Food Security and Drought

Food security is critical for our lives. As we depend more on corporate agriculture we lose our food security. “Too many eggs in one basket” to paraphrase ancient wisdom as simplified for children to learn.  Simple is good for me.

We are having massive droughts around the world and many are in agricultural areas that produce most of a country’s food. Mass shipping of food around the planet gives an illusion of food security, but that is only for wealthy people whose money can secure food in the Market Economy no matter what the price.

Few of our 7 billion people are wealthy. Even in the United States, once wealthy, over half the population slid into poverty since 2008.  As income drops, eating healthy foods morphs into eating cheap foods.  What happens when cheap foods no longer exist?

Many of us know that California is drought ridden.  What most fail to consider is that 1/3 of the produce eaten in this country is grown in California’s Central Valley.  But it is worse than that because over 90 percent of our most common and inexpensive vegetables come from the Central Valley.  Poor people’s food.

California produces about 95 percent of some of my favorites:  almonds, figs, persimmons, pistachios, kiwi, raisins, olives.  Plus other fruits and vegetables not my favorites.  Of these, I might add hardy kiwi to my garden, and plan to do so.  I will grow American persimmon, not Japanese persimmon.  I will plant Walnut but may not live to see it bear nuts.  I am pretty marginal for grapes and raisins but planted one in a protected spot.  I need another.  As for the rest, not happening in my garden.

In all, about 230 food crops are grown in California’s Central Valley.

Imports can help, you say; however, many imports have toxins not allowed in the United States unless sitting on imported produce.  Plus, other countries are having drought issues of their own.  Yesterday I saw a comment online about South Africa’s Free State having a disastrous drought.  I looked it up and it is a major food producing area for South Africa, just like California’s Central Valley is for the US.

And so it goes.  We depend so heavily on agricultural areas that grow our food in large monoculture systems that we have no food resilience in the face of drought or other disasters in those areas.

You may be able to protect your small garden in the face of late frosts, or collect rainwater for August drought, or build hugelkultur beds to store water, but large scale monocultural agriculture cannot do that.  When it fails, it fails.  Even when it does not fail, farmers allow food to rot in the field if they don’t get the price they want or can’t find cheap labor.  They won’t throw good money after bad.  Your food supply is a business for farmers.

Most people learned about Germans starving near the end of WWII.  What they don’t realize is that farmers could and did produce food.  They refused to sell what they had.  As soon as Allied money showed up, food and other items showed up in German stores overnight at higher prices.  Everything was already there.   People starved to death because someone else controlled their food supply.  They don’t have to be evil, feeding you just might be unprofitable to them.

I live in a drought-prone area and I use hugelkultur beds to soften drought conditions.  Shoveling snow and concentrating it on my raised beds does the same.  Rainwater collection is feasible for most US landowners.  Raising beds where too much rain drowns gardens is common in the Pacific Northwest.  Mulch in Texas to protect soil during long hot days.  On a smaller scale like a garden, we can take extra care.

My answer to drought is to raise native edibles that require less water in a food forest circular economy.  My land is my refuge even though it is dry.  Yesterday I looked up the predictions for New Mexico’s future climate.  It said 54 percent is expected to be wetter, including my property.  But much of our food is grown in the southern part of the state which is expecter to get drier.  Thousands of acres of mountain forests have burned and are not self-regenerating.  Pinyon-juniper-gamble oak is becoming juniper-gamble oak-aspen.  Pinyons are a major human food source, the other 3 are not.  Note that humans can eat acorns, most do not, soak the tannins out and they are quite tasty.  Big changes already in southern New Mexico, where pinyons are not being replanted.

My area is expected to retain pinyon pines even though we have lost 20 percent of them.  My pinyons are self-regenerating.  If it is all about pine nuts and prickly pear, I will make prickly pear wine and eat pine nuts for snacks.  Enjoy what you have!

Because we can grow food ourselves, and can “baby” our gardens to some extent, giving them ability to thrive, we have the possibility to provide a large portion of our food security.  If I have a garden, I am not in the Market Economy competing for high priced produce.  Gardening is a way to provide food security for yourself while keeping competition and prices down in the Market Economy for those things you cannot grow yourself.

If you do not own land, you can access bare land in cities pretty easily.  My favorite is for people to partner with an elderly homeowner for garden space, paying “rent” with produce.  It keeps costs down and benefits both parties.

Food security is a life or death issue.  Not something I trust to global megacorporations that just don’t have concern for me as an individual person.  That level of concern for whether I eat this week is pretty much left to me and my family.

My entire life the corporations advertised “leave it all to us, we are Americans, we are experts, you go play.”  That spiel has changed to “you are not useful to the corporation, eat worms and die.”  For someone in my age group that lived through this change in attitude, it is still shocking but my rose tinted glasses are off.  Many people are aghast and want global megacorporations to return to their earlier promises.  I accept them as who they say they are.

Food security is critical to sustain my life.  I have taken on providing that for myself.  Always provide your own food security first, at some point you may reach the point of providing for others as well.  When I say me, I mean my immediate family even though they don’t live here.

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About rebeccatreeseed

I am a naturalist raised by naturalists. Treeseed is my earned name, while Rebecca is my birth name. I am of Northern European descent, with a quarter Irish.quarter thrown in. I suspect I was a product of northern invaders into Ireland into Ireland. but hard to say since DNA disproved the family story about Apache blood! I have found some odd ancestors to replace them. Last year I bought 5 acres of pinyon-juniper forest on the side of a mountain in Santa Fe County, New Mexico. I am fulfilling a lifetime dream of a cabin in the mountains and a food forest that will feed me and local wildlife. I want to share this new phase of my life with others that might be interested.
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5 Responses to Food Security and Drought

  1. Helen says:

    You write a poignant article. It is scary how vulnerable the vast majority of people are!

  2. It scares me. I think people are noticing, and that is what we need most. I like to pair gardeners up with the elderly, too many are alone and on fixed incomes, but they have that all important soil, and a fence. We have access to other gardeners for advice, but best of all, plants want to live. Everything I see and read about our fragile food system concerns me. Food is critical… fragile is not a word I like to hear. It is easy for me to turn my back and feed my own, but I am adding my voice to yours and all the others supporting gardening and small farms.

  3. ArtDeco says:

    Hello Rebecca;
    Truly. If someone has some land available, and someone else needs land to garden it can be a “win/win” in corporate speak.

    When London’s truckers went on strike a few years ago, the mayor estimated that they were no more than three days from food riots – in one of the wealthiest cities on Earth.

    It’s not just too dry or too wet weather, or corporate greed that can cut off food supplies, any major disruption can do it. As we face peak oil, peak population, and ever increasing global weirding of climates, it is a good bet that unexpected events will shut down food deliveries, and each person will need to have something to eat for several weeks at a time at least occasionally.

    Art Deco

  4. Hello Art Deco,
    You are correct. The sad truth is the there are so many possible breakdowns in the global food system, the miracle is that it works at all. Each little cog has to do its part. Each little cog can cause a breakdown. I certainly think every person should have a supply of food to last more than London’s three days. When my ancestors settled the west, a two year supply was not uncommon, it allowed for a crop failure. Nowadays, a one year food supply is uncommon. Certainly one month would get one through many glitches in the system. I’d rather have extra food than depending on rioting to put food in my belly.
    I appreciate your comment.

  5. Climate weirding has me creating an indoor garden!

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