Shortening the Supply Chain

17 thoughts on “Shortening the Supply Chain”

  1. >>Incidentally, this is the best way I know of to unite Red and Blue America. No Don and Hillary Show required.<<

    Hear, hear.

    1. Dude, I live in a 700 square foot one bedroom apartment in the city. My freezers are down in the common garage. (My neighbors are tolerant of my predisposition – and I make dinner for them often.) If you live in a suburban home you have ten times more space than I ever will. I’m sure you have room for a freezer if you really want one.

  2. I just believe,’ he said, ‘that the whole thing is going to be reduced to the human body, once and for all. I want to be ready…. I think the machines are going to fail, the political systems are going to fail, and a few men are going to take to the hills and start over…. I had an air-raid shelter built,’ he said. ‘I’ll take you down there sometime. We’ve got double doors and stocks of bouillon and bully beef for a couple of years at least. We’ve got games for the kids, and a record player and a whole set of records on how to play the recorder and get up a family recorder group. But I went down there one day and sat for a while. I decided that survival was not in the rivets and the metal, and not in the double-sealed doors and not in the marbles of Chinese checkers. It was in me. It came down to the man, and what he could do. The body is the one thing you can’t fake; it’s just got to be there…. At times I get the feeling I can’t wait. Life is so fucked-up now, and so complicated, that I wouldn’t mind if it came down, right quick, to the bare survival of who was ready to survive. You might say I’ve got the survival craze, the real bug. And to tell you the truth I don’t think most other people have. They might cry and tear their hair and be ready for some short hysterical violence or other, but I think most of them wouldn’t be too happy to give down and get it over with…. If everything wasn’t dead, you could make a kind of life that wasn’t out of touch with everything, with other forms of life. Where the seasons would mean something, would mean everything. Where you could hunt as you needed to, and maybe do a little light farming, and get along. You’d die early, and you’d suffer, and your children would suffer, but you’d be in touch.”
    ― James Dickey, Deliverance,1970

    1. There are two primary narratives at the moment. One is the doomer survivalist story. “The End Of The World is coming, but I’ll make it through because I’m smart and strong and prepared.” Then there’s the techno optimist vision. “There are solutions to every problem and I’ll survive because I’m smart and strong and prepared.” Reality has always been somewhere in between. You may be smart, but smart is overrated. You may be strong, but often the Big Guy is too clumsy or ham fisted. You may be prepared, but for the wrong thing – or the right thing at the wrong time. Darwin is tricky…

      1. In the immortal words of Steve Winwood, “When life is too much, roll with it, baby”.

        In other words, resilient probably beats strong or smart. When you’ve survived losing almost everything once, what you have left is knowing that you can do what it takes to survive.

  3. The section of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House in the Big Woods” on slaughtering the pig made a big impression on me as a child and is part of the myriad of experiences that led me to try to live simply. In the book, Laura hated hearing the pig’s final squeal, but she knew she would love the season of meat it would produce. Virtually everything on the pig was used, including the bladder, which became a temporary balloon for the children, and the pig’s tail, which was cooked as a treat.

  4. Great article Johnny (per usual). I also purchased pork straight from a farmer this winter. We got a 1/4 of a hog (and split that with a friend since we’re just a household of 2 in a small apartment). The meat is amazing, the process was very easy (and the farmer very willing to answer all our questions), and the cost came down to about $10/lb for an assortment of high-quality sausage, bacon, shoulder, ribs, ham, etc. Plus, having it in the freezer means it’s ready to eat whenever we want. It’s one of the best things I did in 2016 and I fully plan to do more of this next year.

    1. I’ve learned that changing large entrenched systems is a fool’s errand. Working around them is so much easier and yields better results. I’m currently working on the “direct from farm” version of property a la Strong Towns. Stay tuned.

  5. Another great article. Personally, I had this ideal of self sufficiency. I was growing potatoes, storing food & water, burying gold, etc. Total weekend prepper. Still am actually.

    What I realized is that there’s no way I can do it all myself. And I’m blessed with a plethora of year round farmer’s markets, local farm to table producers, etc. How lucky we are. Thank god for the Central Valley.

