The Commerce Model of Prepping: A Personal Re-Evaluation, by B.H. in North Idaho


Over the years since I first read the novel Patriots by James Rawles and made the decision to embrace prepping my idea of prepping has changed.  It started when I recognized that friends, acquaintances and strangers all had varying ideas and degrees of preparedness even within very similar prepping models.  The greatest characteristic of is that there is something for everyone presented in articles and information.  Regardless of your station you’ll find information pertinent to your specific situation to help you improve your own preparedness level.

I realized that my own prepping mindset was slowly shifting over time as I pursued knowledge, skills and dealt with changing personal circumstances.  Health issues, children getting older, economic changes and political changes have all required minor to major changes in my original preparedness model.  These changes and realization led me to begin classifying the different levels or approaches to prepping.  It began with a realistic and unbiased look at the location I had originally determined as a great location for prepping.  My research began to reveal some hidden assumptions and biases I was holding that caused me to ignore critical factors.

Of course, some folks will adamantly disagree with my assumptions so I feel it necessary to establish a broad disclaimer:

My assessments and research are non-scientific and are particular to me and my personal familial situation.  I try to use a broad brush for informational and statistical research and apply it to general trends and loosely defined geographic, demographic and economic particulars to my own education, experience and life skills.

I stated above that I have come to recognize general trends or categories in the preparedness mindset or commitment levels.  I try to define these now:

Rawlesian Approach (RA):  The original, at least from my perspective, retreat or prepper model-the Gray’s Ranch depicted in the novel Patriot’s.  A free-standing and completely self-sufficient ranch/homestead that requires no outside contact for a 3-5 year survival situation and is off-grid.  Keep in mind the Gray’s didn’t meet this point until after the Barter Faire when they accumulated livestock and more kerosene.  Basically, they were able to survive and thrive without outside contact.  Essentially, an Island. (If you have heartburn about this definition please re-read disclaimer)

Modern Homestead (MH):            I think this can be separated into two unique sub-classifications depending upon the isolation or close proximity to smaller metropolitan areas.  The ultra-rural MH is at least 1-2 hours from the nearest Wal-mart at highway speeds.  East of the Mississippi River this is at least 75 miles, rural and isolated from larger metropolitan areas with box stores and trauma center.  If the homestead is closer, like 30 minutes to one hour, then I consider it a rural homestead.

In the American Redoubt a drive 30 minutes to one hour can put you out into the woods or other terrain fairly quickly.  For example, one hour from the Spokane Valley can put you into another county and even into another State or National Forests of Idaho Panhandle.  The MH may be off-grid, on-grid or a mix of the two.  The main characteristic is distance and the fact that the MH is NOT self-sufficient or an island.  The MH needs commerce or access to commerce for survival.

Suburban Farm (SF):            The SF falls within 30 minutes of smaller metropolitan areas.  SF communities are where homes sit upon larger parcels 1+ acre or larger.  These areas usually have local ordinances or GMR’s that restrict sub-dividing parcels or restricting high density dwellings.  These communities usually have a “country” feel and many homes have gardens and small pasture/orchards.  In my area I generally see 1-3 homes out of every 10 homes are growing vegetables and/or raising animals other than pets.  The remaining 6-9 homes could raise something if they converted their manicured lawns or fallow pasture to productive use.  The SF area usually has people selling fresh produce through the growing season right from their property or at the local farmers market.

The SF is usually attached to a local water district but outside metropolitan waste water treatment facilities (septic).  Some SF’s have access to irrigation districts that allow larger water access for irrigation.  The irrigation district water is usually cheaper and is untreated.  In my local area the water is drawn directly from the aquifer and is substantially cheaper than municipal water.  SF’s have a considerable number of parcels on well water systems.  In general, the SF is well water with septic system.

Urban Garden (UG):            This is a broad category defined by its close proximity to the metropolitan center.  The UG is minutes from all modern services like Costco, Trauma centers and fast-food outlets.  A great test is to determine the outer boundary of the UG with the SF is what I call the Nacho test.  Just order nachos at Taco Bell and start driving.  You’ve hit the outer limits of the UG when the canned cheese hits room temperature.  Eat the nachos at your own risk.

