Food security, assuring continuous access to quality food, is an ongoing or rising concern for many people. Rising food prices, political instability, and the possibility of widespread disruptions to a fragile supply chain are justifiable causes for this concern. Since a majority of the people on the planet live in or near large metropolitan areas and the suburbs that surround them how does one approach the problem of assuring their family’s food security on a suburban lot?
One of the easiest and most common way to get started taking control of your family’s food security on your suburban lot is to raise a garden. Gardening is scalable to the size of your lot as well as your abilities. On the small side you can raise edible plants in containers to reduce your food bill. On the larger and more aggressive scale, you can use perma-culture techniques to raise 1,000’s of pounds of food every year in just a quarter acre. Some preppers, gardeners and permaculture enthusiasts have even been able to completely do away with trips to the grocery store for fruits and veggies all together…preparedness is a renewable food supply!
Unfortunately many municipalities have regulations limiting the size of gardens or where a garden can be located on your lot. if that’s the case or you’re just interested in something more aesthetically pleasing check out our second tip…Edible Landscaping.
Edible landscaping is a permaculture idea that is really taking off. Instead of planting purely decorative plant in flower beds around your home, you can plant edibles. The flowers on many edible plants are just as varied and beautiful as decorative perennials and annuals. The kicker is they produce healthy and nutritious items that go a long way in providing food security on your suburban lot. Another benefit of edible landscaping is that it’s less noticeable than a traditional garden giving you your own stealth food source.
Food security on your suburban lot does not just entail food. It also includes the water necessary to grow and raise that food. Even in arid climates a moderate rainfall can produce thousands of gallons of water pouring off the typical suburban rooftop. Most homeowners lose this water to the lawn or down the storm sewer. Building a water catchment system will capture that water for your use. Most of it will go on to your garden but in an emergency it can be purified for drinking and hygiene. For around $125 USD, you can build a rain catchment system that will hold well over 200 gallons a precious water.
Many suburban localities are beginning to amend local ordinances to allow people to keep small livestock on their property. Chickens and rabbits are the most common small breeds which are helping more and more people towards food security on a suburban lot but some cultures consider other animals like guinea pigs to be suitable for livestock. They can provide your family with much-needed protein and are a healthier and less expensive alternative to store-bought meat. As an example, a single rabbit buck, and three doe’s can produce over 190 pounds of meat every year, for just pennies on the pound.
Food security on your suburban lot can also be pursued by rasing fish, also known as aquaculture. Many people stock their fish ponds with edible species, instead of decorative ones but virtually all freshwater fish are edible. Perch, carp and catfish are popular in the more temperate climates. Tilapia is a favorite in more tropical climes but is likely regulated as an ‘invasive species’ so make sure you know the requirements. Think you can’t raise fish because you don’t have a pond…think again, fish can be raised in disused swimming pools, or even drums and tanks.
Aquaponics is the fusion of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (raising plants in a liquid medium). It is a system where the fish waste provides nutrients to the plants. The plants in turn clean waste harmful to the fish out of the water. It is a very symbiotic system. Done properly plants raised this way grow faster and produce more fruit than plants grown traditionally. Start up costs can be expensive but the pay off is well worth it. Aquaponics is another great way to build food security on your suburban lot. When building your system make sure to build one that isn’t reliant on electric power or develop a backup power source.
Andrew’s Note: In my own aquaponics experiments I found plant growth within the system to be three times the growth and vegetable output in my control group.
Even the traditional lawn which most homes still have produces a lot of waste in the form of grass clippings, leaves and branches. Suburbanites generally take this waste, stuff it in bags and set it by the curb for the garbage man. The suburban kitchen, gardening and raising small livestock also produce a great deal of waste. Instead of sending all this waste to the landfill you can compost it. Composting is the process of managed decomposition of organic matter. Compost provides fantastic organic fertilizer for your garden. Additionally, if you have chickens they can pick over the pile for bugs and food scraps, and rabbits love grass clippings and leaves. If you want food security on a suburban lot, composting is one thing you must do.
Beekeeping, also known as apiculture is a very specialized way to move towards food security on your suburban lot. The benefits of apiculture are two-fold. First it will provide your family honey that is not only delicious, but healthy as well. It is a product that will literally last for 1,000s of years. Locally raised honey has also been shown to help people suppress allergies. The other benefit is that as the bees search for food, they will pollinate your garden, making it much more healthy and productive.
The average American household throws away about 25% of its food. That is prepackaged, processed and store-bought staples, produce and meats. Home grown and home raised foods will spoil quicker because they do not contain all the added preservatives. That is a lot of healthy food going to waste. After you’ve reached a higher level of food security on your suburban lot you must now preserve it for storage. Learn how to can foods, study root cellaring, buy a dehydrator and a vacuum seal system for even longer term storage options. Organize your pantry with a can rotator. You can also learn how to smoke and preserve your own meats. There are so many food preservation and storage options available to help you keep the fruits of your labor edible longer. Try to learn, and practice them all.
If you have done any, or all of the first 9 suggestions for food security on your suburban lot and you have been diligent, chances are you’ll have more than you can eat. Use that excess to your advantage. You can sell it at a farmers market, making a bit of cash to offset your expenses. You can barter with others to get food items you can’t raise or items you may need or you can give it away. You may gain absolute nothing materially from this last act but in the long run you’ll be building family and community ties that may come in handy in the future.