An Agrarian-Style
Economic Self Defense Plan

[Dateline: 22 January 2008]
[edited & shortened on 16 December 2014]

It occurred to me today that one of the nice things about not having much money is that I don’t have to worry about loosing it in the stock market.

But I realize full well that a falling stock market and an overall failing economy will take its toll on me and my family, just as it will on you and yours. If you don’t think so, you’re in for a rude awakening.

You don’t have to be a prophet or an economic expert to see that America is heading into a deep, dark decline. Just open your eyes. The handwriting has been on the wall for years. Ignorance won’t be bliss for much longer. I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet. I’m not being pessimistic. I’m being realistic. And, believe it or not, I’m actually optimistic about the future. But it is pretty certain that we are going to go through some very tough times in the years ahead.

I came to realize that the modern American economic system was fundamentally flawed, and destined to fail, back in the 1980’s when I read a book titled "Miracle on Main Street" by F. Tupper Suassy.

Another impressionable volume was a black & white picture book of the 1930’s depression era that my parents had. It was titled The Desperate Years I was in grade school when I first looked through and studied the pictures of sadness and misery in that book. I thought to myself that if it happened once, it could happen again.

Over the years, there were other books, and there were stories from people who had lived during The Great Depression. One of my uncles wrote a book about his recollections of the depression era. Now in his eighties, he was just a small boy during the depression, but he remembers it in great detail. 

Prior to the crash, Uncle Clyde's family’s home was paid for. But his father took out an equity loan to do some remodeling. Then came the crash and his father lost his job. There was no money. They lost their home. The family moved something like 12 times in eight years. They lived with kin in West Virginia and Ohio. They lived in abandoned houses way out in the middle of nowhere. Times were hard. Real hard. Harder than most people alive today can imagine.

People think that sort of thing can’t happen again. Don’t bet on it. 

The bottom line is that the whole fractional reserve banking system with its fiat money is unsustainable. It may be years before it totally collapses but, then again, it may be only months. We are undoubtedly headed for an epic socio-economic transition.  That said, I would like to give you the following seven suggestions for agrarian-style economic self defense.

If you live in or near a city or high population center, get out. It was crystal clear to me as I looked through the old photos in “The Desperate Years” book that people in the cities were not in a good place.

Buy land or get to some land in a rural area where you can fend for yourself. You need to be able to plant a garden, raise a few chickens, hunt, fish, trap, and forage for wild edibles. I’ll take fields and forest over city dumpsters any day.

Eliminate debt if at all possible. I’ll take a humble little country home on a little piece of paid-off country land over a big, fancy, comfortable house with a mortgage any day. Come to think of it, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

Most modern Americans can’t bring themselves to downsize. Many have enough equity in their big mortgaged homes to sell and buy something far below their current standard of living, and have no mortgage debt. But they just can’t do it. I suspect many, in the years ahead, will wish that they did sell and downsize when they could. A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush (that's an old agrarian saying).

Stop being totally dependent on the industrial matrix. Start putting your hands to work. Do more for yourself. Be creative. Learn important basic manual skills like gardening, sewing, cooking from scratch, woodworking. 

Acquire the basic tools of self sufficiency. What, you may wonder, are the basic tools of self sufficiency? Well number one would be some debt free land out in the country. Then there are the actual tools--- like garden tools. A shot gun with ammo is a tool too. A grain grinder is an excellent tool for self sufficiency. A woodstove to heat your debt-free home is another tool of self-sufficiency. How-to books are tools too. Start with Carla Emery’s "Encyclopedia of Country Living." It'll tell you how to do just about everything.

Stock up on some basic food items. You can buy things like oatmeal, beans, rice, wheat (for the grain grinder), and other staples through food co-ops for cheap. That’s what we do, in addition to freezing and canning and drying food from the garden. It’s a good feeling to have a well-stocked pantry.

Find community and get involved. Get yourself into a small rural church where folks care about and will help each other. Country people look out for and help each other. That’s always been the case. It’s not going to change when times get bad. But they won't be paying your mortgage for you.

I think you get the idea. What I’m suggesting here is that you simplify, downscale, and adopt a more self-reliant, self-responsible, lifestyle. It is going to be easier to do now than later. If nothing else, get a section of land in the country. Family members could pull together to buy land... debt-free land. It would be a place where you can go if it gets bad. With the land, you have the ability to provide, even if you have to live in a camper or a tent. Land and community are fundamental to surviving the worst of times. Land is fundamental to survival and personal freedom.

Does what I’ve just told you sound radical? Well maybe it is to you. But it isn’t radical to me. It’s the way I now live. It’s the way I decided I wanted to live years ago when I came to understand that the economic system was not sustainable. It’s not a bad way to live. I recommend it to you.

to read my other financial and economic essays.


