“My brother has a farm! We’ll have plenty of food.” When I hear this I ask, “What kind of farm?”. You can get any kind of answer here. Most people don’t realize that most professional farmers are specialized; they only grow one or a few things. There are farmers that raise only cattle, or corn, or fruit trees, et cetera, sometimes with smaller sets of supplementary crops. Farms that can be lived off of completely, which are very rare, are almost always small and provide for a small number of people. Each crop or type of livestock take special consideration and often special equipment. A huge farm that has all of the equipment to raise different kinds of crops and animals is a rare thing.
“He has cows; we will have meat and milk.” If he is a cattle farmer, he probably relies on hundreds or thousands of pounds of feed, a commercial water source, and large amount of medication to keep them parasite free. If they are pasture fed, that is land that cannot be used for farming crops. Without water they will die. If you plan on getting meat out of them, then he has to have enough cows to have a rotating stock and the ability to get them to slaughter size. Without all of those supplies required to keep them alive, not mentioning water, you guys are going to eat like kings for a very short time until they begin dying. Even if he’s got enough land and water, breeding more cows takes a lot of time, so unless it’s okay to kill off his breeding stock, you’re going to have to wait a year or so for new cows to show up. Of course, you’ll be eating a solid meat diet on little or no water with a questionable ability to cook it.
“Well, my brother has 30 acres!” I don’t know of anyone who can farm 30 acres with a family of four. I doubt your brother is running 30 acres of crops. If he is, he’s probably heavily reliant on fuel-powered machinery, hundreds of pounds of fertilizers and pesticides, an automated watering system, and possibly some hired help. All of that gets cut down to what can be managed by hand. Also, 30 acres of what? Not all land can be farmed for all crops. “We would plant more crops!” When exactly are you showing up at your brothers farm? Could it be in November, when his family is living off mostly canned goods stored for the winter? Even if it all went South just prior to the main planting season, are you going to show up at a critical time as unskilled and uneducated laborer to help him prepare another two acres just to feed you and yours? Like he’s got time to plow, till, fertilize, and plant what it takes to feed you, when he needs to do that for himself. Does he have the seeds for that? Does he have the fertilizer? Does he have the space, or the water, or the ability to keep up that much land while teaching and managing uneducated people? Even if that were the case, does he have the food and water to keep everyone alive until those crops are ready to harvest? Just because he has a farm, doesn’t mean there is something to eat at all times. Even if all of that miraculously happens, did he plan on storing food for you and your family as well? You made the mistake of thinking a farm meant food, but your very little thought also didn’t include preservation. Does he have the ability to dry/smoke/can for the additional people? Does he have burnable material to smoke food or salt for pickling Does he even have the number of canning jars it takes to store that much food and get you all through winter. Does he even can food? With the power out, he loses the ability to refrigerate and freeze, which for most people means no food storage, at all. So even under the best of circumstance you still may starve come winter. But you aren’t in the position to learn how to do any of things (or get updated if you do know).
“We won’t eat as much!” You have enough or you don’t. Try saying “I won’t breathe as much!”. Are you going to let your kids waste away? You’re saying that you’re going to selflessly sacrifice your life and health for everyone else in a survival situation but won’t make any sacrifices now to prevent it?
I’ll Work For It
You say, “I’ll help out and work for my keep.” It takes approximately two acres of heavily-farmed land to feed a family of four. Some will say that even this is unrealistic (myself included). This isn’t just any two acres; this is suitable farming land of closely packed space supported by commercial fertilizer and pesticides worked year-round by dedicated and educated people. Manure, mulch, and compost are monitored and maxed out in their use. You aren’t going to show up and have double the compost simply because you envision planting crops. It also assumes there are decent yields. This is with big box stores for supplies and the power and information of the Internet at hand. The knowledge and work it takes to rotate animal and crops in sync with natural fertilizers, composts, forage, et cetera is not something you’re going to learn in a week or just by reading. Once again, if your brother has a well-maintained maxed out farm, I doubt he has the ability, equipment, or space to double everything he does.
