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It’s easy with our modern conveniences to forget that there are very real dangers and threats to our food system. At present time, most of us can travel but a short distance, purchase food, and bring it home to serve our families without worrying about what’s in it.
We forget that in the blink of an eye, this modern convenience could be gone. When Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005, nearly 90% of New Orleans was left underwater—as much as 20 feet under in some areas. Those who were left to ride out the storm had their food taken from them almost overnight.
In more recent news, the city of Flint, Michigan received the devastating news in April of 2014 that the entire city’s water supply was found to be full of lead and other toxins. Inhabitants had been drinking this water for years, and a solution is still in the process.
In less publicized stories, food sources all over the place are experiencing recalls due to contamination or some current study suggesting the foods we’ve all been eating haven’t been as safe as we thought they were. The biggest problem? Damage has already been done.
What about you? Is your food supply secure? Your water supply? Do you have a back-up plan? How do you know you’re providing your family with the safest foods and water possible?
Many would like to live their lives with their heads in the sand. Yes—I would too. I would like to simply trust any and all food and water sources myself—but that would be folly. It’s simply a fact of life that it’s not all safe. I, for one, am not going to claim ignorance while I know my family could be poisoned. And then what?
Pointing fingers and blaming others won’t keep my family from getting sick. In this day and age, we’ve got to take responsibility for what we choose to put in our bodies and offer to our families.
If you have resolved to take control of your family’s food supply (or even just a small bit of it), then here are some areas you are going to want to focus on. Take them one at a time to avoid getting overloaded.
Figure Out What Your Basic Food Staples Are
Does your family eat a lot of meat, or none at all? Are you a vegetarian? Vegan?
All these questions are going to help you to focus on the area you need to concentrate on most. If you’re the kind of family who never drinks milk or eats cheese, you won’t start looking at dairy resources first.
While we’d all like to think we’re well rounded eaters, this just isn’t always the case. Look in your pantry and refrigerator to see what’s most important to your family and start there.
Learn To Grow Your Own Produce
There is no more basic way of controlling what you eat than growing it yourself. When you plant a garden, you choose your seeds, your soil, fertilizer, water, and chemicals you will use—or not use—to obtain the produce you want.
Starting with heirloom seeds will ensure you can save seeds and plant them again the next year and result in the same produce that second year. By following organic practices, you’ll be able to avoid harsh chemicals being ingested by your crops and thus ingested later by your family.
Growing your own produce isn’t hard, but you’ll need to have a basic understanding of a few things: soil chemistry and water needs, seed starting, plant maintenance, and then seed saving.
Learn Animal Husbandry
If your purpose in having animals is to feed your family, then what you choose to raise will not only depend on the amount of room and resources you have available, but also how you wish to eat.
Those who are heavy meat eaters may choose to raise pigs and cows. Those who are just looking for protein sources without eating much meat will lean more toward maintaining chickens for their eggs, or perhaps a goat for it’s milk.
Before picking out fun or cute animals, ask yourself what you have the room and resources for as well as what will benefit you the most.
Learn To Forage
From the beginning of man’s existence, there have been hunters and gatherers. In many parts of the world, gatherers are still of utmost importance.
If a flood hit your root cellar, where would you find your food should all the stores be empty and government assistance days or weeks away? Being able to identify local bushes and trees may not give you an abundance of diversity, but it could be a staple for your family the next week that keeps food in your bellies.
Learn to forage in your local area before the need is desperate. You don’t want to be so hungry that you “try it out” to see what happens.
(To see my favorite foraging resources, read this.)
Learn To Filter Water
Actually, learn to filter water with what you have. Know the science around it, and what toxins in your area could potentially threaten your water source.
Filtering your own water becomes important once you realize there could be a problem with your water. But what if your water is contaminated well before you ever know it—like some of those folks in Flint that I mentioned earlier?
The only sure-fire way to keep your family’s water source clean is to filter it before you know there’s a problem. This can be done with a water filtration system—but it must be used consistently in order to ensure safety. Having one in your storage closet doesn’t prevent anything.
When purchasing a water filtration system, don’t just buy any one you come across. Pick one with a proven name behind it and the research to back up it’s claims–you can’t take the risk.
Our family personally has had two Berkey water filtration systems that we use for all our water ingestion needs. (See my review of them to compare.) Berkey filters filter out most any toxin that could remotely make it’s way to our water along with bacteria and viruses. A Berkey water filtration system costs about the same as 150 individual water bottles. If you already purchase bottled water, then they pay for themselves in no time, and you can stop tossing all those plastic bottles in the trash.
Have A Plan For Dairy
Most people realize they eat meat and produce, but can forget all about dairy. Butter, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, coffee creamer, milk, whipped cream and others are more a part of our diet than we may realize.
If you want to have control of the dairy your family ingests, you’ll need a plan. You’ll either need to have, or have access to, a cow, goat, sheep, or other dairy animal.
In my opinion, dairy animals are more labor and resource intensive than animals grown for meat or a garden, but our family would really miss the incredible amount of dairy we consume if we didn’t have this access.
(For the fastest and most economical way to learn the art of cheese-making, see Mastering Basic Cheesemaking.)
Pass The Knowledge On To Your Kids
Most of our grandparents had all these skills. Yet somehow, most of the current and upcoming generations would be hard-pressed to find or produce their own food if they had to.
Passing the information on to our kids means actively involving them in our self-sufficient activities and purposefully educating them.
Make it a point to keep good books on your shelves for your children to look at—even if you’ve already got every bit of knowledge in them memorized yourself.
Take your children to the garden with you, and teach them all the ways they can learn to take care of and respect the animals you invest your time in.
(See Kids’ 1st Homestead Recipes for tips on how to teach your children kitchen safety, and how also how to teach them to help start making your own family’s favorite homestead recipes.)
Start Taking Control Of Your Family’s Food Supply Today
The longer you wait to start, the farther behind you are. Some preparations are as easy as purchasing a water filter, while some will take practice. Others may just need you to invest some time to gain knowledge.
Make a list of areas, and prioritize which you believe are the best places for your family to start. Maybe you will conquer one area and move to the next. Or, perhaps, you will assign an area to each member of your household. Whichever it is, the most important thing is to just get started.