As people increasingly become frustrated with long waits at the grocery stores and begin to take seriously the government’s advice to stay home unless absolutely necessary, there has been a massive upsell in interest in becoming more self-sufficient. For many people, it appears this comes down to two things – making your own bread, and growing your own food.
Seed companies are struggling to keep up with the growing demand for vegetables and fruit seeds. And grocery stores can hardly keep flour and yeast on the shelves.
This is an interesting and challenging time, and we should all certainly be thinking about how we can move forward after this crisis in a more sustainable way – but the desire to be self sufficient is misplaced. We should not want to be self sufficient. It is simply impossible for us to be so, especially if we live in cities and do not have a large property on which to grow all if our own food, and a massive root cellar in which to store it.
Self-sufficiency isn’t sustainable
Self sufficiency is not the sustainable path we think it is – especially in the way it is being approached by seed and flour hoarding folks who have made the decision to be self sufficient out of desperation and fear.
Without a massive store of high calorie and high protein crops like dried beans and sweet potatoes, most will still need to rely on grocery stores or local farmers for much of their food.-Johanna Fraser
A small city lot in Zone 5 or 6 (relatively mild regions) in Canada can reasonably grow the majority of the fruits and vegetables that a small family might need for fresh summer eating and preserved fruit and vegetables during the winter and early spring months. But without a massive store of high calorie and high protein crops like dried beans and sweet potatoes, most will still need to rely on grocery stores or local farmers for much of their food.
And what of those who live in apartments or are unable to grow food due to hectic schedules? Without the option to become more self-sufficient, these folks are left relying completely on grocers and farmers for their food and supplies.
Simply put, we cannot be self-sufficient. We can, however, be socially sufficient. By developing meaningful community-based connections with our neighbors it is possible for us to fulfilling most of our immediate needs locally, rather than relying on large stores and big box suppliers.
Are you or your family able to grow a few fruit trees? No single household could reasonably eat the harvest from 2 standard apple trees – but a neighborhood certainly could! Do you make excellent bread? It is much more efficient to make multiple loaves at once, and save your neighbors a trip to the grocery store.
Social sufficiency is also more environmentally sustainable – food hoarding, whether hoarding your own crops, or things you purchase from the grocery store, inevitably leads to food waste – fruits, vegetables, and even flour, will not last forever.
Finally, city dwelling wildlife can sometimes suffer due to overzealous home gardeners – especially new gardeners who are not well-versed on the complexity of urban wildlife ecosystems. Pesticide use, or other ways of preventing wildlife from gorging on your hard-earned crops can adversely affect insects, birds and small mammals.
This is not to say you should not try to learn how to grow your own food or make your own bread. In fact, if only to gain a new respect for those who have dedicated their lives to these tasks, you should absolutely try. What I am saying, though, is that rather than asking yourself what you can do to make yourself more self-sufficient, you can ask how you can contribute to the wellbeing of your community and local wildlife?
Maybe this means you should grow a garden and share the crops – or if you already grow food, maybe adapting your garden to more green, natural methods for pest control. Maybe this means you should experiment with ecofriendly gardening practices as well – like intercropping, permaculture, and wildlife integration. And maybe it means you can bake bread for your neighbors, or trade a skill you already have for the great bread your neighbor already know how to make! Maybe it means you should stop relying on grocery stores and imported food crops, and instead invest in a farm CSA share from an organic gardener or farmer nearby.
Whatever you do, do it with an eye toward a better future not just for you, but for the complex network of people and animals that surround you.
For more information on pesticides and pet health, see this article: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pesticides-that-kill-pests-not-pets/
To learn about pesticides and wildlife, this article is a great place to start: https://theconversation.com/toxic-cities-urban-wildlife-affected-by-exposure-to-pollutants-127590
For great information on home gardening in Canada check out: theurbanfarmer.ca
To find a farm from you can purchase a seasonal share for fresh produce throughout the harvest season, visit this website: http://csafarms.ca/ or visit your local farmers market and ask local farmers and they sell seasonal shares.