Rural America’s Decline Means Urban America’s Increased Vulnerability

The food we eat is increasingly produced further and further away from where we live.
The food we eat is increasingly produced further and further away from where we live.

One of the greatest problems that encourages us to become preppers is that the overwhelming majority of people no longer provide/create/grow their own food.

These days, over 80% of all Americans live in urban/suburban areas, meaning only one in five people are in the countryside, and not all of these rural dwellers are involved in food production.  Barely 100 years ago, the situation was almost exactly the opposite – for every one person in a city, there were four in the countryside, most of whom were involved in agricultural production.

So, in a worst case scenario back then, only one in five or one in six people were reliant on the other four or five people for their food.  But now, maybe ten people are totally reliant on each rural/farm worker for all their food.

If anything occurs to stop the flow of food from the one person who grows/provides it to the ten or however many who rely upon that food to survive, we clearly have huge problems.

In addition, we have problems because the one person who makes the food for the ten others is reliant on all sorts of machinery and productivity aids to enable him to grow so much food so efficiently.  If something happens to the productivity aids, he’ll be struggling to provide food just for himself and his family, and won’t have any left over for the other ten people who are relying on his ability to grow food productivity for them.

Our article on Urban Drift discusses some of these phenomena in more detail.  And here’s an interesting chart that shows that growing urbanization is not just a US trend – it is a worldwide trend.

Our Rural Infrastructure is Being Neglected and Abused

Our point in this article is to show how no-one seems to care about the decline in our rural infrastructure.  That’s actually understandable, in a way.  Back when almost everyone lived very close to the land, it was the central part of the entire country’s consciousness.  But today, some people who live in cities have never seen a farm or a farm animal, and don’t know anyone in the circle of family and friends who lives/works on a farm either.  Our rural foundations are no longer a core part of our awareness.

The reality of rural neglect is reflected in these comments by former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack – now US Secretary of Agriculture.  He says that rural America is becoming ‘less relevant’.

He is simultaneously right and wrong.  Sadly, safeguarding, securing, and boosting our rural economy getting less attention than it needs, even though our reliance on rural America increases steadily in line with our greater and greater concentration of agricultural production in the hands of so few.  Rural America is still relevant to us, but we don’t seem to accept that so willingly now.

And so we have city-dweller idealists writing up new legislation and new restrictions on farming operations, based not on a real world understanding of farming requirements, but on a ‘don’t confuse me with the facts’ idealized way of how food production should operate.  Some of these burdens are ecologically based (such as the famous threat that plowing fields shouldn’t create dust), and others are financial attacks, such as the provision to tax farm estates valued at over $1 million at a 55% rate.  This article exposes the threat to farm viability from the new death tax.

A death tax is perhaps appropriate, because it exposes society’s clear death wish – ie, to destroy our local sources of food production, making family farms less viable (and/or increasing their costs and thereby our food costs too) and either concentrating still more farming potential in corporate megafarms (companies don’t ‘die’ so aren’t threatened by death taxes) or forcing us to turn to increasingly distant food sources in other countries.

So we are changing from eating the food we grow ourselves, to eating the food our neighbors grew, to eating the food that farmers grew less than a day’s horse and cart journey away, to eating the food less than a day’s truck journey away, to eating the food less than a day’s plane journey away, to eating food grown by farmers in some other country, thousands or even tens of thousands of miles away from us.

In the past, when four or five farmers were growing food for each city dweller, if anything failed or went wrong, it was no big problem.  The food was largely being grown locally, and by hand.  Indeed, what could go wrong?

But now we are relying on farming operations totally out of our control, thousands of miles away.  If fuel supplies become restricted, how will that food travel thousands of miles in only the very few days it has before it perishes?  It probably can’t and won’t.

Implications for Preppers

The implication for us as preppers is starkly obvious.  In any type of disruptive event, we’ll lose our access to the food supplies we currently rely upon.  Three implications :

  • First, we need to be more aware – and supportive – of rural issues and infrastructure within the US.
  • Second, we need to have a sufficient supply of food on hand to allow us to survive a loss of third-party food supplies.
  • Third, we need to have a way to transition to growing all our own food before our stored food is exhausted.

The second issue is fairly obvious, but the need to be able to grow all our food is one with major implications – particularly if you live in a central city apartment.  Your balcony won’t be big enough to grow enough food.  You need a rural retreat with sufficient arable land to allow you to grow the food you need.

Ideally, that retreat should already be in operation as a farm.  That way, there are fewer unknowns and already existing routines and processes and procedures, and less to go wrong if you need to move there in a hurry.

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