By Marjory Wildcraft
Why Your Grocery Bill Will Double
Yes, you read that title correctly, and honestly, I hope it only doubles. It could get much worse. Here is why. There are three unstoppable forces that are colliding and pushing up food prices like an eruption from a volcano.
#1 Severe weather is reducing global food production.
Remember that scorching heat this summer? Not only is it tough for you, but crops and livestock can’t live in it either. There were similar problems during last winter’s devastating freezes. We’ve had droughts, floods, heat waves, cold snaps and worse around the globe. These have been going on for much of the last decade. To keep things stable, we’ve been eating our stored grains. We are now scraping the bottom of the bin. Even the conservative USDA is reporting that our reserves are razor thin. The next harvest will be the most important event in US history.
#2 As the price of oil goes up, so do grocery prices.
Are you getting used to the ‘new normal’ at the pump being somewhere around $3.50 to $4? Do you think oil prices will be going down? No, me neither.
All across the US you’ve seen those mega farms growing corn, wheat, and potatoes that make up our basic food stocks. Every step in the process of growing that food involves oil and fossil energy. The planting, the chemical fertilizers, the harvesting, processing, and transportation all need massive amounts of energy (oil).
Many Americans are surprised to find that we are no longer the ‘Bread Basket’ to the world. Yes, we do grow and export some corn, but most of the agricultural products we grow need imported oil. The dollars that buy that oil are losing value – and with the possibility of the US defaulting on its debt, everything is going to get more expensive.
#3 Government responses to the food crisis will push up prices.
As this crisis unfolds, there will be all sorts of governmental interventions – most of these will have the net effect of increasing prices. Already, over 30 countries have put export controls on food products to keep food in their country. Within the US, the increasing regulations for ‘food safety’ have put some farmers out of business. Price fixing and rationing are certainly possible, and historically have been shown to be ineffective.
Unfortunately, the food crisis is a long-term problem. It is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about growing food in my backyard - and encouraging everyone else to grow food too.
My husband’s grandmother had an acre garden. She fed her large extended family and a good bit of the neighborhood out of that garden.
Nanny grew up knee-high to a grasshopper following her mother and father as they planted, tended, and harvested, just like their parents had before them. So by the time Nanny reached adulthood, she could easily manage a huge garden. But her kids and grandkids focused on TV, cars, college, and the modern world. We are at least two generations away from the knowledge of how to live off the land.
When I told my husband I wanted to start growing food, he immediately thought of Nanny and plowed me up an acre. Sometimes having a lot of land is not a good thing. An acre is way too much for a beginner! We didn’t get much out of that plot except weeds and frustration.
A friend of mine, Maria, had the right idea. She started small. She now has a huge bountiful garden, but in the beginning she simply grew a few herbs on a window still.
Just a few simple herbs made a huge difference. Maria called me one day ecstatic about her success. “Marjory!” she exclaimed, “You won’t believe it. I am feeding my family the same old stuff I always cook. My husband is raving about how good the food tastes and the kids are diving for seconds. They all think I have new recipes, but I am only adding a few fresh herbs.”
I recommend that you follow Maria’s example. Starting with a few plants on a window sill can teach you a tremendous amount, which is scalable all the way up to managing a huge orchard (if you so desire). By watching your herbs, you’ll start to notice how the leaves sag when the plant needs water, or how the leaves turn pale when they need more sun. If you add too much fertilizer, you’ll see the leaves turn yellow. What you learn from these little guys will be true for the plants in your large garden, or large plantings of calorie crops.
Another advantage of starting small is that your failures will be small. Oh yes, there will be a time when you accidentally kill your plants. Don’t worry about it – it happens to everyone. Just toss the dead plants in the compost pile, start over with new ones, and remember what you learned.
Turning a Black Thumb Green
Currently I grow about half of what I eat and I am lovin’ the freshness and vibrancy of home grown food. But when I first started out on the journey to become self-reliant, I had very little experience in gardening or farming. I was great in the business world – I could run meetings, organize events, and handle office politics - but grow food? No. Every houseplant I ever had died of neglect and my yard only seemed to survive because it had been there forever anyway.
The first plantings in my garden failed miserably. But I was undaunted (I was fueled by panic and concerns of economic collapse - but that is another story).
Fortunately we had some experienced gardeners in our neighborhood. I kept looking at their robust, healthy, vibrant plants, and my pathetic little struggling broccoli. After many questions and lots of experimentation, I realized the biggest difference was in the soil. My neighbor with the best garden was planting in beds that were made with two feet deep of composted horse manure. While my soil was essentially plain sand with little organic matter and almost no nutrients.
Almost all of the common vegetables we like to eat require rich, fertile soil to grow well. Plants need nutrients to be strong and healthy. They need the nutrients to be able to handle temperature extremes, wind stresses, and variations in watering.
The awesome thing is that the plants pass those nutrients on to you when you eat them. And as you eat more and more nutrient dense food, you will become stronger and healthier too. You will be better able to handle extremes in temperature, wind, thirst and hunger. It all begins with the soil.
There are other benefits of cultivating a garden besides the ones already mentioned. I think one of the greatest joys of growing your own food is developing the lifetime relationship with living beings - the plants and animals you eat. As you sow and reap, saving seeds and breeding animals, you get to know each species well. You enter the life-spiral dance of tending and nourishing, and in exchange, you tend and nourish yourself.