Your Small Farm Survival Plan

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Seems like there's lots of bad news on the horizon these days e.g. political fumbling, economic failures, endless simmering wars, and Peak Pretty-Much-Everything. Makes me pretty happy to be on my farm, where at least I can try to prepare for whatever comes. In that vein, here's a few ideas for a small farm survival plan to help you figure out your priorities for the near future.

Job # 1 – Feed yourself. I have neighbours with farms that still buy most of their food at the supermarket. I even have farmers who subscribe to my CSA. I think the number one job for any current or would-be small farmer is to grow as much of your own diet as possible. At least start with this survival garden plan.

For the last couple of years, we've also been planting more perennial crops e.g. - fruit trees, asparagus - here at New Terra Farm, trying some non-traditional livestock like honey bees, and in general trying to extend the range and variety of food items we produce.

This is pretty much the only way to assure a better diet for your family. I see way too little attention paid to this critical element of a long-term farm survival plan. Stored food and stockpiled ammo are necessary but not sufficient; you've got to be able to grow more of your diet.

These new crops can also become barter items or new profit centres for your farm. The best way to test the viability of small farm ideas for commercial purposes is to grow it for yourself first. That way customers aren't depending on your learning curve. I also applied this principle when I decided to grow some bedding plants. Because I already had experience growing our own transplants, and I wasn't 'betting the farm' by starting out too large, this has become a successful sideline business. Priority # 1 – Water. I think this year in North America has brought home the absolute critical need to assure a water supply. Your long-term small farm survival plan needs to include at least two back-up ways to get water for yourself, your crops and your livestock. Besides my well, I have a 4000-gallon cistern that's fed by rainwater off my barn roof, a natural spring that reportedly has never run dry in the last 40 years (I'm in the process of developing it to make access easier), and immediate storage of two weeks worth of potable water for me and my animals. I also have a good quality ceramic water filter with a capacity of about 15 gallons a day, for personal use. You may not be lucky enough to have a spring, but you can take other steps to assure your water supply. Your farm survival plan has no higher priority.
Myth # 1 – You can do it all yourself. Here's the scary truth: the lone survivalist is a myth. It was always a myth; even the fabulous 'mountain men' of yore depended on others for some supplies. There's a reason why 'banishment from the tribe' was just about the worst punishment conceivable. While I do believe the world will be a scarier, poorer place in the years to come, and there may well be a 'die-off' of the unprepared, I don't think the odds favor a 'Mad Max'/Tina Turner – style complete disruption of all civil society. And I believe you will survive best if you help some of your community to survive as well. Start by finding out who among your friends seems to have a clue about the coming upheavals. Seek ways you can work together to better everyone's chance for survival. You don't have to give away all your secrets, but opening up a little to find some areas of cooperation is a good idea. Right now I barter some of my eggs for baked goods, I've traded vegetables for hay, I bartered a patio door for the hoops for my greenhouse, and in the fall I'll be swapping one of my hogs for a quarter of beef. I've helped friends out on construction projects, and tree planting, and a number of other tasks; they have done the same for me. We borrow tools and equipment from one another – don't buy or rent a seldom-used tool if you can borrow. I visit other local farms regularly to swap ideas and look for opportunities to cooperate. If I can't grow, make, or barter for it, I try to buy it from within my local community.
I also have two other farms lined up as 'fall-back' locations if necessary (and I'm theirs). In short, my farm survival plan includes creating a network of folks I can count on in a crunch. Return to Home page from Small Farm Survival Plan