beds, row crops or in seed starting, this has saved our food every year in some way.
Also go into it easy and if the soil has never been worked, don't be ashamed of using a chemical fertilizer just to get started. We did then have weaned ourselves into an organic approach on most things by using our animals manure and other composted material. *Lime for the soil is all natural and most soils need to be tested to see if you need it.
Last but not least, humble yourself before it's too late. Make friends with the older folks around you and there is a free flowing well of knowledge right at your finger tips. If you are not actively gardening, take a class or get with someone who is to get you started now! You will need these people as a life line of support as well as learning from them or to trade with in a disaster situation. In bad times, if you are a stranger, they will have nothing to do with you because you will be a threat to them and their food supply. A friend/pastor to third world countries once told me, morals go out the door when you're hungry. People who are normally upright and kind will be killing for food. And those who have it will also be doing the same to protect it. Do NOT think these folks who bust their butts and sweat for a living will befriend you then. Try to form relationships with those in your neighborhood or area of survival now. People who do not know you will laugh at you or 'worse' in a crisis situation. They have their own families and lives to watch out for, you are a stranger and if you intend to make it through, you should have been doing what they were doing years ago. Community needs to be formed way ahead of a crisis. Building trust is as important as building a storm shelter. Your work ethic and skills should speak for you. Hard working folks will only look at deeds not words. "New comers are not to be trusted", is an unwritten rule in the country. Most of the time it's true. We live in a small community off of the interstate, and new comers are usually trafficking drugs up to other states. Everyone keeps a close eye on newcomers here, because they often mean trouble for small towns or very rural areas. In a crisis, you don't need others being leery of you, when everyone is high strung and motives will be questioned.
You probably will also need to depend on animals at some point and starting now will give you an understanding of there needs such as food, shelter, pests and diseases. So start evaluating what you can do now rather than later for this learning to begin. We began our homesteading in the suburbs about 14 years ago. We had chickens and bunnies right in the suburbs. Do whatever you can, where you are now.
Seriously, I make it a point to befriend old folks. Especially old timers that know how to farm, garden, bee keep and just survive. It's always a treat to have one old timer or another stop by to check in on me, my family and offer garden tips. We chew the fat and carry on about farm stuff and local gossip. My bee man is near ninety years old (he won't tell me for sure) and he still brings me goodies and offers tips that help me in some way every time he comes by. Thank God my husband isn't the jealous type, because I've got a lot of old timers for miles to help me when I need it. They know I want to learn, and they love that a younger person has time for them and wants their knowledge. There's a different older man almost daily coming by to check in on my projects and offer wisdom. They love sharing wisdom and our family is loving the learning we get to do and friendships we have made. One near and dear to us passed away a year ago, but right up to his death, he taught me things. This man was near ninety as well, and went out and wild harvested some Sassafras root for me, so I could have Sassafras tea like he had growing up. I already knew what it was, but I thanked him and came home to make my tea, because he cared enough to take the time to dig it for me. Sassafras was the original base for Root Beer. It's slightly spicy and good served warm with honey. It was a major staple crop for colonial Americans to sell to England.
Sometimes the bush hog is the best way to haul it! If you get a bumper crop, take the kids to a local farmer's market or gas station and sell out of the truck. We do this sometimes and the kids make a little pocket money for their time and effort. They get to keep the money for whatever is sold.
Lesson, be sure to invest your time learning now, because when you need it, you'll have the proper skills. If it's ever a game changer and you have to do it for survival, you cannot afford to be unskilled, unlearned and out of shape. I hope you found this helpful. Now I'm going to pick my okry and sweat for a while. :) *I'll be teaching a class on Basic Soap Making With or Without Electricity at the National Preppers & Suvivalists Expo in Baton Rouge, March 4-5th 2017! Check it out at NPSexpo.com Make plans now to attend!