The UG is limited.  Limited in ability to produce, support and defend.  The UG can support salad garden with some exception for green houses and creative landscaping.  We see occasional stories about the UG prepper being persecuted by zoning Nazis for having a garden in their front yard and other such nonsense.

It must be stated, even if it’s obvious, the RA would take considerable financial resources and time to achieve.  I only know of three people who have attained the RA and yet they lack the human capital necessary for long-term success.  The last few years I have moved from one style/station to the next and made a habit of looking for the natural or organic things that came with preparedness and each station.  What commonality was being ignored or taken for granted?  Were there any consistent commonalities present?  How would these affect my preparedness station? And, as a Christian, was I being obedient to God’s Word?

All these questions brought me to my new view of preparedness—The Commerce Model of Prepping.

The Commerce Model of Prepping:
This model of preparedness makes a major assumption as a foundation of its premise.  The assumption is that human nature drives people to attempt a return to normalcy in the shortest time possible.  Even if that normal is different from what was previously known—they will still plan, act and work toward that new normalcy.  To better understand what I mean we should characterize or assign levels to “events” that initiate or launch usage of our preparations on a full scale.

I’ve loosely defined these events by severity.

  1. Habit Changer-Lay-offs, Illness, Regional Disaster, Personal or Localized Events.
  2. Life Changer-Economic Depression/Collapse, War, Pandemic, Modified Societal Collapse, Regional/National Disaster.
  3. Game Changer– EMP, Civil or Global War, Pandemic and other survival fiction-worthy events.

These events can overlap somewhat.  For example, a long-term layoff or unemployment may change habits at first and then become a life changer by forcing a move or shift in socioeconomic status. 

The latest economic “recovery” (quotes denote sarcasm) has been a habit changer for most and a life changer for many.  Regardless of impact, what was/is the single largest common denominator for people experiencing “Hope-N-Change” (again Sarcasm)?  The answer is immediate adjustment and subsequent pursuit of normalcy. How?  Salisbury Steak instead of Sirloin Steak–Tilapia instead of Salmon–Staycation instead of Vacation–shopping at a Goodwill thrift store instead of the mall.

Okay—simple economics.  What does this have to do with preparedness?  This natural tendency should be a major decision factor in your preparedness plans—especially location.  How?  IMHO it should flavor all your preparedness systems and decisions.  Why?

The Commerce Model of Preparedness stipulates that safe, free and consistent commerce and trade will be the catalyst for any long-term success for personal, familial, community, regional and even national recovery. 

Again, IMHO, every aspect of preparedness needs to be viewed through this perspective.  Unless you have achieved the RA level of preparedness you must be prepared for commerce. One could argue that even if you are an RA level you should be ready just the same.  A business approach to preparedness puts you into a prime position to thrive and thrive abundantly.

The commerce model forces you to think in terms of efficiency, cost-effectiveness, economies of scale and supply and demand while you pursue your prepping goals.  I would like to use one comprehensive example to address this point.

The Modern Homestead, especially the ultra-rural variety, has many pitfalls when viewed through the lens of commerce.  In a way this example will be a de-facto assessment of North Central Idaho-specifically Idaho County.  I believe the only system that has long-term viability in these ultra-rural areas is the RA.  If you are an island with all your preps then you are an island.  You have the luxury of riding out most events or situations.

North-Central Idaho has many enticing qualities.  Good quality land at reasonable prices, large percentage of freedom-minded individuals, elected officials that apply limited government and self-policing models, distance from large urban populations and on and on.  Obvious negatives are lack of jobs and the [higher] average age of population [41.7 years. Statewide, the median age is 33.2 years.] At first glance its ideal but add some likely and probable factors and the picture changes rapidly.  Let’s start with fuel—either prohibitive pricing and/or scarcity of supply—which can happen for a variety of reasons.

Fuel scarcity or price would limit trade and the ability to travel for necessary items for success.  If you did have the fuel the additional expense would put you at a competitive disadvantage versus competitors.  Trade within an ultra-rural setting will likely have immediate limitations due to scarcity of products.  Any entrepreneur who tries to fill demand will be able charge higher prices.  Fuel scarcity creates a “lesser of two evils” situation.  Use the fuel to get what you need or don’t and suffer the consequences.