Anonymous said...

I have been meaning to dig up this link for a while. With all this economic talk going around I finally got motivated to go find it. I keep tabs on Mark Cuban (owner of the Dallas Mavericks). My all time favorite post is called "The Stock Market is for Suckers". I recall it because it was the first time I started to get worried about my 401K account. Here it is (warning, not always the cleanest language). I just reread it and it is as good as I remember.

That is what a billionaire who doesn't mind telling the truth thinks about the stock market. One quote to peak your interest.

"The stock market is by definition a ponzi scheme"

Brian G. Heyer said...

Since the topics of investing and a broad economic CRUNCH are considered, I have to recommend the following two websites: This is the online version of the "Investor's Business Daily" newspaper. No publisher has given more of his own capital to work in educating the public on how the stock market works that William O'Neil. Check out any of his books from the library. It's a great place to start. His newspaper, each day, publishes whether to be in the market or not. This is the daily blog of James Wesley Rawles, author of Patriots Surviving the Coming Collapse. That is a textbook in and of itself in the hows and why of living frugally and preparing for longer term economic trouble. It reads as an entertaining novel, but you will learn as much as if it were a text. The blog covers new material and current events. (As if you needed more to read, but just see if you can escape from the archives in less than four hours.)

Unknown said...

Not only is you blog just absolutely enjoyable to read, but it has encouraged me to get my head out of the sand. I've kept it there, knowing I don't want to see what the world is coming to and not knowing what to do about it. I'm glad I don't have to build a bomb shelter (yet). The things you talk about are things I agree with and am working toward with my family. Three years ago we stopped borrowing and are patiently, deliberately digging our way out of debt. We're in a small house in the country with a few acres and a fantastic community of Christian agrarians. Every day my family is taking steps toward self-sufficiency, albiet small ones.
Thanks for not writing in a screaming panic, but for keeping your focus on the Lord, who is ultimately in control. Yours is a very balanced approach and I'm sure learning a lot.

Fredericktown, MO

Anonymous said...

This is a good post Herrick, very, very good. It don't sound radical to me at all, just some good common sense which is so lacking today. As you know our family has its own depression era history, and its deep within us to never, ever make that mistake again called easy debt. And we don't. The freedom of no debt is such an important key to all of this. I'm with you, as far as folks downsizing their homes and being able to afford debt free or very nearly debt free some land and a simple home that's easy to upkeep.
And getting involved in a small country church, its so, so true. When we had a near disaster here over a year ago it was them that came over and helped out and got us through. And the kicker is everyone had fun doing it!
Anyway, an excellent post sir!

Chalieg said...

Mr. Kimball, I completly agree with you... but I have one question I am wondering about that I thought you might have some advice on- I live here in Canada,and since we are not par of american economics, do you think that even Canadians should at this time consider moving to the country as well? Well, whether I can move at the present or not, I am so thankful for stumbling onto your site, I have been learning so much, so that if the worst case senerios break out, at least I'll have an upper hand over most others! God Bless your ministry.

mithun said...

Thank you for the info. It sounds pretty user friendly. I guess I’ll pick one up for fun. Thank u.

Garden Tools

Kate said...

I absolutely found more encouragement on the path our family is taking after reading your piece. I've known for some time now via my own research that a day of reckoning would be coming and everyday seems to be inching closer. I can't say that my husband is %100 on board though he can't refute what is the inevitable when the evidence is presented. Thankfully I'm still irresistible enough that through patience, time, and carefully stating my case, we will be making our move to a small farm an hour+ away from the city where we currently live. I look forward to reading more of your essays; thank you for sharing your enthusiasm.

Anonymous said...

I just happily stumbled upon your blog.
I live in Canisteo N.Y. and my views are the same as yours. My family and friends have thought me rather dooms-dayish for the last 5 or so years. They thought they heard me crying wolf, but are now wondering how I knew what was coming down the pike! They wondered why would I want to raise my own beef, pork and chicken for family and friends. Isn't that a lot of work for a 46 year old with a full time job? Says I,'$10 will get you $20 that i,ll have something to sustain me when the SHTF !'.I truly hope and pray that it does not come to that, but,I've never eaten better or felt more content with myself. Better safe than sorry.

RonC said...

I am not sure moving into the country is a necessity, or a wise idea. I've read from two sources that state you will be picked off if you isolate yourself from community. who lives in Argentina, and Adam Fergusson in his excellent book "When Money Dies" state this fact.

I agree that knowing where food comes from is an important skill to acquire. The book "Edible Wild Food" by John Kallas offers one way to disguise a garden, and find food where no one else would look.

