Sharon Astyk, well-known in prepper circles and a prolific writer on food and gardening, has posted a provocative essay titled, Agriculture with a Future Comes to Dinner which I would encourage everyone to read .
We have a food culture that is centered on grains which, for the most part, are grown unsustainably. In the Northwest we have some difficulty growing grains at all although Krista Rome in her backyard bean and grain project has had some success. So, what happens to our diet if wheat and rice, for example, were to become unavailable? Is it possible to make a big shift in our diet from wheat bread to root vegetables for our calories?
Ms Astyk makes the point that most of our calories right now come from not very sustainable grain production with the vast majority of our agricultural lands dedicated to growing meat, fodder for meat animals, dairy, grains or soy. Even our backyard chicken raisers are relying on purchased bagged feed.
Many of us have started to garden. But our gardens produce food around the edges of our diet—greens and flavorings (pickles, salsas, jams and jellies). We don’t have many high protein crops like hazelnuts (which is one of the few nuts we have a chance to grow successfully in our area) and we don’t grow enough calories to see us through the winter.
If we believe that we need to rely more on local food rather than food shipped to us from long distances then we need to start make a shift in our diets. Carol Deppe, in The Resilient Gardener lays out a plan for growing calorie and protein rich foods focusing on beans, squash, potatoes, corn and duck eggs. If you haven’t read The Resilient Gardener I highly recommend it. Ms. Deppe changed my way of thinking about garden crops and I’m now focused on calorie rich crops.
I found her discussion of beans fascinating as I’ve never been a fan of beans. After this crop season I’ve changed my mind completely and will have more to say about beans later as I am inspired to write a veritable paean to the bean.
At some point, we might all have to work together to grow calories for the community. Fortunately, potatoes, squash, beans and corn are all crops that do well here. We can even manage some grains like amaranth.
While we are planting community orchards, individuals should consider planting more fruit and particularly nut trees. Home gardeners should consider the caloric output of their garden plot.
Sharon Astyk writes: “The ways our diets must begin to shift is something I think that most people, even those most aware of the issue, have not begun to struggle with. It is an issue for backyard chicken raisers who are rightly proud that they are raising eggs and meat in their yards – and who also are raising them almost entirely on purchased bagged feed. It is an issue for permaculturists, enthusiastically replacing their yards with forest gardens, who have no idea what they are going to do with groundnuts and jerusalem artichokes, so who mostly do nothing with them. It is an issue for growers like me, who very much want to grow local staple crops for market – but who simply can’t make a living growing potatoes, beets and turnips, because people don’t eat those things in quantities sufficient, or pay enough for them. It is an issue for me, because my family loves rice and bread, but does not grow much wheat or any rice. It is not that we must eat wholly as we intend to eat, but it does matter that we begin the dietary and agricultural shift we inevitably face ahead of time.”
The whole idea of Transition is to get ready, mentally at least if not physically, for dramatic changes that might occur. Think about what you eat and how that might change in the future.