So, I'm paranoid about starving, shoot me. Ok don't.
August 6, 2010 10:03 AM   Subscribe

I'd like to buy enough seeds to grow enough food to survive for 2 years, for 6 people. And then store it.

That's the basic story. I actually have done 2 organic farming internships, and do know the basics of growing things (this was a long time ago). Currently I'm living in the city. But yeah, I have a touch of environmental paranoia.

I'd like to have enough grain and vegetable seeds stored away (at a remote location) to be able to survive if need be. I know this is a hair brained scheme, but I think it might help my anxiety a little.

Do you know of any good, non-insane resource, that might either a) be able to sell me some sort of sealed kit or b) tell me how to put one together? Ideally this would store for a couple of years, and if my fears are unfounded, I'd be able to buy a new kit if it got too old.
posted by sully75 to Food & Drink (18 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I grow plants in a lab; they don't germinate if we store them in the fridge in air-tight containers. We have barley that still germinates about 95% of the time (same as when we got it) that is from 1999. I would buy good quality (high germination rates, pure seed), vacuum seal the seeds in plastic packs with one of those home vacuum sealer food preservative things, put them in a sealed, duct taped shut, solid plastic box (like a tupperware tool box, something roots and voles or whatever other creature won't penetrate in the near future), and bury it in your remote area, preferably under a coniferous tree to keep 'em cool. Mark the location well - on a map and buy a tombstone for over top, or whatever.
posted by Acer_saccharum at 10:17 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

I'm not sure if you want the assumptions underlying your question to be discussed or not. If not, feel free to say so and we can delete or disregard this response. If you have environmental paranoia of the sense that you feel that it will be impossible to grow food because of an environmental catastrophe or something, you understand that you will also be unable to grow your own food for the same reasons. If this is political paranoia, as in you think you the state will fail and you will need to provide for yourself, then that's another story. In either case, you may have to think about how you will grow the food without fertilizer (if your survival depends on these seeds to grow, you probably don't want to leave it to chance), lights, clean water, etc. If you are worried about a catastrophe of some kind, either political or environmental, you'd be MUCH better off buying canned/preserved food that can be eaten in the absence of electricity or clean drinking water. If you are just concerned that GMOs are going to take over the world, then I guess that's another story too.This all boils down to *why* you think you will have to grow all of your own food.
posted by proj at 10:24 AM on August 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

Many commercial vegetable seeds will last 2-3 years just by being kept in a cool, dry place (see, for example, the "Relative Longevity" figures in this chart.)

Finding protected, arable, uncontaminated land, getting access to water, and stopping theft are going to be much bigger problems if you're still living in the city. The last two may not be any easier in a rural area.

As a fellow sometimes-paranoid and urban gardener, I understand where you're coming from ... but I don't think environmental/social collapse is something that one or a few people can garden their way out of, unfortunately.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:26 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

How do you want this to happen, though?

In the event of a natural/man made society-ending disaster, you're going to have to a) reach secure remote location safely, b) hope this happens right before planting season for your area, c) find and till enough fertile, irrigated land to plant said seeds, d) supplement with other food reserves until harvest time, which will realistically be months away, e) hope like hell that there is no drought/flooding/pestilence that will destroy your crops in the meantime.

Remember that it takes more people to grow enough food to feed 6 people than you'd think, especially if you have no access to oil-based machinery, like tractors. And you should assume you won't have access to those.

Realistically? You're better off storing two years' worth of non-perishable goods, like dehydrated/canned food, in a rural location and, once you have reached that location post-environmental disaster, raid the local feed stores. Also, the most important thing when it comes to survival is going to be knowledge, not necessarily resources. And knowledge is highly, highly portable.

Take classes in animal husbandry, crop farming, metal working, canning, first aid and stockpile some books on the subject.
posted by lydhre at 10:29 AM on August 6, 2010 [5 favorites]

The seeds won't be worth anything (unless you can eat them, I guess) without tools, fertile land, possibly irrigation (depending on where you live), supplies for pest and weed control, and everything else you need to be able to use them. In other words, I think the seeds are the smallest and easiest to solve part of your pre-disaster planning -- if you want to go down this path, you need to put together a much more comprehensive plan and possibly be prepared to spend a lot more money.
posted by Forktine at 10:30 AM on August 6, 2010

Remember that it takes more people to grow enough food to feed 6 people than you'd think

Without either mules/horses/oxen or mechanization, this number is definitely more than 6, i.e. it's unsustainable. This plan goes way beyond being hair brained. If it is therapeutic for you to store seeds then by all means go ahead and do it, but I think you should accept that it's a symbolic gesture at best.
posted by Rhomboid at 10:53 AM on August 6, 2010

I looked at your profile and took a flyer- you might want to go talk to these people here, the local version of this organization.
posted by ambrosia at 11:09 AM on August 6, 2010

Any Mefites want to sign up to join my gang of human eaters after the war?

