In the nearly 3 1/2 years that we’ve run The Frugal Farmer, I’ve had a handful of people say, in the nicest way, that the idea of self-sufficiency seems to them, well, a bit selfish. I get that. I can see how it would be easy to gather the opinion from the self-sufficient lifestyle that it is a selfish concept.
However, in my nearly 48 years on this earth, if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that it’s best not to form opinions about things and people until you’ve looked/thought/researched big picture. What does it mean to look “big picture”? Looking and thinking big picture means to discover the whys behind the action, and to think outside of your first opinion to what the benefits might be of the opposing opinion. Choosing to analyze things in this way may or may not change your opinion about something, but it will give you ammo for why your opinion is the way it is. And that’s important, not just for the purpose of defending your opinion, but for the purpose of ensuring you know why you hold your opinion about something so dearly. With debt repayment or anything else, if you don’t know the “why” behind the plan, the action or the belief, it’ll likely fizzle out quite quickly.
Now, back to self sufficiency and why it’s not selfish to take care of your own family first. Here are four reasons why self-sufficiency is not only not selfish, but in fact, a very generous and giving way of life.
- It teaches your family to be strong and independent, thereby teaching them to be better equipped to help others. Strong and independent children usually grow up to be strong and independent adults. Strong and independent adults are often our dreamers, our risk-takers and often make major contributions to society.
Consider Henry Ford. When he first introduced the automobile – a Model T – in 1908 – most everyone said it would be a “passing fad for the wealthy”. Ford, however, was able to think “big picture”. If Mr. Ford would’ve listened to the majority, the dream of the automobile would’ve been picked up by someone else, but maybe not until years later. Ford himself, when asked why he didn’t ask to “the people” when considering the construction of the automobile, answered, “If I’d have asked the people, they would’ve said they wanted faster horses.” The people were thinking small. Ford was thinking big. He was thinking how the automobile would’ve affected the generations, not just himself and his friends. Consider the Wright Brothers. Flying seemed unfeasible to most people in those days, but the Wright Brothers had a vision of the future – they were thinking big picture and long-term.
And so it is with self-sufficiency. When your goal is to produce your own food, heat your own home, or whatever, it causes you to be forced to think big picture. In our second year of learning to be self sufficient, we thought we were smooth sailing. Then we lost our power in the middle of the cold season for several hours, and we realized that we weren’t nearly as prepared as we needed to be for a power outage. We weren’t self sufficient at all! We hadn’t considered that our electric waterer for the horses would be useless. We hadn’t considered that our electric well pump would also be useless. We hadn’t considered that the propane gas tank – even though it was full – needed the electric ignitions on the stove and hot water heater to product heat. The experience taught us to think “big picture” and re-analyze what we needed to do to be independent and prepared in case a longer power outage came about. These are the benefits of learning to be self sufficient.
- It eliminates the need for others to have to worry about taking care of you. When disasters such as Hurricane Katrina or Hurricane Sandy devastate our country, they often leave millions of people without access to clean water, food and power. The majority of the people affected by these types of disasters are then left to wait for a government that is ill-equipped to care for its some 300 million citizens properly.
What happens next? Panic ensues as people wonder where they’ll get their food, water and shelter from. Riots and violence start, making matters even worse. We learned well about the panic factor when we lost our power as mentioned above. Our survival was dependent on one thing: the energy company fixing the problem. Real life problems, however, aren’t usually fixed as quickly as we want them or need them to be. When we lost our power in cold weather, we wanted the energy company to fix the area-wide problem NOW. But this isn’t I Dream of Jeanie. The energy company (or the government) can’t just cross its arms and blink everything okay again. Problem resolution of these types of magnitude takes time and resources. Sometimes those resources are readily available. More often, they’re not.
So, you see, learning to be self-sufficient gives the government and other responsible parties, such as power companies, one less family to worry about, thereby expanding their time and resources to help the remaining families who aren’t self sufficient.
- It provides for valuable skills that are necessary to providing basic needs for yourselves. There’s nothing quite as gratifying as going to the garden and pulling out veggies for dinner or getting freshly laid eggs from the chicken coop. No Walmart necessary. Just the willingness to plant some seeds, care for your garden, and do the work of harvesting and preserving your food or caring for your chickens.
But beyond gratification, those who know how to be self sufficient have learned valuable skills that will help provide for basic necessities such as food, water and heat even if mainstream resources are unavailable.
- It’s simply smart planning. Just like an emergency fund, a retirement fund or a career plan, having a plan for self sufficiency is simply smart planning. There’s really no other way to say it. The more I take care of “me and mine”, the less everyone else has to worry about taking care of us, and the more prepared we are to weather whatever storms may come our way.
And self sufficiency doesn’t have to be done in the country. Lance talks here about how his suburb thrived during times of peril because the families that live there had learned to be self sufficient and prepared. Anyone, wherever they live, can take steps to become self sufficient.
So, if you’ve been one who is of the opinion that self-sufficiency is a self-serving concept, I urge you to think big and consider how becoming self sufficient can be a path to helping others.
Have you learned any steps to self sufficiency? What area of dependency on others worries you most?