(Author’s Note:  An underlying assumption of my work is that there will always be a currency of some sort used to support the function of trade–it may be greenbacks, blue bucks or .22LR ammo.  The point is no trade functions, with economic efficiency, without a trusted, recognizable medium of exchange.)

The small towns that pepper this region have only two days of fuel and no back-up power to run the pumps. A regional earthquake of meaningful size would close all roads for days or even weeks with rock slides.  Economic Collapse or a substantial increase in fuel prices begins to limit and stunt economic activity.  Most of the MH’s in this region are 20-30 minutes’ drive up and out from the small towns and then an additional hour or more to an actual metropolitan center.  Scarce resources would immediately become scarcer, too expensive or even inaccessible.  Unless you are a true RA the MH that is one hour or more from smaller metropolitan areas need to honestly assess their viability.  How long can you last without electricity, cheap fuel and open roads?  Just the loss of one would render 99% of the homesteads in this area unviable if lost for more than two weeks.

The stark reality of this vulnerability came to light when discussing my own personal research of this area.  The local sheriff made a revealing comment about the region.  His belief was that if the government wanted to depopulate the area they would just turn off the power and stop fuel deliveries.  In his estimation the first third would leave in a week, the next third the following two weeks and within a month only the RA’s would be left.  I had to concur.  My research showed that the largest towns between Lewiston, Idaho and Missoula, Montana have only a two day supply of fuel and 5-6 day supply of food—under normal demand.   These inherent vulnerabilities make the MH, especially the ultra-rural MH, dangerous and success unattainable.

My personal conclusion was that if I couldn’t reach or become an RA then I needed to seriously modify my preparedness plans.  I began to apply the Commerce Model to determine best case or most applicable outcome coverage—what gets me the biggest bang for the buck!  Again, consider the types of events and their potential likelihood and then combine with the Commerce Model.  The result is a strategic location between small metropolitan areas and the MH.  Locations that are close enough for commerce and yet far enough away for seclusion and security.  Close enough for aid and close enough to provide aid depending on the circumstance.

From a Christian perspective I started to ask myself questions about charity and service to the community.  Am I behaving Christian-like if I remove myself from the stabilizing role of neighborhood and community member?  If my model is to “wait out the carnage/die off” in the cities is that appropriate when I could have been in the trenches from the beginning making a positive influence back to normal (whatever that may be)?  It really comes down to a question of Christian Worldview.

Is the Kingdom of God in decline and will continue to get its collective rear-end kicked by the God-haters?  Or is Jesus sitting on His throne, at the right hand of the Father, and all power and dominion been given Him?  Uh-Oh!  Yes I went there.  I opened the can of worms that pits those who grab their “left behind” and are waiting for the proverbial “mothership” to come whisk them away from “end-times” and thus any potential suffering.  (If my sarcasm seems over done please re-read the gospels and take note of how Jesus wielded sarcasm and humor.)  The opposite crowd is the Dominion theology crowd who thinks America is in decline because the Church as a whole in the US has abdicated, capitulated and quit working to further God’s kingdom.  The evidence is divorce, public homosexuality, abortion and economic/monetary ignorance, and all the other outcomes and sanctions America deserves for abandoning and condoning through inaction.

The point isn’t to offend but to challenge.  I will finish my de-facto assessment of North-Central Idaho with this generalization.  A majority of Christians in this region are there because they are “fleeing” the world.  They’ve over-applied the command to not be “of the world” at the expense of “being in the world”.  They have become islands upon an island.  No mindset for dominion of this world but more of a “let’s hide here and scrape out an existence while we sing kumbaya.”  The belief in a pending “rapture” (a word not found in the Bible) has created a Church wide pessimism that slowly erodes the Church’s desire to think generationally for the Christ’s Kingdom.  Why bother building cathedrals when the “mothership” will be here any day?  Obama must be the anti-Christ—right?


The American Redoubt’s ultra-rural areas have many families are living at or on the edge of poverty because they feel “led” to flee the city but arrived with no means to support their family.  I was amazed at the amount of grown, able-bodied “Christian” men who worked part-time while on public assistance.  They refused to provide basic needs to the point of having homeschooled children that were unschooled.  The parable of Talents once again applies.