The chances that you'll be able to score the land and security to *grow* food within the first two years of an end-of-the-world type scenario are approximately zilch. Food rarely gets grown in in lawless nations. You'll be killed right around harvest time. If your family were starving, would you hesitate to kill someone else's family to keep the alive?

If you're worried, stockpile enough food to get through a major natural disaster. Two years worth would be LOT of food to stockpile. About 35lbs of dried beans/rice per person per month. For 24 months x 6 people, you're looking at 144 5-gallon buckets weighing in at about 2 tons. Not exactly cheap, and you're still on your own for water. Aim for a shorter duration disaster. I don't think a 3-6 month supply is *crazy*, given the relative fragility of the food system we've built. You don't need to outrun the bear, just your friend, right?

Oh, and you'll need a way to stay below the radar. You've got no hope of defending yourself from the horde and people get MOTIVATED when there's a famine. Human history is pretty clear on that one. Invest in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere. And guns.
posted by pjaust at 11:11 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, read SurvivalBlog if you want to feel less crazy. No matter how paranoid you are, those folks are even more so.
posted by pjaust at 11:12 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Oh, and you'll need a way to stay below the radar. You've got no hope of defending yourself from the horde and people get MOTIVATED when there's a famine. Human history is pretty clear on that one. Invest in a cabin out in the middle of nowhere. And guns.

Actually, that isn't clear at all. Historically, disasters and famines are at least equally likely, if not more likely, to foster solidarity and teamwork. People are social creatures, and there is a big, big space between prosperity and so-hungry-you'll-murder-to-eat. Look at Haiti right now- people are starving, and sure, crime may be up, but it's not dog-eat-dog. People are helping each other.

Other things to consider:

-People have farmed for millennia without modern fertilizers. It's not impossible.

-Stockpiling food, while probably something you'd want to do in addition to stockpiling seeds, is less valuable in the long run because you can't take a ravioli can and plant it to grow a ravioli bush.

(What the OP is probably worried about is skyrocketing fuel prices making transporting food prohibitively expensive.)
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:33 AM on August 6, 2010

Response by poster: Erm...for the record, I've actually thought this out fairly extensively. I understand fairly clearly what it takes to grow food (6 months of farm work, 3 of which working only with draft animals). And I've thought extensively about the weak points in the plan. As I said, it's a hair brained scheme, but I do think it would ease my anxiety. I have land available, and probably as good a place as any to ride out any such insanity.

For the record, I think if you play the solution out, you would kill the family that has food stockpiled rather than seed stockpiled.
posted by sully75 at 11:56 AM on August 6, 2010

Mod note: folks further metacommentary really needs to go to MeTa or email
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:09 PM on August 6, 2010

check Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds or turtle tree seed

there's a canning book called something like 'how to put food by' which is quite amazing (i must not have the title correct, cause googling is not finding it).

water is a key resource, not just for the growing/irrigation, but also for prep/preserving. can't have too much clean water. an ice house near your doomstead would also be killer sweet.
posted by kimyo at 12:54 PM on August 6, 2010

No grains, but here are some vegetables.
posted by hades at 1:32 PM on August 6, 2010

Seed Savers is where I get my seeds.
posted by Heretical at 2:09 PM on August 6, 2010

Not a direct answer to your question, but a helpful resource for your general issue: How to Grow More Vegetables: Than You Ever Thought Possible on Less Land Than You Can Imagine
posted by Jacqueline at 2:20 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Eden Seeds in Australia sells a 2 year seed supply pack, and they've helpfully listed the contents in numbers of packets of each plant. I'm sure you've seen Seed Vault. I'm also sure you know how to can and dry, and have considered livestock like fish farming and chickens.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:36 PM on August 6, 2010

You might want to make a lot of those beans. Beans last a long time, are a good protein source (something that will come in handy) and the seed is, coincidentally, the part you eat. Even if you can't find arable land, you could boil 'em up.

To whoever said you need more than six people to grow for six people: not true at all. I'm fairly certain four people can grow food for four people on a half acre (assuming you do a lot of preserving) so long as you don't grow low-yield plants like wheat and corn.

For carbs you would want potatoes which don't reliably come from seed, but you could bury some. Assuming it isn't dug up and eaten by wildlife or diseased, a potato plant will last a long time, pretty much planting itself. Disease probably isn't much of a worry if you buy disease-free seed potatoes and plant somewhere that hasn't been farmed before.

If you're in the southwest, there is also Native Seeds.

In general, though, seeds last a lot longer than you think. I've grown from up to four-year-old seed stored in my cabinet in the packets just fine, but with lower germination rates.
posted by wayland at 6:31 PM on August 6, 2010

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