Thursday, February 10, 2011

4 Best Methods for Off-the-Grid Food Production

Activist Post

For most of us producing all of our own food is just a fantasy. It evokes visions of multiple acres of fertile land, long work days, and expensive machinery. However, none of these are necessary to achieve self-sufficient food production.

There are many gardening techniques that can produce an abundance of food for you and your family without requiring a lot of space, money or equipment. What each of these methods will require is your time, but not the dawn-to-dusk work hours associated with farming.

Rather, you will need time to study and practice these methods and other food preparation skills such as learning to mill your own wheat or corn flour to make breads, tortillas, pastas from scratch, or learning to can, pickle, or preserve food in all its forms.

Your diet should also be considered when planning for the best self-sufficient food production method.  Do you need meat and dairy products? How much grains do you require? Yes, in order fully produce all of your food off-the-grid, you may have to make changes to your current diet if your resources are limited.  Some may view these as dietary sacrifices, yet the folks that can claim a high level of food self-reliance will all claim their diet is far healthier than the average American.

With dedication and proper planning, everyone has the ability to survive the looming food crisis by producing their own food.  None of the following methods should necessarily be considered by itself.  Each offers unique techniques that can be mixed and matched for the best results.  Their optimal application depends on calculations of your property size, climate zone, or your budget and time constraints.

Here are the 4 best food production methods for self-reliance:

1. Permaculture Gardening: Permaculture is where you design an entire edible habitat based on the natural capital of your setting. Then, place plants to methodically balance the soil, water, and pests. For instance, a nitrogen fixing plant may be planted next to a nitrogen hungry plant, which may sit next to an ornamental that deters predators, and so on. Permaculture gardening re-creates nature by using a large variety of plants while incorporating as many different animals as feasible like chickens, goats, ducks, and bees.  You may also see features like vertical gardening and aquaculture ponds in permaculture designs depending on the space available. Utilizing this method is not expensive, but requires a lot of know-how and trial and error. Permaculture gardening can produce massive abundance.  See the amazing video below for a real-world example of going off-the-grid in suburbia:

2. Aquaponics: Aquaponics is a interdependent hybrid system of aquaculture and hydroponic gardening.  Vegetables and herbs grow in soil-less containers that are fed with waste water from the aquaculture pools.  The plants feast on the bacteria from fish waste and return the water to the fish in a purified state. These systems can be as big or as small as you wish and can potentially produce large amounts of fish and vegetables.  When done properly, very little if any additional fertilizer or chemicals are needed, just fish food.  Aquaponics can also be applied indoors, either in a greenhouse setting or with grow lights. The video below is a good description of the benefits of Aquaponics.

3. Greenhouses: If you live in a region of the world with harsh winters, then a greenhouse will be essential for food self-sufficiency.  Obviously, a greenhouse alone is not a strategy for full food production unless it is a large facility.  Typically it can be viewed as a compliment to other gardening methods.  In fact, the Dervaes family in the first video above uses a greenhouse to clone and start seedlings even though they live in Southern California. There are great designs and greenhouse starter kits available online.  Below is a brief video on the benefits of greenhouse gardening:

4. Indoor Grow Rooms: Indoor growing is typically done with grow lights and hydroponics.  Some people have sun-rooms in their homes which can basically act as a fancier greenhouse.  However, for this section we'll focus on indoor hydroponics.  This method of growing is certainly not the cheapest way to produce food, yet it is a steadfast method especially where weather and other elements can hinder food self-sufficiency.  Indoor hydroponics requires grow lights such as LEDs, CFLs, or HPSs, along with tubing, drainage, fertilizer and ventilation.  However, even a small space can produce fantastic yields for leafy vegetables, herbs, tomatoes, sprouts, and much more.  To make this method fully off the grid find the most energy efficient grow lights possible and think about getting a solar generator to offset the electric costs.  Below is a video about indoor plant lighting:

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Anonymous said...

good article.

Square foot gardening would be an excellent contribution for those with limited space, money and time.

Anonymous said...

Vertical farming applications apply to each of these too. Great article ---Thanks for sharing!

Anonymous said...

Great Article! I love the Dervaes Family. Visit their website '' They show that you can homestead on as little or as much land as you want! Very Inspirational :)

Anonymous said...

Ya nice article but none of it will work with out power. So the title of "Off the Grid" is not correct. If you are off the grid. then how are you going to get any water? Most people would die growing their own food off the grid and that applies to me as well. Homesteading if the SHTF will not work unless you can carry water or have some sort of mechanical method of getting water. We had better hope our JIT food system continues to work. And good luck storing food, soon you will eat it all. Just something to think about.

Kevin Hayden said...

Man, what a negative, pessimistic comment (Anonymous @ 12:49PM).

