In 1910, approximately 80% of all Americans lived in rural areas, living, directly or indirectly, off the land. Today, that percentage is reversed, with more than 80% of all Americans living in towns and cities, yet still needing to eat. Even small towns are forsaking agricultural production in favor of tourism, light industry, and catering to retirees and others who are fleeing from metropolitan areas.

The influx of new move-ins requires social, medical, educational, recreational, and other infrastructure expenditures, as well as the usual services of lawyers, plumbers, and electricians, etc. In a sense, most of us are living off each other, each providing services for the other in exchange for the money that we take to the grocery store. Cut off from the means of food production, as most Americans are, we are almost solely dependent on agribusiness, the trucking industry, multitudes of middlemen, and even Mexico to deliver our daily food to the table.

When disruptive weather, regional catastrophes, strikes, or wars upset the delivery system, deprivation and increased costs are the results. In addition to being denied the foods we enjoy and have become accustomed to, we are also aware that severe shortages can challenge the very social and political fabric of overfed America with very uncivilized behavior. If you think those well-fed gangs and looters are bad now, wait until their refrigerators and cupboards are bare!

The Hopi and Pueblo elders, as well as many others, have long taught their people to have a one or two-year supply of food stored, in case of adversity or emergency. Leaders of these prepared groups are today warning the earth’s inhabitants of a fast approaching time of hardship, great change, and the need to be prepared, both spiritually and physically. Traditional Hopi, as well as others, do not accept government support, and maintain agricultural self-sufficiency instead. Some Hopi believe they were told by the White Brother to never accept aid, or their land would be taken away from them. Their Anasazi ancestors inhabited a changeable land with many enemies, and food storage meant survival against incessant enemy attacks and the unpredictability of drought conditions in the Southwest.

The Anasazi practiced advanced agricultural arts, and exhibited genius in cotton weaving, seed genetics, irrigation, and dry farming, as well as astronomy, pottery design, and a busy exchange of trade goods with their relatives far to the south in Mexico. Neighboring nomadic tribes, jealous of the fruits of settled village life, would wait until harvest to sweep down on productive fields, stealing crops, animals, women, and children. In a sense, the ancient ones had their backs against the wall. Visit their isolated cliff houses in the remote canyons of the southwest, and you will sense their fortress mentality. Their survival lessons have not been forgotten, but have been passed down through each succeeding generation to the present day Pueblo Peoples of Arizona and New Mexico.

Subsistence farming is a devalued art at present, with agribusiness dominating food production, but that could change overnight. During the Great Depression, Americans felt the sting of poverty, and history has an interesting way of repeating itself. Most farmers, outside the dust bowl drought areas, were able to survive, and Native Peoples who depended on subsistence farming practices were least affected by the Depression. They had not put their faith in the white man’s banking system, but in their own time-tested seed banks. The Hopi and other Pueblo Peoples have great storehouses of earth knowledge and survival skills to share with those who are willing to listen.

While the "dominant" society has been technologically oppressive, burdening the earth with pesticides and destructive land use to the point of diminishing returns, the "People of Peace" have never forsaken their Mother Earth. Whether the oppressors ever acknowledge the intrinsic spiritual relationship between the earth and their own physical bodies or not, they will increasingly suffer from weakness and “dis-ease” if they continue to ignorantly pollute the earth with toxic wastes. Education is arousing many from their chemically-induced lethargy to the possibility of danger, but most are generally content to leave the problem in the hands of politicians and chemical companies. Since the bottom line continues to be profits, their faith in this unholy alliance is grossly misplaced. Dependence on hybrid seeds and other genetic techniques that deplete heritage seed diversity also puts this nation at great risk from pestilent varieties of plant-destroying viruses and sudden climatic changes.

Y2K survival food experts promote the sale of vacuum-packed, dehydrated, or freeze-dried foods, and their catalogs are filled with space-age offerings guaranteed to last decades. Generally of good quality, they offer a necessary hedge against sudden disaster, or even temporary unemployment, but the initial cost is often overwhelming. If a buyer can get over the financial intimidation of acquiring a one or two-year supply, he will feel more secure, but if the buyer also has a large family, the high price might scare him away permanently. In the long run, however, some type of food storage program is a wise investment. Inflation will add to the cost of food with each passing year, so if nothing serious ever happened, the buyer could simply eat his investment and save money at the same time.