    The caveat is cost. Wow it’s a lot more expensive than Costco or even Whole Foods by any measure. Tough sell to the general populace (who are primed to reject anything perceived as elitist) until input costs change or an actual supply chain failure.

    1. Yep. Real food is expensive.

      There was an entirely different cultural connotation surrounding bulk purchases of food a few decades ago. Having a freezer full of meat was a normal middle class (or working class – in my family’s case) thing to do. Catholics, Mormons… You have a big brood so you do the sensible thing and stock up. Today it’s “elitist” to do exactly the same thing. Did the meat and freezers change over the last forty years?

      My guess is that discretionary consumer items like electronics have been getting cheaper and cheaper, while necessities like housing, medical care, and higher education have become obscenely expensive. At the same time employment, income, and opportunity have radically bifurcated. So people who struggle to put food on the table day to day think buying a whole cow is extravagant.

      There’s also the “anchor effect.” Advertisers know that the price of anything is always perceived relative to the price of something else. That’s why the hardware store sets out the $49 charcoal hibachi next to the $300 gas grill, which is next to the $899 grill, which is next to the ultra amazing industrial restaurant style monster grill for $1,999. The top of the line item is an anchor that changes your perception of what a grill should be – and what it should cost. People who might have thought they only needed the $49 hibachi end up buying the $300 gas model instead. The anchor can also work the other way. If people are used to 99¢ value meals at the burger joint a $6 pork chop seams outrageous.

      One possibility is to buy less meat, but make that meat much higher quality. Instead of a giant roast or steak, dice up a smaller cut and stir fry it with veggies and such. Another option (which I have done myself for years) is to buy bulk ingredients that are less expensive and don’t require refrigeration. Lentils, white beans, rice, pasta… The semi or entirely vegetarian option works just as well as the meat version.

      I always draw the line at buying gold even though I absolutely understand why it might be a very good idea in the abstract. But I also assume that when a person might really need to dig it up and try and sell it they’ll attract exactly the wrong kind of attention from precisely the wrong folks. (Fill in your personal cartoon villain here.) I prefer to stock up on useful items instead. Most thieves are less enticed by canned goods than precious metal. Besides, the idea of having physical gold around pushed my mind towards the need for firearms. I’m not opposed to guns at all, but I have trouble operating a can opener. It wouldn’t end well. There are no perfect preps… You just do what you can.

      1. I would give this comment a “thumbs up” or a “like” if it were possible. You are exactly on point!

        Some people buy expensive cars or houses. I prefer the “expensive” food. For Thanksgiving we had a cage-free, vegetarian-fed (not fed vegetarians, fed a vegetarian diet without meat meal or by-products). It cost $3+ per pound. It was worth every penny, especially in the 7 quarts of high-quality stock that I made from the neck and carcass.

        We are able to order from a local farm in smaller than whole or half-animal quantities. That works really well for us. (In a strange twist, the “farmer” is a former software company executive who made a fortune when the company he started was sold to a giant software company. He bought a farm. And started a farm-to-table food processing operation. And bought a local restaurant. And opened a natural-foods market. And backed a food-delivery app. He’s really into good food.)

      2. Some of that stocking up in the past was driven by higher inflation. Beating price hikes not so compelling now (especially with more expensive energy).

  6. Here in Europe we had the horse meat scandal a few years ago. Some of our biggest retailers and brands were selling horse meat as beef in processed food and their supply chains were so long and complicated they didn’t even know themselves. There was no way they could confirm it was safe and as for hygiene or animal welfare, forget about it. No corner left uncut, no supplier left not nailed to the floor on price.

  7. YES, good article, buy your food locally, it will be healthier and support your local community. My wife and I are organic market gardeners (on a small scale) and everything you said is accurate. It is not hard to make contact and purchase from a local producer. The easiest way is put aside some of your grocery money and make a point of visiting your local farmers market. Walk the entire market first before buying and figure out who is actually growing the food themselves, and are willing sell it for a fair price.

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