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If you're in a serious state of fatigue over the many challenges of this past year, and wondering what normal even looks like anymore, I have some good news that I'm certain will lift your spirits. First of all, spring is just around the corner! Secondly, science has proven what we have all intuitively grasped- that forward-looking folks have a much greater chance of maintaining positive outlooks than those who don't (did I mention spring?). Thirdly, the microbiological universe that exists in garden soil is an incredible immune booster. All good reasons to start dusting off the seed-starting supplies, engage in some gardening yoga stretches (is that even a thing?), and start planning for spring!

The interesting thing about the events of the past year is that, for most of us, we have gradually shifted our focus from external diversions to activities that are centered around hearth and home. Although binge-watching tv series while eating popcorn may qualify as important family time, what I'm really amazed at is how many folks have used this time to learn new hands-on skills or furthered their education through on-line courses. There's also been a huge resurgence in learning basic life skills, particularly those that build resilience. In my own work teaching permaculture and the courses I offer through Urban Farm School, it has been heartwarmingly encouraging to see how many folks are now interested in growing their own food and focusing on related strategies that support their ability to meet the needs of their families. There has certainly been increased awareness regarding the general fragility of the systems that currently support the fabric of our society, and that has definitely brought into focus the importance of regaining some level of sovereignty over our own food supply chains.

Since the very start of 2021 I have been inundated with emails, texts and phone calls from individuals, community groups, institutions and colleges who are all interested in gaining the knowledge and skills required to grow their own food, take care of their soil, capture their rainwater, plant food forests, support local pollinators, and more. There is a general hunger right now for what I refer to as "back-up strategies", or the "just-in-case" toolkit, all centered around the "what if...?" mentality. What I find most interesting is that when I grew up, it was considered just plain old common sense to build resilience into your lifestyle as you went through each season and each year, leveraging seasonal currency as you went. You built on the foundation of your current situation and skillsets, and each year your ability to support food security, community relationships, and livelihood got better and better over time. It was a given that if you used that common sense, you could ride out all manner of circumstances, from losing your job to navigating illness to epic weather events and more. It wasn't really considered a "back-up" strategy based on the fear of unknown potential threats, but rather simple common sense.

Our current societal patterns have evolved to the point that, simply by virtue of our absolute reliance on big box stores to meet our daily needs, we have become like the "frog in hot water" story- We are in a big pot of water that is slowly being heated up degree by degree, and because we've become comfortable and complacent and lulled into believing we're not in any danger, we haven't really stopped and questioned whether our behavior actually makes any sense, nor have we considered that there might be some real value in jumping out of the pot and exploring other options. Because we're so comfortable, it's difficult for us to recognize the extent of our vulnerability and the fragility of our situation, whether we're the frog in the pot or a family trying to meet our basic food requirements.

So many folks are starting to awaken to the fact that not only is our current situation fragile on so many fronts, but also that they don't actually have the basic skills to explore options and strategies to mitigate that vulnerability.

So the important questions is, "If not now, when?"

I don't think there's actually ever been a better time for folks to start exploring how they can build more resilience into their lives and begin stocking their own "just-in-case" toolkit. Whether that's learning how to grow food in buckets on your balcony, getting involved with your community garden group, turning some of your lawn into veggie beds or going all-out by planting a food forest, any endeavor that helps us reduce our absolute reliance on the existing and very lengthy food supply chain is definitely a step in the right direction. Shortening that food supply chain, even by one link, is essential to nurturing increasing levels of food security. If you can't grow any of your own, that can be as simple as purchasing locally-grown and produced items at your farmer's market instead of imported items from the big box, or sourcing directly from a local producer in your area.

If you're keen to grow, however, learning from experienced gardeners in your area is the best strategy for success. There's no doubt that the internet is overflowing with gardening advice and can represent a fantastic resource if you know what you are looking for. Having said that, it is absolutely key that the information be appropriate to your specific area. Leverage your local expertise and utilize strategies that actually work, but don't be afraid to try something new. Learn how to make bread, craft your own ferments, save seed and preserve food. Join a local online group for support. Encourage your neighbors to join you in creating vibrant communities filled with backyard (and front yard) gardens, healthy, nutrient-dense food, vibrantly humming ecosystems, pollinator health, beautiful spaces and nurturing havens. Have fun, and get seriously skilled. Do it together. Share the surplus. There are few things that connect communities together more powerfully than food. Before you know it, your "just-in-case" toolkit will be overflowing!

Let us know how we can support you on your journey toward building more food security and greater levels of resilience. Check out our line-up of live online webinar workshops and on-demand classes to suit any schedule.

If not now, when?

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