Personally, I might try a few of these products in the future, but I believe that buying any food that one does not regularly eat is economically unwise. I’ve seen my neighbor’s stored food wasted because it was not rotated and stored correctly. The viability of their wheat was reduced because it was stored in a warm room. A cool, dry underground storage room or cave is the best place to keep one’s survival food.

When shopping, buy several storable items. These could include vacuum-packed varieties or regular canned items, when they are on sale, and put each new item behind the old, always using the food in the front first. You might even want to consider caching some food in a secure place . . . but make sure it is rotated to the kitchen and replaced.

I have always known that my adopted Pueblo and Hopi elders are the experts when it comes to food storage, heritage seed saving, and water conservation. It can’t be emphasized strongly enough that a pure source of water, or a purification process, along with access to water, is the most important part of any survival preparation. Without a good source of water, we are dependent on whoever has access to it. Enough said.
Corn, beans, rice and other grains, dried fruit, vegetables, and seeds for fresh sprouted grains and planting should constitute the bulk of food storage, with herbs, oils, sweeteners, spices, vitamin supplements, dried milk or eggs, and other regularly enjoyed items rounding out the program.

My Indian friends dry halved apricots, peaches, and plums on their flat rooftops between window screening. Shave apples into long coils to dry, pick and dry chokecherries, rose hips and other berries and herbs for teas and sweet creations. In their fields they gather Purslane, a succulent, and Lamb’s Quarters (wild spinach) for potherbs, using them fresh and drying the rest for winter use. Even baby tumbleweeds can be used in soups, but the ground or plants are never stripped bare. Something is always left for the birds, other animals, and to reseed the earth.

The Pueblo People harvest squash, chilies, pumpkin, four distinct colors of corn with many variations, sunflower seeds, beans, onions, and other garden plants in their fields or small garden plots near the springs. Melons are a summer favorite during their hot summers. Meat, when eaten, is usually served sparingly in soups or small portions. The Pueblo Peoples use drying as their method of preserving food. Squashes are cut in half, the seeds are taken out, and then hung up to dry with long ristras or bunches of chile and garlic. The early Spanish, and later Anglo explorers were amazed to find chilies, Hot, HOT!!!  Chili!!! in one form or another, eaten with every meal. Pumpkin seeds are always a treat, and watermelon seeds are also used for food and oil. Fresh corn is baked in outside ovens or pits, and then a great corn feast is prayerfully shared. The remaining corn is hung to dry, later to be cooked whole or ground into flour. Hopi corn has been developed over the centuries to be drought resistant. It can be planted as deep as 12 inches and grow well with as little as four inches of rainfall.

After lightly baking my corn, (enough to make the kernels pucker) I pull the husks back and hang them. Care must be used that the ears are separated and do not touch, or they can mold. I once saw a ceiling of beautiful corn ruined because a friend had hung the ears to close together. In Spanish, the shucked, hardened, dry kernels are called chicos. Beans and chicos are soaked together overnight and cooked with spicy seasonings, making a wonderful meatless chili, as well as a complete protein.

Beans and corn are staple foods and eaten in some form almost everyday by the Indigenous Peoples of the southwest and Mexico. Other ancient foods which add color and variety to the traditional diet are amaranth grain, husk tomatoes (ground cherries), Yucca fruit, cactus pads and fruit, wild mustard, celery, garlic, fried squash blossoms, currents, strawberries, rabbit, turkey and deer.

Family outings to the mountains and river canyons are organized to fish, collect berries, pinon nuts, mushrooms, and firewood. Depending on the land for survival always brings a family closer together as they work, laugh, and enjoy the beauty of nature. Gratitude is always expressed to the Great Creator and Mother Earth for the many blessings received. It has been said that the family that prays together, stays together. It follows that the family that not only prays, but also plants, gathers, and eats together is forging bonds that will last through eternity.

