Should you grow and preserve your family’s entire food supply from your own garden? Is there a better, more balanced approach? By the end of reading this post, you will learn three concrete ways to expand your food storage without killing yourself in the garden by doing it all yourself.
Why Grow Your Own Food?
Growing your own food has many advantages:
- You select whether you want to spray your plants or not
- You select your seed (Open-pollinated, Hybrid, or GMO)–it’s your choice
- You choose whether, when, and how much to fertilize
- Your food hasn’t been trucked in from thousands of miles away–pick it at peak freshness!
- More nutritious
- Just plain tastes better
- Saves a significant amount of money
So why not just grow ALL of our food from the garden if it has so many advantages over store-bought food?
Here’s the thing. Growing ALL of your own food requires you to tend MASSIVE amounts of produce to sustain your family.
If you don’t believe me, take a look at the estimate at this link.
According to the chart, maintaining a vegetarian diet of fruits and vegetables would require you to farm 0.44 acres per person!
I’m not sure if some novice gardeners out there have any idea how big a half acre is, so let me put it to you this way: our garden is about 4,000 sq. feet (less than 1/10th of an acre) and it is all my wife and I can do to keep up with everything. I can’t hardly imagine growing a garden area significantly bigger than we already farm.
Also, if you want to have wheat so that you can have flour, you would need to have about 3,000 sq. ft per person/year! That’s a massive amount of wheat to hand cut and thrash if you don’t have a combine/harvester.
Also keep in mind that you would have to till the soil, fertilize, plant, water, harvest, and preserve much of the harvest in order to make your food supply stretch all year. Also remember that in the “garden only” scenario, you are completely dependent on the elements cooperating with you. A hail storm, strong rains and winds, pests, and general crop failures can easily make a big dent in your yield any given year.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not trying to discourage anyone from trying to become self-sustainable in the area of food storage by gardening. What I’m trying to say is that following the “garden only” approach can lead to burnout, food shortages, and disappointment. Gardening doesn’t have to be a full-time job, but it is likely to become an all-consuming activity when you have to farm 1.74 acres to feed a family of four!
So what are our options?
There are several ways that this problem of over-gardening can be addressed:
- Take the money you save on your food bill (due to doing a lot of canning, dehydrating, and freezing your own food) and use the savings to buy long-term food storage. (For an in-depth look at just one possible way you build your food storage for less than $100/person/month, please see our previous article). Excellent quality produce can often be purchased at your local farmers market. Build a relationship with the vendors and try produce from several growers.
- Ask for permission to glean leftover crops. In our area, we have gotten permission from potato farmers to glean leftover potatoes in the field. The potato farmers here even dump their reject potatoes in one spot in the field. Often times this means you can just show up and gather what produce you need from one central location. My wife once gleaned 200 pounds of potatoes for FREE using this approach!The downside to this method is that the produce is not likely to be organic. But remember, you got it for free and it is a GREAT way to start building your long term food storage. Those potatoes (along with other crops) can be sliced and dehydrated or freeze dried to make them last for years to come.Gardeners will also often have an overflow of produce that they are often happy to share with you for a small cost (but usually for free!) For example, my wife and I planted apple trees on our property, but we have yet to see a steady supply of apples come in. Last year we put up quite a few Honey crisp apples that we bought for $20-25/box from a fellow a few hours from our place. We still saved money over what we would have paid for store bought apple sauce and we got far better quality produce than we would have gotten in the store. Oh yes, and gardeners who make the mistake of planting more than one hill of zucchini will BEG you to take copious amounts of zucchini off of their hands! (I froze 36 quarts one summer when I didn’t know what to do with all of it).
- Overripe products and/or throw away produce. Ask grocery store managers if they have any produce or other food that they regularly throw out that they wouldn’t mind giving you or selling to you for a low cost. Overripe bananas are a prime example. They can often be had for a fraction of the cost of regular bananas. These bananas could be freeze dried (best), dehydrated (also a good option for off-grid long-term storage), or frozen (not recommended for long-term storage, but still a viable option).5. Buy the crops that don’t grow well in your area or are too labor intensive. Wheat, rice, and lentils should be bought, not grown. These and other crops require way too much time and energy to meet your family’s needs. Don’t grow them–buy them. Stores like Costco and Sam’s club will definitely have very affordable big bags of rice and you may even find wheat or lentils there as well.
Food Storage is a Long-Term Project
No matter what route you take to building your food storage just remember that long-term food storage is not a project that one can complete overnight. It can take years to build your supplies to a level where you and your family would be taken care of for any number of months or years. Be patient and don’t panic if you don’t think you have enough food to last you through whatever scenario you are planning for. Trying to build your food storage too quickly can result in garden burnout, financial difficulty, or both.
Remember, as a Christian, the Lord has promised to take care of you. “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19 KJV). I believe that God will take care of those who are doing their best to follow His will to the best of their knowledge and ability.
Remember, staying busy in your garden is full of God-given blessings; but growing so much produce that gardening consumes all of your time and energy can be a curse.
One Final Thought
Part of our core philosophy here at Christian Country Living is that we want to prepare for the hard times ahead, not just for the benefit of our own families, but also to provide for our friends, neighbors, family, and others in need. By providing for their spiritual needs (as Jesus often did in His earthly ministry) they will stand a much better chance of allowing us to introduce them to the One who can supply their deepest spiritual longings. We here at CCL are all about helping you learn to help your family and to help others. By utilizing the above strategies, you will be able to provide for the needs of your own family and also be in a better position to assist others! Biblical preparedness is based on the principle of sharing, but that will have to wait for another time.
May God bless you and your family as you continually strive to PRAY, PLAN, AND PREPARE!
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John @ Christian Country Living