During outbreaks of the plague in Europe, there was one major problem that faced the rich and poor alike – and that was the availability of food.
The more moving parts a machine has, the more likely it is to break. The supply lines that feed the world are fragile. Before the crops are ever planted, there is fertilizer that has to be made, seeds harvested from the previous year and both of those sent to the farmers. The farmers then spread the fertilizer, plant the seeds, apply water and hope for the best.
In some parts of the world, crops are only grown because modern technology allows them to. Examples of this are water pipelines and irrigation systems that span hundreds of miles. It is only with water that crops can be grown.
Before the first sprout ever breaks through the soil, there are already several “moving parts” or factors. Some of these factors include:
Manufacturing of fertilizer – either organic or commercial.
Transportation of seeds and fertilizer to the farmer.
Water – either through rain or irrigation.
Pesticides and / or herbicides
Harvesting the crops.
Transporting the crops to either market or to a commercial processing plant.
Processing of food into canned goods.
Transportation from manufacturing to warehouses.
Transportation from warehouses to stores or other outlets.
One of the problems that faced people during outbreaks of the plague, was that so many other people died, there was nobody to grow or transport the crops. Unknown numbers of people died due to starvation – which was directly related to the plague killing off the farmers, merchants and the people that transported the food.
With this in mind, the food supply chain of the middle ages seems to be a whole lot simpler then todays.
Todays food supply is driven by 2 major factors – electricity and fuel (diesel, gasoline or propane).
Electricity and fuel is used to make commercial grade fertilizer.
Fuel is used to transport the fertilizer to the market and to the farmer.
Fuel is used to transport the seeds to the market and farmer.
Fuel is used to spread the fertilizer.
Fuel is used the plant the seeds.
Fuel and electricity are used irrigate the fields.
Fuel is used to harvest the seeds.
Fuel is used to transport the food to market.
Fuel is used to drive people from their house to the grocery store.
Without fuel (gasoline or diesel) the food supply chain comes to a grinding halt. Simply put, without fuel, there is no food.
Fuel is just one factor of the to be considered. There is also the “human” factor. Meaning, during times of disaster, people do not go to work.
During times of widespread disaster, such as a plague, we can expect supplies of food to disappear. Panic buying only adds fuel to the fire. If people suspect that a disaster is on the way (such as a hurricane), grocery stores will be cleaned out within hours of the announcement.
Its important to keep not only a supply of food on hand, but also seeds and fertilizer. When the food supply chains break down, it will be up to the survivalist to make sure that their family has plenty to eat.