Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Food Security and Social Unrest


In a report published yesterday (06/26/2016), a FEMA contractor reported on a simulation called “Food Chain Reaction”. The scenario was to simulate a food crisis brought about by “food price and supply swings amidst burgeoning population growth, rapid urbanization, severe weather events, and social unrest.” You may want to read the full article yourself, but that’s not really our concern here.

As Southern Agrarians, our goal is to isolate and insulate ourselves from the chaos and anarchy of a world in collapse. Growing a portion of our own food – even if it is only a small portion – gives us a base from which to ramp up our food production to the point of being relatively self sufficient. Right now, I have a rather small part of our one acre being used to produce food. Every year brings new lessons in how to be more productive: what grows well and what doesn’t, learning the best time to plant, the best plant spacing for the soil in my garden, and a hundred other things to learn.

That small garden can be easily expanded by turning lawn into garden in order to multiply the amount of food being produced. Having the tools to do that is a key part of it. I recently purchased a two-wheeled walk-behind tractor made by BCS. It is an Italian company that owns Ferrari (Ferrari used to make tractors before they focused on high-end sports cars). With the roto-tiller attachment, I can quickly turn new ground into ready-to-plant garden area. I also have several high quality hoes that allow me to efficiently maintain the garden.

There is so much more involved in becoming more self-sufficient. How do you provide water for your family, your garden, and your livestock? How do you preserve what you grow for the rest of the year when the garden is not producing? How do you feed your chickens or ducks or other livestock? Those are the kinds of questions that we try to answer here in addition to the cultural and social aspects of Southern Agrarianism.

Being self-sufficient is a very comfortable feeling in these unstable times. Make sure that you can provide for your family, no matter what the future holds.


  1. Judy LeRoux

    You might already know this about the East, but, for 4000 years they grew crops with out polluting and the crops were rich with nutrients. How did they do this?
    They collected manures from everyone that is correct humans included, and all the animals and then composted this all together to put out on the farms.
    Humanure is perfectly fine to use and creates a beautiful rich dirt. It takes a year to do this so if your keeping it in a 50 gallon drum you will need to have several of those on hand to rotate out. We use rabbit, chicken and duck. These manures when composted in make lovely rich healthy dirt. They are all really great but the tomatoes love the duck stuff.
    In the event of what ever disaster that may come our way, knowing the way of real composting will keep you in dirt for years. It will also keep you healthy , because of the work and at the end of the day you will eat well to.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, Judy.

      I’ve read about using humanure, but never tried it. As I understand it, the key is in how it is processed. Do it wrong, and the possibilities for health problems approach the danger zone. Do it right, and you get great soil.

      I routinely use cow, chicken, and duck manure in the garden. I’d really like to find a good local source of rabbit manure – I have a friend who used a lot of that and had great results from it.

      What I’m trying to learn more about now is the best kind of cover crops to use in MY garden. When my father moved to Florida from Alabama in the early 1920’s, he said that they planted velvet beans along with the corn. I also read recently that using the right kind of cover crops can help control nematodes, so that’s another benefit. I know I’ve sort of gotten off the topic of your comment, but just about any organic matter that we add to the soil is going to improve it, and that’s the take-away on this one.

  2. John

    Great post, Stephen. I’m (unfortunately) in a very early stage of self-reliance. It’s no problem at all for me to gradually begin a small scale farming project. Which, I’m working on. My issue is that I know too many people, my wife included, who believe that the grocery store and pharmacy stores and such will always be there. It’s a false sense of reality in my honest opinion. I do a lot of studying about natural forage, medicine and train myself at wilderness and urban survival. It’s something I believe every American should know at least at a basic level. I could be wrong, but I believe it’s something that my ancestors knew and it’s relevant today.

    It makes sense to me that certain things our families did many years ago should still be done and observed today. I think of all the wisdom and knowledge that has been lost over the years because of modernization. Like the plumb line, which is still a truest form of technology today despite its new and improved counterparts. But sadly, modernization has no place for its predecessors because of the assumed “improvements.”

    Gardening, canning and pickling is new to me. But it’s as useful now as it was to my grandparents.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Thank you, John.

      If you’re in the “very early stage of self-reliance”, you’re still far ahead of the vast majority. I understand completely about the prevailing attitude that “there will always be grocery stores with shelves filled with whatever food we want.” I don’t know that we can ever convince those folks since it is more on an emotional level than a logical level; it’s tough arguing against feelings. If someone admits the possibility that food might not always be easily available and affordable, then it forces them to face some rather scary scenarios – and they don’t want to do that. If it is your wife, then your best bet is making sure that your relationship is built on the idea that you are ultimately responsible for providing for the family, and there are no exemptions due to what happens in the world. That puts the ball in your court and the decisions are yours alone. Now, I fully understand that every marriage is different and there are some marriages where that just wouldn’t work. Hopefully that would work in your case.

      This brings to mind the “Six Item Grocery List” post – . There were only six things that my grandmother bought from the store. Everything else was produced on their farm.

      While it takes time to learn the skills and what works for you in your situation, there are things that are good candidates for putting a high priority on.

    • Getting the tools you will need
    • Getting books on a wide variety of self-sufficiency topics
    • Getting seeds for the plants that grow well in your area
    • Those are things that you know you’ll need, so if you start gathering them now – even if you aren’t sure that it is exactly what you need – you are way ahead of the game if things fall apart before you have the time to really learn the skills.

      Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of “problems” are solved by looking at this as a hobby or a life-style. Suddenly you are a “gardener” rather than a “paranoid survivalist”.

  • John

    “Another thing to keep in mind is that a lot of “problems” are solved by looking at this as a hobby or a life-style. Suddenly you are a “gardener” rather than a “paranoid survivalist”.

    That’s good advice. In most everything I do, I’ve learned to make it as comfortable as possible. Comfort = confidence.

    I view self-reliance, preparedness and woodscraft as a hobby that contributes to a lifestyle. Which makes it more enjoyable and fulfilling. I’ve been studying for about 3 years now. Since, it’s built my confidence and has opened doors for me to share with others things I’ve learned. Even if they don’t take interest as I have. I can at least use my skills for the good of myself and my family. And roughly, that’s what it’s all about.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

    • Comfort = confidence
    • a hobby that contributes to a lifestyle
    • I can at least use my skills for the good of myself and my family
    • Well said, sir!

  • Wyandotte

    Re the 6-item grocery list.

    Impressive, but even then, only the Salt is truly necessary. Coffee, sugar, rice, flour, etc. are nice but you can live without them. Try going without salt!

  • Paul Walker


    Nice blog, ran across it looking for roll away nesting boxes. I recommend watching the video Back to Eden, which you can purchase at the Back to Eden website. It will change your thinking about how to garden.

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