To become self-sufficient is a personal choice. It takes time and discipline to reach your goal, for yourself and in the environment you live. Of course, money saving is one of the first considerations. It comes hand in hand with self-sufficiency because our labor is cheaper than somebody else’s.
Most of us are very dependent on the groceries we can buy in stores. As long as stores remain and open, we are assured we will not starve. But being able to feed yourself from resources in your area is more important and reliable.
Many people are so enmeshed in the food transportation system that it would never occur to them to change their lifestyle to a less fuel-dependent one. By adjusting the way you eat to your environment now, you’ll be that much further ahead while the system disintegrates.
If food transit system did not exist, we have to get and eat everything locally. Farmer’s market is a good place to begin. It is definitely less expensive and you will be aware of what fruit or vegetable is in season. Most of all, you will have the idea to know what food item grows well in your area, for your reference.
Some other ways to learn about your area’s agriculture:
- Join a gardening group. Even if you are apartment-bound and don’t have the space for a garden of your own, joining a group of local gardeners or homestead-minded people can help you learn about the local growing scene. Facebook abounds with local groups. The bonus is, you can make some friends and learn some skills while you are researching the area.
- See what grows wild. Where I live, there are blackberries everywhere – so many that they are considered an invasive plant! We go blackberry picking several times throughout the summer to help ourselves to nature’s bounty. You can often find fruit and nut-bearing trees along a hiking trail. By learning what grows wild, you can make the best choices for creating your own orchard or garden. If it can grow without any help , the plant will absolutely thrive with a little nurturing.
- Most importantly, see what doesn’t grow in your area. No one grows wheat in the area where I live. The soil here is simply not right for it. They don’t grow bananas because the climate is not right for it. But fresh corn grows like a weed, as do berries and nut trees. If no one farms it in your area, then you will pay a premium price for it if you continue to eat the food while prices escalate.
- Check out your county extension office. There are some amazing resources there for gardening, cooking, and preserving. All of the information you receive there follows regulations from the USDA, but it is still a great (and free) educational resource.
What about the winter, when nothing is growing?
There are lots of different agricultural zones and this is where your county extension office can come in handy yet again. In many areas, with the right set up, you can grow throughout the year.
We purchased one of those inexpensive greenhouses at an end of season this year. We plan to erect that in our yard in the fall. This winter we should be able to grow some hardy greens for salads and stir-fries. During the coldest, darkest days of winter, we’ll be growing some tender lettuce and herbs in a sunny windowsill.
In some regions, hoop houses and cold frames can extend your growing season 1-2 months on either end of the normal growing season.
As well, you have to plan ahead like our ancestors did. Winter has been coming every year for a long time now – it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that it’s coming again this year and that they need to prepare for it. Now is the time to pick and preserve so that you can feed yourself throughout the winter. I’ve canned jams, fruit, coleslaw, tomato juice, pickles, and salsa, and I’m just getting started. This is the busy time of year for those seeking an agrarian lifestyle, because it’s time to start seedlings for a fall garden too.
There are many foods that can be accessed year round. Chickens will continue to lay eggs and dairy animals will continue to provide milk. Meat is also available on a basis other than seasonally.
Eating foods in season is healthy. It is when you get the most flavors and nutritional value and the greatest freshness for foods that are locally grown and are in season. When you wanted to have products out of season, like fruits, you cannot actually purchase a real fresh fruit. The once in the grocery are picked earlier, with its vitamins and minerals not fully developed. Other companies add some coating to the product to make it more tempting to eat. Most add preservatives to prolong the products lifespan.
Reducing the distance your food travels isn’t the only health reason to eat seasonally. Nature provides certain foods at certain times because that is when your body needs them the most. They are also less likely to be drenched in pesticides, fertilizers and fungicides if the plants are growing as nature intended them too.
For example, in the spring, those tender leafy sprigs like lettuce, kale, peas and pea shoots, and asparagus provide vitamins K and folate, which support blood health, bone health, and cell repair. The cool delicate foods are light, low in calories, and rejuvenating to the body as you gear up for the upcoming warm weather. Feasting on these waistline friendly foods is a great way to get rid of that insulating layer of fat that you may have acquired during the winter.
In the summer, delicious berries actually provide protection against the strong rays of the sun. In season foods like corn, peppers, and tomatoes are light on your stomach during the blazing hot weather. Many summer vegetables can be eaten raw and require no cooking, so you don’t have to heat up your house to prepare them.
In the fall, you should begin to look for foods that provide more warmth – carrots, sweet potatoes, apples, and pumpkins, to name a few. As well, the beta-carotene in many of these autumn treats will boost the body’s germ fighting cells to strengthen your immune system for the upcoming cold and flu season.
Finally in the winter, you should consider eating more carbohydrates like those from root vegetables – they help the body to sustain a little more weight, which is needed to insulate against the cold weather. Warming vegetables like potatoes, cabbages, carrots, onions, rutabagas, and winter squash all store well in cool, dark places, providing energy and comfort throughout the winter season. Adding more fish to your diet during this time of year is also beneficial for the warming effect, the higher calories, and the high levels of vitamin D (the vitamin you get directly from the sun during the warmer months). Vitamin D is important for good mental health and a strong immune system.
Nuts, which store well for the winter, are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids, which help moisturize your body from the inside out – this helps to fight that dry winter skin so many of us suffer from.
Most importantly, eating foods in season is great for your budget. It is when they are most affordable. No matter how adequate stocks are in the grocery store, it will still give us financial unsustainability, especially to average Americans, because of our economic issues as well. As gas prices increase, anything that has use in it increases. That includes long-distance food at the grocery stores. The farther the food to be delivered, the higher the cost will be.
To be able to grow food on your own, you don’t have to be an expert, especially in gardening. You just have to be determined and disciplined for your goal. You have to be observant and be willing to put in hard work. Also, you must be open for tendencies and not get discouraged, like when something in the garden didn’t grow well. If others are able to grow food, then it is also possible for you.
For centuries, this was how people got enough food to eat and the human race hasn’t died out yet. This means that, given a little bit of space, you can grow food too.
Just be creative! Let the scenery of spring, summer, fall and winter be your guide.
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