An Acre of Land: Self-reliance and the New Homesteader

A small flock should be part of the plan.

A small flock should be part of the plan.

I couldn’t sleep replaying in my mind the many dire predictions about the future of our food supply. The bees are in trouble, invasive weeds are establishing themselves in new environments, harmful insects and plant diseases are becoming more menacing.

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 the particulars about the corporate devils who manipulate our food, because there are many writing about that. And anyway, I would be preaching to the choir (that would be you if you are still reading). Instead, I’d like to address self-reliance and how we can ensure some measure of food security through our own actions.

Maybe you wake in the morning, turn up the thermostat, 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’d like to raise some of your food but think you don’t have the knowledge or the time.
Or, you may wake and stoke the woodstove with seasoned pieces you have cut, stacked and piled to dry, walk to the barn and gather eggs, milk the cow or goat and check the garden for ripe veggies. If that is you, you are a man or woman who works harder than most, but who is blessed and will likely be more blessed as time passes. Most of us fall somewhere in between.

If you are an urban dweller who has created a garden from a small patch of earth alongside your house, or who has patio tomatoes in buckets on a porch, or herbs in a sunny window, you are on the right track, and I’ll bet you have an inkling of the challenges we may soon be facing. More than half of our food is imported, and this percentage will rise in proportion to the number of acres that are reassigned to producing plant crops used for fuel or for the export market. We are sending much of our bounty overseas where it commands higher prices and because it is cheaper to ship vegetables over oceans than from the West Coast to the East Coast by truck. And there is the newest threat, that because of drought, those trucks won’t be carrying enough food for all of us.

The need for self-sufficiency is becoming more evident with each new revelation about the safety and inadequacy of our food supply. It doesn’t take a lot of land to grow enough vegetables for one family and maybe even fit in a chicken coop. An acre or even less will do it.

More people are also returning to the living arrangements of the past. Multigenerational households and farms, land leasing and sharing, 60s-style communal living, all are becoming more mainstream as young and old alike work to secure their food, water and health. It’s a movement that hasn’t been named yet. No, can’t use back-to-the-land. That one is taken. We need to work on a new one.