I’ll start by saying that most of the Prepper resources in your community will probably not be advertised or presented as Prepper or Survival resources. That isn’t to say that none will be advertised as for Preppers and Survivalist. We need to be aware that many resources that are in our community, that are Prepper or Survival related, may appeal to many people outside the Prepper or Survivalist Community. The good news in this is, that since these resources are of interest to the “mainstream,” your use of them doesn’t automatically identify you as a Prepper or Survivalist.
Defining Community Prepper Resources
Community Prepper resources are classes, courses, lectures, places, and or events that provide Preppers with knowledge, skills, equipment or supplies. Some of these community resources will be very obvious but others may not. I will use the many years of working and living in my community to demonstrate various resources that you might find in yours. The Community that I live in has a county population of about 300,000 residents with about equal urban, suburban, and rural land use. What is available to you will be influenced by where you live, Urban or rural as well as other factors.
Grocery stores are obviously a community Prepper resource. But grocery stores are not the only place where you can purchase food for storage. Farmer’s markets are a great place to purchase fresh locally grown produce for canning, dehydrating or freeze drying.
Auctions are another venue that offer food in a few different ways. A few of our local weekly auctions offer processed foods like boxes of cereals, snack foods as well as other boxed or canned foods, fresh produce and of course “on the hoof” food in the form of live pigs, chickens, rabbits, goats and cows. As local farmers and gardeners start to harvest their crops, many will use the local auctions as a means to sell their food. This is a great opportunity to buy in bulk and get a very good price. For instance, I was at an auction several years ago where a dozen ears of corn were going for $2.35. There was so many lots of corn available that the price started to go down as the want for corn by those attending the auction waned. Finally, the auctioneer offered a lot of 30 dozen ears of fresh corn that I got for 35 cents a dozen.
We also have a few bulk food stores in the area where customers can scoop up deals on spices, grains, pastas, potatoes, instant milk and various dry mixes such as soups, puddings and gelatins. A couple of these bulk stores are owned and operated by the Amish and also offer products for non-electric living. I found the one Amish bulk store a great place to buy mantles for my Coleman lanterns. Another bulk food store has an annual event that hosts other homesteading type vendors and demonstrations.
Depending upon where you live this might sound almost funny but another place to buy food in your community inexpensively is right from the farm itself. We have several large potato farms where you can buy bags of fresh potatoes at great prices. We have one family farm that offers potatoes, strawberries, and asparagus. We also have many orchards locally where they will directly sell you apples, peaches, pears, cherries and even grapes.
Skills to Eat Up
Buying food locally at great prices is one thing but planting and harvesting your own food is priceless. Currently we live in a city of about 100,000. We live near an arboretum that offers classes taught by Master Gardeners on backyard gardening each year. This year they are expanding this to other courses on “resilient living” such as making and using a rain barrel. We also have a community park that offers many educational programs such as bee keeping, actual classes on wilderness survival, snow shoeing and cross-country skiing as well. A nearby State Park offers courses on cast iron cooking and animal signs (tracking, basically). Besides classes, the gift shops at the parks offer some great book titles on edible plants, animal tracks, et cetera.
Look at your local parks to see if they offer any types of courses or seminars that will help you. Many will post schedules on line. I have found that most of these come with a cost but they are very reasonable and well worth the money in exchange for knowledge.
Surviving the Future by Learning From the Past
Local historical societies are also Prepper resources. Museums with static displays offer a glimpse into how our ancestors lived without the modern conveniences that are powered by electricity. Some historical societies will offer lectures that may offer us ideas on how to live in a post-TEOTWAWKI  world without electricity. For instance, they may discuss where a grist mill or saw mill, powered by a water wheel in a local creek was located years ago. Depending upon local development perhaps that same spot would be suitable for a water wheel post-TEOTWAWKI. Perhaps that lecture will shed light on where the rock used in the grist mill came from or how it was transformed from rock to a mill stone.
Besides lectures and static displays, are the living history experiences that are popping up now. No longer is learning about history relegated to just staring at static displays or listening to historians talk about life in a bygone era. Now you can experience it with all your senses. We have one museum whose classroom is a fully functioning replica of a brig from the War of 1812. A sailing course is a great way to learn various knots. But knot so fast, students can learn about navigating across water without GPS, learn how the ships were not only made but were maintained and repaired, cooking and living on board is also educational as is learning how to fire the cannons. We also have a museum that just built a forge and offers demonstration and courses. My son and I are planning on taking the black smiting course soon.
Libraries are Now Not Just Books
This might be another one of those obvious resources but community libraries are full of knowledge. However as digital books become more and more popular many libraries are “re-inventing” themselves and are no longer just quiet rooms full of books. Our library now has an “idea lab” with 3-D printers, sewing machines, vinyl cutters and various design software programs. There are classes offered on how to use these resources as well as people on staff who can help you when you start to use them. Before you get too excited, no they will not let you print an AR lower. But that is to say that you cannot learn how to use the machine at a library and then buy your own 3D printer. The library has also started offering different courses on many different topics. A visit to their website provides a list of upcoming classes.
Community Fairs and Festivals
Community fairs and festivals are great entertainment but they also offer opportunities to learn, and find products or services that are available in your area. The Maple syrup festival is a great place to not only learn about how to make maple syrup but to purchase syrup supplies and finished product. A community agricultural fair is a great place to learn about different breeds and about breeders who offer those breeds you may be interested in. Many community organizations also attend fairs to provide information about their group. These groups can run the gamut of 4H clubs, quilting guilds, Bee keeper groups, trapper associations, Boy or Girl Scout groups and many more. Looking for something to improve your BOL or homestead? The County fair is a good place to talk with vendors selling tractors and other agricultural equipment and supplies. They very often offer specials at the fairs as well. Need a new hand pump on the well? Want to look at solar? The county fair is very often a place to find these types of vendors.