"Off the grid" means off the commercial energy grid. I'm homesteading and I have plenty of "power." Solar, some wind, I could even do hydro-power on my creek. I also have a 130 ft well with a manual pump. I don't need the "grid" anymore than it needs me.

Man, think outside of the box. Get creative. Stop bringing everyone down to your negative level. The "just in time" food delivery system that we have WILL NOT continue to work forever. You better be prepared and I would suggest to start working on that now instead of being so pessimistic.

You'll just be another dead body that others step over on the way to their gardens and crops.


Anonymous said...

OK Hayden
My comments are pretty negative, but Lets take it one at a time:
1) Indoor Grow Rooms: The lights in this room use from 500 to 1000 watts each. Try that with your solar power array.
2) Greenhouses:Yes they are nice and I have one. I live in central Texas, and unless you heat these things which I guess you could use wood to do count on that using a lot of energy to cool or keep warm. If tomatoes even gets near freezing its going to die.
3) Aquaponics: Well here is one that will probably work using solar power. Problem though is that Aquaponics is not all that practical and is perhaps ok for growing lettuce. Anything that needs to be fertilized heavily will not get enough nutrient.
4)Permaculture Gardening: I watched the video and was impressed, but the guy lives in California. Try doing that in Boston in the winter where the growing season is 3 or perhaps 4 months.
The reason I am being so negative as the article really only offers todays way of doing things. If we need to think out of the box, then this article fails at doing this. I live on a small 5 acre farm and it would be impossible to feed my family without water for all my gardens. I would suggest that the water problems be addressed before even trying to get off the grid.

Activist said...

Thanks for your comments and criticism. First, this article is about food, not about OTG water or energy (topics we have covered in other articles). LED and CFL grow lights are VERY efficient. Only HPS will consume 500+ watts. Water is an issue if you're dependent on city water, however rainwater and grey water systems are very easy to design and install.

Thanks again. Please keep up the discussion for real solutions.

Robobagons said...

Wow, lots of informative things on here, really appreciate the post! I think we'll be needing this info sooner than later...

Robobagons said...

And as for the people that don't believe you can "Live off the Grid", How do you assume we made it this far to create a grid in the first place? Did plants water and energy just come by and stroll into your house to accommodate all your wants and whims? The "Grid" is an obvious trait that most people have these days, they are uninformed, and utterly disconnected with the planet, they don't even know how to survive off of it anymore. Its truly sad, that most people have gotten so far from reality like this...when shit hits the fan, I doubt it'll be pretty.

Anonymous said...

OK, Mr. negative has some some positive things to say.If you want to live off the grid, in my opinion, you will not be able to grow all the food you need unless you are rich and can afford a $50,000 solar system and a solar powered water system. What really is needed is a community of people who are good at many things and can share their skills, food, animals and other things.This is why my family (and yours) are here today. Family and community are everything. Being a loner will just get you killed. I can attest that hydroponics is probably one of the better applications of solar power as I have grown just about everything using a simple bubble system, two 60 watt solar panels, two batteries and a DC powered air pumps. It takes a huge amount of water to grow enough food for your family using standard farming methods and is where hydroponics really shines as the water needed is very small. Additionally, a good gravity drip system would be useful if plants were mulched and you used a lot of plastic. I have a rain water collection system that has a capacity of 3000 gallons and that is not enough to water plants and supply my personal needs. It took me 4 months to get that much water here in central Texas as we had little or no rain. Personally I agree with the last poster "when shit hits the fan, I doubt it'll be pretty". I have been trying to raise all my food needs for the past few years and I must confess, I have failed and failed big time. I have now joined a local community associations and things are looking up. Just saying - Dennis

Anonymous said...

I think people will approach the farmers for work like they did in the 1920's depression. They could work for food for the community better than farmers letting it rot because no-one had enough money to buy produce which is what happened back then. We need to learn about storage too. Food grown in the summer must be stored for the winter. Also knowing about wild foods like mushrooms and weeds which can be very nutritious and dried for winter storage too. I wonder if we'll get away with growing hemp if the 'Elite' go below ground to their secret refuges? Hemp alone would keep you healthy and energetic!

Anonymous said...

It isn't necessary to grow ALL you eat. Your garden can supplement your diet and provide another source of food during tight times. Growing ALL you eat is a laudable goal but extremely difficult. Supplementing the available food supply with a garden is and should be the expressed goal. Also since gardens tend to produce large amounts of food over a short harvest period you need to address storing or canning food as well. But you can also trade the excess harvest for food or other necessities. Remember that because an article or video revolves around the concept of something you don't think will work perfectly does not mean it is valueless. Glean the good ideas and benefit from others experience but adapt and modify to fit your situation.

Also I personally accept and welcome negative input. It will challenge you and more importantly it may alert you to the weaknesses of your plan/ideas. As painful as it might be to have someone trying to burst your balloon I say; take it, learn from it and if there is nothing to it do not let it get to you. In a survival situation I want a smart and outspoken devil's advocate in the group.