That we, as a nation, are feeling shattered from within reflects internal fragmentation. Family members rarely eat together, and spend most of the day separated by school, work, and individual interests. When family members finally straggle in from their separate activities, they are often too tired to pay much attention to each other and go off to be by themselves, grabbing an appetite- destroying snack from the kitchen refrigerator or microwave and retreating to their rooms. The microwave may be handy for the elderly and singles, but it has done little to contribute to family togetherness. I have never owned one of these instant food-nuking contraptions and never will.

When I was first married, I decided that the T.V. had no place in the kitchen or dining room. If family solidarity is important to you, banishing the T.V. from the eating area will help promote discussion and unity. Another tactic to encourage real meals together is to limit snacks to raw fruit and vegetables, in other words, keep them hungry until dinner is ready. If there ever was a time to practice being agreeable, it is at the dinner table. Food eaten in peace will be better digested than food eaten in haste, worry, or resentment. One rule for family eating that applies to people world-wide is: If you can’t say something good and improve on the silence, do not say anything at all. After all, what is use of having a food storage program or a garden, if the food, once prepared, turns into poison in your system and cannot be shared in peace with the ones you love? I have never been in an Indian home where the family didn’t sit down together at least two or three times a day to share their food and company.

Joseph, the son of Jacob, who was sold into Egypt as a slave, saved that powerful and prosperous country from famine by interpreting Pharaoh’s dream of seven fat and seven skinny cattle. The fat cattle represented seven years of bounty to be followed by seven skinny cattle, or seven years of famine. Pharaoh authorized him to initiate a massive grain and food storage program, which provided not only a great blessing to the people of Egypt, but also reunited Joseph with his family when they traveled down to Egypt to beg for food.

Today, powerful leaders and business interests are perpetuating an illusion of the greatest magnitude. Their self-assured pride in belonging to the wealthiest nation on earth is creating a contagious attitude of false prosperity. A nation whose institutions fill garbage cans with half-eaten food, whose price support system includes food dumping, whose stores throw away food because it is not cosmetically perfect, and a government whose officials fail to maintain an adequate grain storage project is treading on dangerous ground. To misuse nature’s bounty, while others in this world go without, is creating greater and greater polarity between the rich and the poor, at home and abroad. According to recent statistics, each American uses an average of 84 tons of the earth’s resources annually. I believe that there are many who use much, much less than this, and many who use much, much more. Americans are the world’s greatest wasters, using far more than those in other countries, and our ignorant attitudes will eventually reap a harvest of famine and unavailability.

We cannot say how this will come about, but nature will regain her balance against those who abuse and upset the universal law of the harvest: What we sow, so shall we reap. Scenarios of global disaster have included comets colliding with the earth, a long nuclear winter, varations in the pole tilt, polar melt down, flooding, drought, plagues, and another approaching ice age. These, of course, are quite possible, but it is the regional disasters we need to prepare for now. If a firestorm incinerates your pristine mountain property, a flood washes away your home, or a tornado flattens your town, it may not be the end of the whole world . . . but it will seem like it, if you barely escape with your life and perhaps none of your possessions, pets, or livestock.

Within 36 hours of any disaster, natural or manmade, national or regional, the shelves of our food stores will be bare. The availability of food is taken for granted, but it will not always be so. light of truth Some of us have seen this temporary scarcity before, but within a short time, food stores are re-supplied, and all is normal. If, however, there are major upheavals or disruptions of the delivery system, it will take considerably longer. During these chaotic periods prices will skyrocket for the limited foods locally available . . . if there are any. If we ever find ourselves at war with oil producing countries, our military will probably require all available reserves to fuel the military machine. Food trucks would slow to a crawl, delivering only the minimum to large cities to keep them fed and socially stable. I wouldn’t want to live in a city during such deprivation and uncertainty . . . would you?

Joseph and the Egyptians were ready, the Hopi/Pueblo and other indigenous Peoples are ready, The Amish/Mennonites are ready, the Mormons are ready . . . ARE YOU?

2001 -Laura Martin-Bühler

God gives food to every bird, but does not throw it into the nest.

Montengrin proverb

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