JWR Adds: County fairs are also often a great place to meet people who restore antique farm machinery (such as Hit and Miss Engines) and also folks who raise rare breeds of livestock.
There are several organizations in our community that offer community calendars where groups can list their event. In looking at just one of these and just for the month of April I found a listing for, a backyard bee keeping class, a maple festival, a used book sale, a micro-brew fest, a tick awareness seminar, the “basics of tea”, basic backyard gardening, raising chickens, a veteran’s expo, a listing for a new community flea market, a lecture on the Cuban Missile Crisis including recently declassified information, an Herb garden planting workshop, seminar on protecting yourself from identify theft and a hands only CPR. Again, this was just for April and only one calendar.
Seems like every hobby has its own club these days. There is not a “Prepper’s club” but there are many clubs whose particular purpose has benefits to Preppers or Survivalist. Some of these groups have been mentioned already in this article but there are garden clubs, gun clubs, Archery clubs, snowmobile clubs, 4-wheel drive clubs and others. Now there probably aren’t many “Prepping” or “Survivalist” clubs since there are concerns about OPSEC and let’s face it, the words Survivalist and Prepper have been vilified so much that there would probably be more people attending the Leprosy club than a Prepper Club. But what if you started a club and didn’t call it a Survival or Prepper Club? After all Socialist calling themselves Democrats has attracted a lot of people to their group.
I’ve been thinking about inviting a bunch of my friends out to all meet and just say we are the “Jack of all trades Club” or the Tinkerers of “XYZ” (insert name of town). My wife, who tolerates my preparedness efforts, would read me the riot act if I said I was going out to the barn to work on a “prepping” project. But I don’t say that, I just say I’m going to the barn to tinker. What guy (or gal) with a workshop doesn’t like to just “tinker”? No judgements are made or prejudice would be brought forth on someone who just tinkers. Call your club what you will, but not using buzz words that make millennial liberals seek safe zones will offer cover and OPSEC. Imagine these two scenarios- you walk into the local library that offers free community meeting rooms for clubs and organizations and you ask if you can reserve the room for the “XYZ” Prepper club. I’m sure we can imagine the various prejudicial statements and actions that would come from this. But what if you walked into the same library and said you wanted to reserve a room for the “XYZ” Tinkerer’s club? I’m sure the response would not entail looking at you like you were Charlie Manson in the flesh. My point is, you don’t need to have a Prepper club to talk about Prepper Subjects. So, Tinkerers of the world, unite!
Used Merchandise Venues
If you have been prepping for longer than a month you now that prepping is not cheap. By default, Preppers seek to reduce the financial burden by looking for equipment that is used or pre-owned. Besides being used, much of the equipment we are looking for was manufactured in a period where humans or beasts of burden were the main power sources. Many of these types of devices are no longer produced as they have been replaced by devices using motors and internal combustion engines. If by chance a piece of equipment is still manufactured without all the modern gadgetry, the quality will certainly not be the same. So, the used avenue is sometimes the only option to buy quality devices that will still be useful when the lights go out.
More About Auctions
In my opinion Auctions are the best venue to buy used merchandise. Why? Unless there is a reserve or seller’s confirmation stipulation, the items will be sold. Keep in mind the main object of an auction is to get rid of the items. The same isn’t necessarily true when you go to garage sales, and flea markets. Many of those vendors are more than willing to pack up un-sold merchandise and take it back home. We have several auctioneers locally and most do a great job of taking photographs of the items they will be auctioning off and posting them to their website. A word of caution however, do not solely rely upon the pictures on the website to depict everything that is there. I went to one auction to bid on something I saw on line and when walking through the rows of items I spotted a box of M1 Garand clips, and two boxes of military firearms parts. In the photos online they were just boxes sitting on a table.
Something else about auctions to keep in mind, is that many of the buyers are buying to re-sell at antique stores, flea markets and other used merchandise shops. This is important to keep in mind so that if you are bidding on something that is included in a multi-item lot and lose out to a dealer you may ask the dealer who won the bid if they are interested in selling just that one particular item. NOTE: Do not make or try to make agreements with others before the item(s) are auctioned off, this is buyers’ collusion and is against the law.
The more auctions you attend, especially if they are by the same auctioneer, you will start to learn who the re-sellers are. I recommend that you introduce yourself to the dealers. Networking with dealers has paid off for me. One dealer knew that I was interested in “collecting” military gear (but not clothing). He picked up 3 radiation meters and offered them to me first. $100 for 3 meters wasn’t a bad price in my opinion. Besides networking with the dealers at auctions, you can also let the auction house know what you are interested in. Depending upon how good of a customer you are, they may give you a heads up.
These sales can be well worth a prepper’s time and money. Many people will advertise their sale and may include very brief general descriptions of items they are selling. Clothes, electronics, sporting goods, tools, and general household can equal camouflage clothing, ham or FRS radios, camping gear, old hand operated American made tools and older hand powered kitchen aids and cast iron. I tend to only look for sales in the more rural areas since they tend to statistically have more of what I’m looking for verses a sale in the city but this is not always the case.
Estate or Household Sales
These are sales where the owner has died or has been placed in a nursing home or the family is moving and just about everything is being sold. I have had some luck with these but not as much as with auctions and flea markets. Many people who run these types of sales are earning a percentage of what they sell and do not negotiate prices. Often, they will run a sale Saturday and Sunday and the last few hours on Sunday are 50% off. This is sometimes the only time that they are willing to negotiate.
(To be concluded tomorrow, in Part 2.)