Anonymous said...

For the water problem, go to 'Instructibles'.
They have an idea on making a tall, long raised bed for plants that has a pond liner at the bottom and a pipe with holes in, at the bottom that you use for filling up in drought, and in too much rain the pipe acts as an overflow pipe to a fishpond.
Just use all the roofs as 'collectors of rain'.
Hope that helps.

Anonymous said...

Good things to think about. Before there was electricity plain old traditional farming kept a lot of people fed, especially the farmer's family. I still like it. Ducks, Geese chickes, not pleasant, lots of waste too. Diversity!

Anonymous said...

Everyone can do SOMETHING. Every step toward being prepared for emergencies puts you in a better position than before. I can't financially do as much as others I know, but I began years ago to buy something extra to store every time I went to the grocery store. I bought heirloom seeds when I could afford it. Saved up and bought a gravity-fed water filter. I buy household products in bulk, and store part of them. I try a little gardening so I can grow food if I have the need. A little at the time, I put together a good reserve first aid kit. We should do what is within our reach!

David said...

The key to energy and food self-sufficiency lies in small to medium scale alcohol production on the farm, as was done 100 years by most farmers throughout the Western world. With alcohol (or ethanol) produced, one can then use alcohol stoves, alcohol heaters, alcohol lamps, alcohol refrigerators, alcohol electricity generators, etc. to be completely energy self-sufficient. Growing veggies using the CO2 produced from alcohol production, and you can grow fish/earthworms/mushrooms using the left over mash from alcohol production.

A 10 acre of land growing crops for alcohol (sugar beets, sweet sorghum, potatoes, cattails, etc.) using hydroponics and aquaponics can theoretically produce over $500,000 of food and fuel products! (our company is about to launch, anyone interested can contact me via my profile or at

Anonymous said...

the cult of "Positivism" is absolutley negative to creativity becoming realistic. Brainstorming 101 requires the dreaming stage to be followed by the questioning-analytical stage. This has been branded by the powers that be (and "repeated" by non-thinking sheeple) to be "Negative". The person near the top of the thread going "man you're negative" just doesn't get the full circle approach to creativity.

Today's culture is the dumb repeating the dumb with whomever challenges what's "popular & repeated" to be "Negative".

Even within circles of intended "change" the so called positive people "lash out" against the so called "negative people".

I fix things for a living in IT. I'm the guy you call because your IT network broke down. I have to "negatively" analyze it to figure out what's "wrong" so as to fix it.

Another really big deterrent to the masses getting wiser is they're so emotionally attached to their ego & being "right" -- and to never ever be "wrong". Humans are generally "infantile" in their true Self development, and run around believing their "Social Personas - Egos--are actually their real self. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Collectivism is in full swing in a very big "negative" way, which is ironic when you consider the reaction people have to authentic negativity. This Collectivism (globalization, world economy, we are all "One") is just another Animal Farm pile of garbage being fed to those who just are flat out too lazy to figure out it's a scam. Just like "Free Trade"

No, it's very CLEAR that the masses of humans across the planet need to have their quality of life get to the point where they will question everything and maybe, consider that THEY themselves created the problem by their addiction to being apathetic take the money slaves of some Authority they assigned to "make them secure".

Oh, don't get me started on Religion--they are ALL a scam and for the week minded. Murder, bloodshed, from the past to the present are all justified by religion. Dump the piece of crap already.

People positively need to grow up! Bunch of dumb emotionally crippled animals you guys are.

Anonymous said...

You just glossed over sprouts, but sprouts are an easy and cheap way to grow some of your own food. They require no soil and no light - just soak and rinse the seeds for a few days.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous February 12, 2011 7:05 AM
While I don't want to get you started on religion, I feel it necessary to remind those who get uppity about religion being a part of war that there are some lovely Communist dictators who have made a mess of things too and it's rarely the people themselves who get these things started but rather those in power who have the agenda and use tools such as religion to gain support for their mission. With that in mind, a Communist leader would have to create something else to take the place of a god to bring the people to a froth, hence the term, "Motherland". Think of that when you hear the term "Homeland Security". As religion loses steam in the west, it's being replaced with something else.
Now, to the rest; I wanted to mention the importance of including foods in your storage plan that are excellent for drying such as legumes and tomatoes which can also be sliced and laid out on screens to dry in the sun for long-term storage. Does anyone have any thoughts on this method of storage? Which fruits and veggies are best for drying without electric appliances?

Anonymous said...

I am one of the 99.99999999999999999999999% of the world's population who does not own even a garden let alone a farm. If I had $5000 spare I would gladly use it spend on hydrotwatic equipment so as to feast to my complete and total satisfaction on a diet of tomatoes, lettuces and sprouts, yummy !