A common characteristic is home churches (islands) that resent and openly castigate the role of pastors and formal church government of any kind.  Home churches have a place where open congregational worship is forbidden or restricted.  Often used as a defense for home churching is the New Testament but the young Church in the book of Acts only home churched when they couldn’t worship corporately at the local synagogue or temple.  It is difficult or impossible for a home church family to bless the local Church and vice-versa when they don’t worship together consistently with an eye toward spiritual maturity.  Even in “Patriots” the fictional Group only home churched when they had too otherwise they met corporately at church.  Modern day China gives us a real model of the Church—corporate worship in secret and home churching as the last option.

The real problem with this retreat mentality is the tendency to avoid accountability—especially the husbands and fathers as providers.  One can’t be challenged to be active, prosperous, church growing and people serving if they are a part of an inward looking, self-contained, meat (spiritual) avoiding, hide from the apocalypse mindset.  How can the Church conquer the World for Christ when the Church is hiding in the wilderness?

Let me point out that most of these folks are kind and would gladly give their shirt off their back.  My point ties in with commerce.  These folks are, IMHO, wasting the most precious of all commodities—TIME.  The asset (or talent for a biblical reference) of human capital is being misappropriated and wasted and are they are positioned for an epic failure of tragic proportions.  How?  Let’s go back to an example or one limiting factor—Fuel.

If fuel becomes scarce or extremely expensive most of the islands I’ve referred to will be in immediate poverty and limited in options.  They will, tragically, become a huge burden to the church community.  How is the Church to serve those around them when there is no apparatus or strong foundation for service?  Relatively speaking, times are good now and this community/region has a weak spiritual, financial, vocational, economic and geographical position.  Will they sit and starve for Jesus or become a moving hoard of good mannered locusts?
A very legitimate question I say!  My point has merit in two ways: the first assessment is to ask if I had to walk to town for commerce could I do it in less than four hours?  Second, make a list for one month of every item you get from the store or mail order and apply a scarcity model to that list—could you survive without commerce?  Who could?

Are you skeptical?  Remove fuel and add any other category on your list.  If you are ultra-rural do you think those scarce items would be more readily available for commerce in your ultra-rural location or in small to mid-sized town (30,000 pop or less)?  Assume your area can and would become a closed system at some point.  I really want to connect the entire piece by asking you the reader to combine both main points.

Is the community or America better served by Godly people removing themselves from populated areas in the best interest of stability and return to normalcy?  If God is to sanction America and allow habit, life or game changers to occur– is the pillar and culture changing news of the gospel better served hiding in the ultra-rural or better served with “boots on the ground” in closer proximity to greater populations?  I think of Gen. Patton always moving to where the fight is to take the initiative.  Can you be a tent-maker like Paul?  Providing commerce, stability and service to man while being a platform for the transformational truth of Christ’s work on the cross?

In closing, I hope I have challenged the reader on two levels.  First Spiritually–Examine your worldview and study God’s word and the subject of end times. It does matter as one worldview, by nature, creates a natural pessimism and one doesn’t.   For deeper understanding I recommend the unanswered and authoritative work By Dr. Kenneth Gentry.  “He Shall Have Dominion.”  Here you will find a deep review of the recent (1830s) move by the Church in America to embrace Dispensational Pre-millennialism (Rapture Theology) and Post-Millennialism (the Church’s historic position). 

Second- I hope I challenged your “prepping model”.  I believe one’s end-times worldview and beliefs about commerce are interconnected and dictate one’s prepping model by either causing an “isolate and prep mindset” versus a “stay, prep and positively impact mindset”.  Are you thinking about the next 5-10 years or the next 100-200 years?

I left the ultra-rural area because God challenged the fallacy in my worldview that held the idea of “prep for the worst but hope for the best.”  The idea that I could avoid or ride out any sanctions or events He allows America to endure is wrong.  The Church, with Christ as the head, is the glue of civilization and the only hope for America and more importantly the World.  Christ’s Church is the army and this victory must be worked out over time.

The modern preparedness movement, even the Rawlesian Approach, is distracting the Church from its real mission of serving those in need  Preparing your house, neighbors and local churches to be a network of support, and yes commerce, is Biblical.  The Union Gospel Mission has taken these marching orders and followed them superbly.  Food, clothing and shelter while growing the Kingdom for Christ.  It should be our model also.