As I write this there is the beginning of a food shortage happening in the United States. Many of the thing we are witnessing happened before during the great depression with farmers dumping milk they can not sell and food rotting in the fields. At the moment this only applies to meat and milk, however fruit and vegetables will be next since those seasons have not started and this virus in nowhere near finished with its agenda.
The last time I was at the local supermarket I saw the empty shelves and freezers wondering where my Cornish hens were and the cheap cuts of beef that I know how to turn into a $50 steak. Everything was gone except for some ground turkey that had been pulled out of a deep freeze.
I had to become crafty in finding places that would not be affected by the current shortage and if you have any granola eating, tidied wearing, “I only eat local” friends you may have a good idea where you can score some food in the coming years.
Two places came to mind in my town. The first is a small market where the owner is middle eastern and has local sources for meat that butcher it in the Halal style that Islam requires. This type of meat is not going to be produced by a large corporation and therefore the majority of his meat is also from similar, smaller, outlets. To this day his coolers have been filled with fresh meat and poultry with no problems in supply.
The second place that I started going to is a newly opened market downtown that is smaller and more expensive but there is an advantage to shopping here. One of the owners is a third-generation rancher and has access to beef all year round. The beef is butchered and processed by the owner cutting out any middle men. This place also has connections with local Indian tribes for smoked fish and Amish farmers who supply them with chicken and pork. These are the places I have found so far for my own food but here are some ideas for where you can look for your own food in your area.
Farmers markets are opening and it wouldn’t hurt to make friends with your local farmers who like having regular customers they can depend on for income. Even better than a farmer’s market is joining a CSA and having your share of a farm delivered every week for a majority of the season. The lump some up front might hurt but not needing to buy fresh produce over several months takes a burden off your grocery bill. While other people are struggling to find produce that might not make it to the shelves of the grocery stores your food is set aside and waiting for you because somebody grew it specifically for you. Some CSA farms also offer meat and poultry as well as vegetables, expanding what is available and making the hunt for good quality food easier.
Growing your own food is always an option even if you have limited space. For those of you who own your own house you have a huge advantage over the millions of people who don’t. That nice green lawn that you might be proud of, you can tear that up any time now. The luxury of having a lawn is an idea that needs to go the way of the dodo. In Europe, royalty would flaunt their wealth by having vast, unused fields of green grass showing the public that they had no need to work that land for their food. It was a gross mismanagement of wealth that continued to the united states and unfortunately didn’t die along with the control over the country by the British. Some of their bad habits stayed with us and now it’s time to kick it to the curb.
Victory gardens are springing up again, a tradition from WWII that kept the publics need for food down and meant more resources could go to the war effort. This time around the Victory garden could make sure you have food on the table while items are limited at the stores and harder to find. Several books are available for new gardeners and I will include a list of titles are the end of this article for those people who are interested.
Foraging is a favorite pass time for quarantine victims looking to get outdoors these days. On recent fishing trips it was common to see people walking through the woods with their heads hung low looking for morels. Mushrooms might be one of the few things to look for in the spring but other times of the year there will be berries, various greens, maple syrup, and nuts. I have spent many afternoons in early July collecting raspberries and black berries to freeze at home or turn into wines or jam. There was that time I collected dandelion leaves for salad and every year I make a batch of dandelion wine from the flowers. Foraging is a great way to learn how much food is located in your own yard.
Hunting is the last subject I will discuss in this post. Living in Michigan, hunting is a part of our culture. This was a subject that I was introduced to later in life, heading into the woods for the first time at 33. I have had some success and while I can’t remember how many squirrels, I have taken home, I can tell you that I bagged two turkeys over the years but have yet to drag home a deer. Hunting is a complicated subject and one should check their state laws before marching into the forests to bring home some meat. The cost of starting to hunt can be high for those who do not already own the equipment for it. Firearms, bows and arrows, muzzleloaders, boots, blinds, warm clothes, calls, bait, the list goes on and on. There is an investment of time to consider as well. We have all heard those stories of the guy who walks into the woods, kills a deer in five minutes, loads it into his truck and drives off. Odds are that will not be you. The years I have spent going to the same public land I know where the deer are, how they travel, and where to be. I have sent guys in telling them where fresh tracks are and the kind of deer in area. Later I get a thank you and find out they bagged a deer either that day or the next right where I told them. They had the time to spend waiting, I did not. It can be as simple as that.
Hunting is a long and vast subject in which I will cover in future posts, but for the moment it is a place to consider getting protein when it is difficult to find in the store. The amount of meat you can get from a deer for the cost of a few hours and a $1.50 shotgun shell doesn’t compare to the cost of a T-bone steak.
List of gardening books:
Gardening when it counts by Steve Solomon
Square foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew
Crockett’s Victory Garden by James Underwood Crockett