Anonymous said...

Some of you are really funny. Weve been gardening in our backyard here in California for nearly 22yrs and havent had a problem. We sustain our familys means by growing what will eat. We save Rain water when we can, and make our own mulch. we use solar panels when we need them. Face it!! people need to stop B*******g about it and just do it. Were not worried one bit. We are so dependent on other means that we forgot to depend on ourselves. We have a neighbor that keeps peeking his head over the fence every summer, He finally said why do you grow your own food? other than telling him thats a stupid question I told him so we dont become dependent on other means, were dependent on ourselves, Dam ed if he didnt start a vegetable garden that summer and he gets more food than we do. People JUST DO IT.

Anonymous said...

Indoor grow rooms are not energy efficient, but could work for folks who have no other easy alternative. I'd think a community garden would be time better spent. Find a vacant lot.

However the comments about needing to heat a greenhouse are way off the mark. I live in New Mexico at 7300 ft, and I'm still eating greens from my passively heated greenhouse, had a very nice salad this very evening. Of course we had a mild winter this year, it only got to 5 degrees below zero. :) A little prep, some research, and innovative thinking can do wonders! I double layer, use low row covers, and have heat sink ponds (thermal mass!) inside. No electricity or fuel, unless you count the solar fountain I have floating in the pond to keep it stirred up. :)

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of aquaponics and vertical gardens. Id only wish there were more research into solutions for apartment dwellers. As a side note the gardening guru guy is lucky he has never eaten Perch, its a terrible tasting fish only worth giving to your cats.:)

Anonymous said...

Some of the Indians used to plant corn and other vegetables and move on. They came back in the fall and harvested what managed to grow. Not as good as tending the garden every day, but they managed to grow a lot of food that way.

A modern way of doing the same might be called Gorilla Gardening. This would work very well along a river or stream. Plant small plots of food in places that will probably go unnoticed. It is OK to check on them and even water from the river. But if you don't have any land, or are forced away from a city, this might be a life saver.

Guillaumé said...

LED's no matter how many you have and of a defined mix of colours (english) are not (yet) capable of growing food under.

Anonymous said...

I think the solar generator would be a + to any house. Thanks for this info. What is happening here in the States is going to get ruff. I only work p/t now because that is all I have been able to find. Even wal-mart didn't call me for interview...that is bad!

Anonymous said...

If you love your family and friends just grow your own food. Just do it. Yeah I agree. No pesticides, no additives, no more lies, no more bad health, and no more doctor bills....................... finally no fuel dependency inflating food costs.
Besides it's a lot easier to avert a war when you can feed a giant.

Toni Reita said...

The importance of using a Greenhouse becomes even more critical as we face radioactive contaminated soils. We live on acreage in South/Central Washington state. It was 19 degrees 4/ hope of planting anything in the ground yet.

We use hoop houses for our chickens and will be making a crude, but fully functioning hoop house covered in plastic for a greenhouse. Just get 16' long livestock fence panels and attach to 2 x 6's with rebar drilled into the ground to hold 2 x 6 bases into the ground.

Bend hoop and attach to other side, cover in plastic and you're good to go.

If you garden outside, plan on decontaminating your soil regularly.


Anonymous said...

I would agree with many posters that water is the first thing to address. It is possible to be partially off-grid, enough to pump just water, sewage and run a deep chest freezer, as we've done for a dozen years now. The system cost around $5,000 at the time, and we have made it clear to neighbors that we intend to share the resources with them. They already receive our eggs and honey free of charge whenever their children come for visits here.

Next, if you live in a cold climate like we do in PA, you need to think about planting perennial food, and not just the sub-tropicals that we are all used to planting from seeds every year. Things like skirret instead of carrots, Lincolnshire spinach instead of lettuce, sunchokes instead of potatoes, etc. That will also guarantee you a non-GMO diet, because agribusiness does not want to fool with those species, which are super-hardy. Ignore the self-righteous departments of agriculture that decry these species as invasive, and be sure and plant things like sunchoke in a separate bed. Give thanks that the Creator made some species so hardy that they are invasive enough to survive up north. These crops also do not need to be rotated, saving you much valuable space.

A half-dozen or so chickens can easily feed a family 1/3 of its meals or more. The manure is perfectly balanced and can be mixed into straw litter and added onto crops for free fertilizer and mulch. You will attract more earthworms to your garden this way.

Most emergencies will not be permanent, so your microfarming will be especially useful for getting your family and neighbors through those tough spots that may last weeks or months, but the value of the habit will be a lifetime of confidence and closeness to the earth to be passed on to other generations.

Anonymous said...

You should restrict the use of alternatives to incandescent light bulbs to LEDs ONLY if you believe in geting the NWO poisons out of our lives. I would not touch the CFL's with a tewn foot pole (MERCURY)!!!

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