“Lastly, the eighth and the most meritorious of all, is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty, namely, to assist the reduced brother, either by a considerable gift or loan of money, or by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding up his hand for charity.”
~Maimonides, circa AD 1170
Food is critical. Food is often overlooked in America’s post-modern culture, because, well, it seems to “simply arrive”. The fact that Americans assume that food is “post scarcity” and will simply always be cheap and available (if not nutritious and healthy) is one of the more dangerous delusions Americans have.
The truth is not all of the outcomes of the “green revolution” were unequivocal, uncontroversial, successes. Some features of industrial scale farming have had huge negative impacts upon: topsoil, aquifers, water flow and run-off, and the nutritional features of the food itself. This is not an appropriate place to discuss genetically modified crops, we should note that there are many that question the nutritional value and safety of these foods as well.
Many assumptions about food are dangerous. Industrial scale farming has done one thing for certain – convinced many, if not the majority of Americans, that food is no longer a concern. Food just “arrives”.
Individual family gardens will very likely be part of every resilient community, since the composition of each community – combination of people, resources, land – will vary, it is not useful to say “how much” of a garden should each family have. If we assume 0.5 acre plots, per family, then a ¼ acre family garden is not out of the question. It is not sufficient, based on current thinking (about 1-2 acres per human, per year), to survive off of the “family garden”. But, the family garden will likely provide some of the food.
Community gardens are the next step up – these would be shared leases (see section on “Leases”) likely, of at least 10 acres per leasable parcel. Since some community configurations might be for “technology professionals”, the garden might serve the dual purpose of: a) relaxation and b) supplementing food. But, not likely to cover the full needs of the community. A resilient tech-co-op might purchase, jointly or singly, parcels for the purpose of supplementing available food.
The agora or market-place will be the hub of every resilient community. While it’s true that some of the communities may choose to focus on other things, it is unlikely that any of our communities will have “no market”.
The idea behind the agora is to explicitly set aside space for community exchange, barter, sales, social activities, and, potentially, to open up the agora to folks outside the local heathian community – the community at large, outside. This will help to engender trust with members of the outer community and will make more resources (food) available for purchase.
It might sound like a “farmer’s market”, but it is simply more than this. It is a market that exists so that voluntary and free commerce can solve the resource allocation issues locally. Once 2 or more Resilient Communities are established? – this would allow for the communities to share information about their agoras, and to open up the possibility of direct trade between nearby communities.
The idea is simple, and central to our anarchist beliefs: through mutual, transparent and voluntary trade, all of the resource issues (including access to food) are solved.
For the tech co-ops, there is no reason the agora couldn’t take on features that are more about technical consulting services, project work, and products.
Finally – the agora should be online. Through voluntary association, the types of products, for sale, from all the agoras within our resilient trade networks, can be made available. And, though this section is about food – it can be about any and all trade worthy products/services. As stated above – this is not a plan of insularity or penal-austerity. Our communities must have healthy commerce with surrounding communities. We want to encourage barter/trade that can occur outside of the government-taxation-system, but we also want to encourage members of our outer community (outer community: means those who are not members of your resilient ways community, but live in the surrounding area) to participate in the agoras, let’s revisit some reasons:
- By having open trade in our agoras, we increase the number of products/services we can both buy and sell.
- We build social capital in our outer community. (social capital is difficult to define, but you can think of it as “building those connections that do not have dollars and cents associated with them …”).
- It represents a centroid or hub of community – it acts as a linking mechanism with other anarchist and fellow-traveler communities.
- Its virtual or online presence can further expand exposure and relations beyond the borders of your local neighborhood.
Types of Crops/Livestock and Rotation/Sustainability
The choice of crops, livestock, are in part related to the desires of the farmers/ranchers themselves, and also related to what the region/land can support. For many of the smaller scale communities “livestock” will likely amount to some chickens, perhaps some pigs, and maybe (big maybe) some milk-cows. But, because of the resource-footprint of many livestock, you simply need a minimal amount of land – that varies from region to region. Some regions have very temperate climates, and reliable water flows, so it’s possible to have larger animals on smaller parcels. This is a research problem specific to your community design.
These are voluntary communities, so there is no “law” that would forbade someone from having a cow or two, on a sub-standard parcel. It is our expectation that these issues, between neighbors that adopt the complete ethos of anarchism, will be resolved amicably and with positive results for the whole community. Please review the section on “Zero Aggression Principle” if you want to learn more about how these kinds of conflicts will be resolved.
Here are some general considerations when selecting types of crops/livestock:
- For crops, what sort of soil nutrient planning is required? What would be the rotation plan?
- How much space is required for the livestock/animal? Is this an opportunity for leasing a larger plot, between families, to manage the space/impact issue?
- Are you producing the food for subsistence, for sale, or both?
- Do you have ample water to support the agricultural activities in addition to the normal, day-to-day, human activities of life?
- How will you handle agricultural waste? Animal waste? This is as much an opportunity as a problem. Animal waste can be used to fertilize, as an energy source, so there are considerations. Hybrid-systems that mix animal waste with human waste can be an invaluable source of nutrients/fertilizer for many AG activities.
- Composting – is it managed singly or jointly? – again, arrangements within the community are voluntary, but it is worth noting that some problems are better solved by teams/groups than by single individuals.
Storage and Packing
Before modern refrigeration, “root cellars” were used to store certain kinds of vegetables, produce, for long periods of time – certainly over the winter months. A modern version of a root cellar (concept) could take advantage of a root cellar (and make sure the drainage supports this), with the addition of some modern thinking – different materials for construction, deeper thought into location (once again: drainage), and the use of small, solar powered, cooling units to enhance and to manage a constant root-cellar temperature. It is also the case that the community might want to share, jointly, the root-cellar – so it could be relatively large, with sections that are marked and may or may not have locks. “Locks” seem unnecessary among people that inherently, from belief, respect each other’s property.
There are far too many good resources on canning, jarring, drying of food, and other forms of long-term food storage. Developing effective strategies for long-term storage, that do NOT use a lot of toxins/chemicals, is also part of a coherent food strategy for any anarchist community or family.