A Well-Stocked Root Cellar is a Valuable Asset for Self-Sufficiency

A well-stocked root cellar can help ease the transition from winter to spring and help us be more prepared in post-September 11 America.

| April/May 2002

Make sure you have a well-stocked root cellar on the homestead to maintain your self-sufficiency. 

These are the months when spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere, bursting brown buds into pink, blue and yellow glory, pushing asparagus into the mild air, coaxing seedling lettuces and spinach from the ground, and sending pea shoots scrambling up their netting to burst into sudden pod. Year after year, spring reliably moves us out of a darker season. Yet here at home, this spring is somehow different from all the others.

It is half a year since 911 became more than an emergency phone number, but a chillingly memorable date in U.S. history. And this spring is different, not because the world changed on Sept. 11, 2001, as has been frequently said, but because our relation to the world changed. Quite suddenly, we are part of a dangerous and unpredictable conglomeration of nations, one we had previously critiqued from behind the safety of two oceans. We live now, as someone recently wrote, in "a world vulnerable to disruption from a thousand sources."

Nowhere is our vulnerability more notable than where food is concerned, a time when a well-stocked root cellar would be a common sense decision. Although we could feed ourselves, we don't. The system that feeds us trades food all over the world, heedless of energy costs, heedless of the impact on local soils and ecosystems, heedless of the livelihoods of farmers who are going out of business everywhere. Much of our food now reaches us at the end of a long supply line, open to disruption at many points.

We are naive to believe we can be safe, eating at the end of this fragile global food chain. As poet-farmer Wendell Berry has written, "The time will soon come when we will not be able to remember the horrors of Sept. 11 without remembering also the unquestioning technological and economic optimism that ended on that day — I have long supported the idea that we should relocalize our food supply. Now, several months after September 11, moving toward such a goal no longer seems an eccentric option, but a vital step to making our lives more secure.

Now that events have forced us to think globally. those of us who know how food grows must demonstrate to our neighbors and our leaders that it is possible and delicious to eat locally, and that we can feed ourselves even though we don't. Teaching folks how will not be easy. Most are presently clueless about what's grown on nearby farms. or what's in season when.

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Next: April 28-29, 2018
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