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The Grasshopper or the Ant: Who’s Going to Survive What Will Be Coming?

For those of us who are of the less optimistic bent, the economic future looks a little dark. There are others who insist on referring to what is happening as “not as bad as the Great Depression.”

I’m here to point out something that tells me that it’s actually going to be worse for a lot of people.

There were major differences between where and how people lived in 1930 vs. how and where people live NOW, especially with regard to where we get food and how it is produced and how much access people have to actually producing food on their own. I will use the example of New Jersey and “rural” areas and populations as surrogates for having access to and being able to grow your own food.

On an overall basis, in the United States:
1930……………..43.8% of the population lived in rural areas
2000……………..21% of the population lives in rural areas

In New Jersey:
1930……………….3.2% of the population lived in rural areas
2000………………. .2% (That is right…two-tenths of a percent – 17,283 people out of the entire population of New Jersey, live in rural areas.)

Now, just living in a rural area does NOT mean that you either a) are working as a farmer now, nor does it mean that b) you have the skills to do so. But it DOES mean that you have access to land around you that you could either lease, buy, or use to grow food if you wanted to do so.

In terms of the amount of land in farms in New Jersey:
1930………….1,758,000 Acres (In case you are wondering, this IS where the name “The Garden State” comes from. New Jersey was the market garden for New York City for a very long time.) The average size of a farm was 69 Acres, which is an indicator that there were a heck of a lot of extremely small, individual farms.
2000……………805,682 Acres and the average size of a farm is 85 Acres..still a lot of small farms around.

In terms of the percentage of land in farms in New Jersey:
1930……..36.6% of land was in farms

So, what happened to all the rest of that land? Think: Sprawl. Malls, parking lots, retail and housing development in all the counties that snuggle up to New York City, with all the rural activities going on in the counties much farther away.

Something else to think about is sheer “skills of living” – for the last 40 years, the American Consumer has been encouraged to…well, consume. Not “make,” “grow,” “fix,” “repair”…just go out and buy. In 1930, there were still several generations of adults around who knew how to do those “make,” “grow,” “fix,” “repair” activities, whether they lived in rural areas, or had learned them in their youth and had moved into the urbanized areas, but they still knew how to do those things and survive.

How many people who do not live on farms do you know who know how to do: carpentry, plumbing, welding, clothing repair, shoe repair, glass and window repair, electrical work, grow and process foods, etc.? If you had to sit down and write down ten things you know how to make, grow, or fix…how many could you write down? If you had to write down what would happen to you and your family if: you lost your job, lost the house…would you know what to do? Where to go? Who could help you? Who would be willing to help you?

It might be a good exercise to go through … sooner than later.

(originally published at Oxdown Gazette)

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