Last week, the Wall Street Journal published an article about how the US produce industry is facing widespread crop failures. Anyone who has been shopping for lettuce lately will probably not be surprised by the opening sentence:
High temperatures in the Western U.S. are hitting the produce industry, damaging crops, shrinking shipments, and leaving fewer leafy greens and fruits on supermarket shelves.
The article goes on to examine a few of the myriad problems that the produce industry is facing right now. The heat wave is causing lettuce to practically melt in the fields. Since heat-stressed plants don’t have as many natural defenses, disease is flourishing. These problems aren’t limited to just California growers or lettuce. Problems with quality and supply throughout the US are driving up prices in the supermarket and making quality produce harder to come by.
If you follow the news, every day you’ll see a new article about food prices worldwide, thanks to many factors. War, drought and heat waves, labor disputes and strikes, supply chain disruptions, COVID-19, and other factors all have played a part in this global food crisis. It’s a complicated problem that can’t be solved overnight, but you can still do your part to protect yourself and those near you.
9 Ways to Survive Food Shortages
Let’s look at some ways you can respond quickly to the current food shortage, and also how to look to the future for a more long-term plan.
1. Stock Up on Seeds and Other Supplies
Get together a survival seed vault that you can store for the coming season. Crop failure now means that seeds will also be in short supply next year, so planning is important. You’ll also want to stock up on any other supplies you might need, including pet food, canning supplies, or other essentials. The last few years have made it clear that food supply shortages go hand in hand with other shortages (like toilet paper!).
2. Learn to Cook
This is a basic level survival skill. The food you cook yourself is more healthy, more nutritious, and less expensive than prepackaged meals or takeout. When you learn to cook, you also learn how to adapt, what food substitutions make sense, and how to make your food taste better.
3. Cut Down on Food Waste
We waste an appalling amount of food! Don’t overbuy or let your produce rot in the crisper. Consider how you can use the less-than-perfect vegetables that you harvest. If you let your zucchini grow a little bit too big or your bananas are just a little bit ripe, don’t just throw them away. Make some breakfast bread. If you have too much, share a loaf with the neighbors.
4. Find Community
While we’re talking about neighbors, let’s talk about the importance of community. Social activity is one of the most vital aspects of survivalism. If you know like-minded people who are willing to share and work together, you’ll all be better off. Practically, you can swap seeds, food, and labor as well as learn valuable skills from one another. It’s also great for morale in hard times to have someone nearby you can rely on.
5. Shop Locally & Shop Small
Do you have a local farmer’s market? Can you buy from a local CSA? Local farmers don’t have to ship their food from across the nation (or even the world), so keeping it local whenever you can makes a lot of sense. Small farmers often struggle more in hard times, since they don’t have the resources of the industrial farming complex to back them up. Keeping your money local and small helps to reinforce your local economy. It’s also really nice to know where your food comes from.
6. Grow a Garden
Don’t just stock up on seeds, plant a garden! You can grow something all year round, even in the cold months. That’s where container gardens, cold frames, and hardy varieties can come into play. Quick-growing foods like microgreens, radishes, and other green leafy vegetables are also excellent for a fast response to food shortages.
7. Learn Preservation Skills
Make the most of your harvest by learning various methods of food preservation. Freezing, canning, drying and fermenting all are ways to stretch your food. Check out our how-to articles on Canning 101, Drying and Preserving Herbs, and Preserving Tomatoes to get started.
8. Take Good Care of Your Garden
Grow a variety of plants, including flowers and herbs. Your garden will be healthier and will produce more food if you attract pollinators and have a diverse landscape. If you’re not going to actively grow food crops during the winter, don’t let things just fall apart. Prepare your garden for the season change by clearing off old plant debris, add mulch, and plant cover crops. You’ll build soil and prevent weeds, pests, and disease for next year by doing some maintenance right now.
9. Save Your Seeds for Next Year
As mentioned above, when food crops fail, seeds become scarce. Harvest and save seeds now for next year’s garden. Check out our article on How to Harvest and Save Seeds for the basics of seed saving. To maximize your germination rate and build your own survival seed bank, read up on How to Store Seeds for the Longest Viable Life.
Drought, famine, and hunger are major themes in human history. Don’t wait to see how bad things are going to get to start responding. Be proactive! Preparing for hard times is good sense, and can pay off in a big way.