Self Sufficiency in the Real World, Part 1

When I met my future wife, I was 17 years old, and I lived in a suburban home in central Jersey on a 1/4 acre lot, where I was born and raised.  20 years later, we own a 60 acre working farm in rural North Carolina where our family manages almost 200 animals and acres of gardens and crops.  We produce our own dairy, meat, eggs, vegetables, fruits, wool, breads, and more.

In most circles, talk of self-sufficiency is really just talk, or it’s crazy conspiracy theory nonsense.  I have watched people turn growing potatoes into the most complicated business on earth because they spend hours on the internet and in books rather than in the garden, where things are very simple.  I watch as people who complain about “the world” begin buying all kinds of tools, equipment, etc., before they’ve grown a single plant.  I recently had a man come to the farm to help me and try to persuade me that we needed a $7,000 garden tiller…when we’ve grown all of our own food with a few hand tools for years.  Self-sufficiency is not about buying different stuff, it’s about simplifying life and replacing expenses with a little bit of intelligent work.

We don’t grow our own food because we’re afraid the government is going to try and kill us one day, or because we believe that supermarket food is full of poisons.  Supermarket food is perfectly healthy, and our government is the least intrusive to ever exist on earth.  We pursue self-sufficiency because it is beneficial for Christians to enjoy a quiet and respectable independence that not only allows them to fulfill their duties of prayer and meditation, but allows them to live generously, enjoy stable family lives, be free from anxiety and help others.  Part of the reason farm people are considered to be more “friendly” than city people is that farm people are available and able to help others.

I believe that other families can do what we have done, if they work hard, sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term rewards, and follow good advice.  There is a lot of advice on farming that is not good advice.  The use of the internet makes it hard to distinguish the good from the bad, but we offer advice that has worked.

I am always asked for advice by people who want to do what my family has done, and I offer two simple steps for becoming self-sufficient:

Step 1.  Use What You Produce

To become self-sufficient, you cannot use products that you will never be able to produce.  I don’t mean products that you’re not producing now, but products that you will never be able to produce.  You may need to buy your family’s food and clothing from the stores for another 10 years, but buy what you can one day replace with your own produce.

Step 2.  Produce What You Use

After you begin to use products that you are able to produce, you can slowly begin replacing what you buy, with what you make or grow.  Bread from the store, for example, can be replaced with home-made bread made with store-bought flour.  Flour can be replaced with your own milled flour.  Eventually you may replace grain that you buy from a mill with home-grown grain.  That all begins with eating bread you can make.  The same is true in all other areas of household management.

Use what you can produce…and produce what you use.

In future writings, I’ll dig into these two basic steps in increasing detail.  Feel free to ask any questions you have and I’ll answer them in detail as well.

God bless,
William Michael
Beatitudes Farm

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2 Responses to Self Sufficiency in the Real World, Part 1

  1. Devin Rose says:

    This is a good practical insight from someone living how we hope to live. I do think that saying supermarket food is perfectly healthy is a stretch, but I get what you are intending to say.

    So what about something like, a chainsaw. You will never be able to produce it. So do y’all not use it? I suppose this goes for almost anything metal.

    • wmclaa says:

      Take a trip to Jamaica or India, then tell me about the dangers in American supermarkets.

      As for equipment like chainsaws, etc., there’s a difference between using equipment temporarily and moving towards long-term, sustainable methods. We don’t have hang-ups like that, though, because, as I said, we have to interface with the real-world, not go into these things like idealists who end up not doing anything.

      Responsible self-sufficiency requires patience and, ultimately, our mission is not to be alone in the middle of Wyoming, but to serve God and our neighbors. You can’t help your neighbors by moving into the wilderness…actually, I guess some people probably would. 😉

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