I was asked recently if my aim of living on an acreage property was to be self-sufficient and the enquirer was quite taken aback when I answered with a resounding ‘no way – do you know just how hard that is to do!’ Self-sufficiency is a pretty big deal in many circles, with advocates from permaculture groups, homesteaders and those searching for a reliable way to gain control of their health and food security and the concept is not to be dismissed lightly.
But what exactly is self-sufficiency and should we aspire to it? The dictionary definition of this term tells us that the adjective, ‘self-sufficient’ relates to being able to provide for oneself or manage without aid. Now, this may be quite important to you if you live on a multiple-million-hectare property six hours from any form of civilisation, but for those of us in small communities or even thriving centres does it make sense to try to live this way?
Even one year in a backyard garden will show you how much time and labour consumption go into growing enough to feed a family and for many of us this has to be weighed up against the income-earning potential of those hours. Now I’m not advocating that we all spend our time at the coalface or that we should buy our groceries from mega-corporations online because ‘there are only so many hours in a day’, but I do believe we can look at a more community-based sufficiency model rather than just a ‘can I grow enough of everything I need in my own backyard’ structure.
We are blessed to live in a community with many of the resources needed for such a community-based solution, and whether or not you know it, the answers can be found simply in being prepared to share yourself, your time and your resources with those around you. Taking into account the individual preferences, talents and environments in which we live, being community-sufficient could be as simple as growing food that does well in the particular microclimate of your backyard and sharing your surplus with others who do well at growing completely different but equally sustaining, nutritious and local, crops.
This system ratchets up to the next level with the inclusion of local growers markets and small businesses, on up to the larger community-based businesses that strive to provide for each of the needs we as a population tell them we have. The larger global brands can only dictate their control if we believe we really do need what we are being offered and every person has the opportunity to make their choice each time they are faced with the option.
I have chosen to live on a Better Ridge certainly to live more frugally, to eat as locally and according to the seasons as possible and to have greater control over the environment in which my food is grown. As for self-sufficiency though, I value the exchange of food, information and energetic connection that arises from having a somewhat larger focus.