Know what is available, know your worth as a child of God, keep a low profile, and be kind to and teach others may be a better approach to the possible chaos we are facing. People helping people is going to be key to surviving hyper inflation.

Another important concept is that precious metals are helpful in surviving an ECONOMIC crisis, but in the end you cannot eat gold. When Hyper Inflation hits, there is a breakdown in buying and selling for a while. Shortages and bare shelves become the reality. An economic disaster will come first, but if no food is available, all the money in the world won't save you.

Think about how you might survive with no utilities or grocery stores for a year. This was not a problem for most of history until say post WWII. When you can demonstrate the answer to this, THEN it makes sense to acuire gold.

Herrick Kimball said...


Thanks for your comments here.

I'd like to say that country people are not isolated from community. I've got a lot of community around me. I don't live in the wilderness.

And your comments about gold caused me to reread what I have written here. I said nothing about gold.

Ryan B. Bender said...

I agree with most of this post. The things I have an issue with are:

1. Moving to the country: I know some may have the resources to make this move and some may be able to with some careful planning over years. However, for a lot of people, this just isn't going to happen due to lack of resources. An almost full level of self sustainability is still achievable on the average suburban plot. It's not just 'country' folks that are willing to help each other out through hard times. I suggest starting to network with current neighbors and getting the conversations started about ways your small neighborhood can come together or teach each other certain skills.

2. Isolationism in the sense that I would be removing myself from a larger community that my family serve through basic evangelism.

Great post Herrick. I would love to take ALL of the steps outlined in this post but for my family of 9, our 1/2 acre lot will have to be our garden of eden.

InvisibleUrbanHomestead said...

These are great suggestions and are certainly not radical to me, but they are not entirely practical. A few years ago, when the economy was crashing, my partner and I were thinking along the same lines as you. We moved from the city to rural Maine with the idea that we would buy a small piece of land, build our own home out of reused materials, and develop our own self-sufficient farm. My partner is a designer/builder, I have gardening experience, and we are both DIY, hard-working people. Our dream seemed entirely possible. Except for one big problem... we only had $50k for the entire project. Buying the land, building the home, etc. After spending 6 months looking for property, we realized that with $50k, we could not afford to buy land, let alone afford to build the house. We did not want to get a mortgage because we did not want to acquire debt (like you talk about). We also did not want full-time jobs, as that would leave us with no time for us to build the home and tend the farm. Also, what kind of jobs are there in rural Maine?! We could have looked for cheaper land way up North in the sticks, but then we would be far removed from resources and community. The cheaper land up North is also not suitable for gardening. We have now given up on our dream because, to put it bluntly, we are too poor. The modern homesteading idea isn't like how it was for the back-to-earth hippies in the 70's. Modern day homesteading is only for the rich. My question to you, Herrick: How can I, a low-income person with very limited capital, put your agrarian self defense suggestions into action?

Herrick Kimball said...


Thanks for sharing your experience and asking the question. It is a good question and you are not the first to ask it. I plan to answer it in my next Deliberate Agrarian blogazine issue which will be published here on November 30 (2011).

Best wishes,

Herrick Kimball

Kendra at New Life On A Homestead said...

Stumbled across your site looking up how to cure garlic. Looks like we are extremely like-minded! I loved this article, and am anxious to read what else you've shared here. Thanks for all your hard work. Your words perfectly mirror what I have written on my site as well :)

Anonymous said...

I can't even remember how I came across your blog but I've been skimming through it for the past few days. I've had very similar ideas for a while now, but it's wonderful to see them put into action. This article in particular rings very true. Thanks for the insights!

kymber said...

i wish that there was a way to agree with this post more than i already do! i found you through a friend's blog, and if i didn't know better i would think that i was reading kurt saxon's advice. i stumbled across kurt saxon almost 10yrs ago - his politics and ideas about religion and whatnot hold no interest. but he recommended that if you were serious about the end of the world, the end of times, another depression - then get out of debt, buy some land in a rural area, build relationships in that community, live with less, become more self-sufficient, garden, wild forage, fish and hunt and throw off the trappings of modern society. which i am very happy to say that my husband and i did. we were rolling in money from our 2 jobs...but spending it like crazy on junk. we had a beautiful house and yard. we left all of that behind after making a plan to pay off all of our debt and learn the skills that we would need. we now live in a tiny community of forestry workers and fishermen. if it all goes to hell in a handbasket, i think we will be ok. and we will try to provide for our community and any others who show up willing to work. we have a gorgeous piece of land, a crap-*ss cottage and a beautiful river. the ocean is 5 minutes away. our 2 communities have a total of about 120 people and no one on earth has ever heard of this place!

if i were ever to give advice on what to do to prepare for whatever is coming - i would write this exact article. i hope that people take it seriously and learn!


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