If his farm is two acres and it provides for his family of four (just barely), he’s already maxing out production on that two acres. He’s already milking that land for all it’s worth. The addition of just you by yourself (but remember that there are three of you) will add another 25% on what is being consumed. Your lack of education aside, no matter how much you “help out”, won’t give him another 25% out of that land. At this point, he will have lost the ability to purchase commercial fertilizers, pesticides, and probably the ability to water it as well. The production on what he has now will drop and might end completely. The work that will make a difference just isn’t there. You don’t get to sweep floors and wash laundry while everyone is starving to death.
Lightening the load of work doesn’t add to more production. Just because you shell peas and shuck corn doesn’t mean there are more peas and corn. Hauling water for livestock doesn’t make more livestock. If there is limited pasture land, helping out with the cattle doesn’t allow him to have more cattle, and even if it did it would be months before the cattle were bred, born, and raised to the point of harvest. Basically it means that your contribution, as uneducated as it is, doesn’t allow or make up for your consumption.
How many extra tools do you think are on a farm? How many people can shovel when there are only three shovels, et cetera?
Are you even capable of helping? Have you tried chopping a realistic amount of wood or working a field for hour? Can you do this for days, or is what you mean by “helping” sitting around doing all of the light work that makes no difference? Of course, you’re not in a position to improve your mind or body, not in any way.
But I Have Valuable Skills!
“I’m a military trained battlefield medic/paramedic/emergency room surgeon, and I have extensive experience in natural home remedies, holistic healing, and maternal medicine! I would be an asset to anyone! Ha!” That is incredible and a skill set that would give anyone pause. That doesn’t change the fact that he can’t feed you. Your training will allow you to keep everyone up-to-date on what stage of dehydration they’re in right up the moment of death. Air, water, food (in that order and all three of those) are first priorities. If you cannot provide those, it doesn’t matter if you can set a broken bone or perform an appendectomy with kitchen knives and utensils. People need food and water immediately. Do you really think you’re going to shovel food into your mouth, secure in the knowledge that you are a medical resource in time of need? Between bites of food, you can tell everyone how you’ve got them covered if someone breaks a leg. Of course, you are assuming that your brother has all of the medical supplies needed to fully utilize your skills, but you’re not in a position to stock up on those supplies. If you get hurt, you are even more of a burden, but you’re not in a position to teach anyone medical skills however basic.
“I Will Learn When I Get There”
In a disaster situation, no one has time to teach you. Survival is the main concern. No one wants you to plow through supplies and waste time and effort making common mistakes. Why are you waiting until death is at the door to learn anything? Once it hits the fan and many resources are unavailable, there will be less time to educate you and your children from day one. I’m sure your brother will understand that you just aren’t in any kind of position to so much as read an article to learn a single thing right now. I’m sure he’ll understand having to teach you everything in person. I’m sure he’ll laugh when he remembers his years-long learning curve and the mistakes to get where he’s at. He’ll keep on laughing when you waste irreplaceable supplies making beginner mistakes.
A farm doesn’t mean food automatically. Self-sustaining farms and preparedness often go hand-in-hand, but there are many farmers out there that don’t prepare. Farming is a business, and that business relies on power. (Water relies on power, too.) There are farmers who don’t can or preserve food in any way. Some grow their one or two crops and then everything else is last minute from the grocery store. There are farmers who are incapable of surviving without outside help; they sell crops for money and that money buys everything else they need. In a major disaster, their farm would rapidly fall apart. Once their wells stop pumping water, their livestock is dead in a few days and their crops shortly after. I assume your brother’s house is self-sustaining. This is assuming your brother even knows you’re coming. You and he may have had a discussion and he may have agreed. That doesn’t mean he’s given the slightest thought as to how he’s going to provide for you, has prepared to do so, or is even capable of doing so. Of course, you’re in no position to have a realistic discussion with the person whose house you’re running to. Once the grocery stores are empty, the ATMs stop giving cash, and the real desperation begins, your brother’s lush crops and walking four-legged steaks won’t attract any attention. He won’t lose a single mouthful to looters and thieves. Not that you are in any kind of position to learn any kind of self defense or read up on a combat mindset.
Of course you were the only one with this brilliant idea of running to your brother’s house. You have no siblings. His wife doesn’t. Your ex-husband, once he begins to starve, will never think of going there, and your brother’s neighbors won’t have their hands out either. None of those people will have family or friends, right?
Many people will make the same mistake in thinking that a farm means food. Many of them will have an idea of where those farms are. Many of them are coming to take what’s at the farm– what you have.