Inflation is here and with it the possibility of an agricultural commodities supercycle. We’ve all seen inflation at the gas pump and the grocery stores, and heaven help you if you need to build something right now. Just recently ZeroHedge published an article about ag leaders predicting a mini supercycle in commodities.
Let’s unpack this a little bit.
What does an agricultural commodities supercycle mean for the average consumer?
The agricultural indices referred to in the article monitor a combination of wheat, corn, soybean, coffee, sugar, cocoa, and cotton prices. They have all been rising for a variety of reasons. One is the Chinese need to rebuild their swine herds after devastating disease outbreaks last year. Swine feed primarily consists of corn and soy. Increased interest in biofuels is also driving price increases.
Corn, soy, and cotton (along with plants like rapeseed and sunflower) are all used in biofuels and now have industrial applications, affecting their availability for use as food. We’ve already written about steps you can take to produce cooking oil at home.
But what can we do about corn, wheat, and soybeans?
Most of us think of agricultural commodities like corn and wheat as things that have to be produced by people with special equipment. Therefore out of the reach of your average suburban gardener. That is somewhat true. However, you can grow corn in your backyard and eat corn on the cob for a few weeks in the summer.
A kernel of truth about corn
If you grow a lot, you can cut off the kernels and then freeze them to supplement your diet in the winter. But to make any flour, whether, from corn, wheat, or other grains, you need a grain mill. These are expensive enough to deter many people; even the cheaper ones are still a few hundred dollars. If you only have a small plot to work with, it’s probably not worth the expense. Unless you have a dozen friends growing corn or wheat in their backyards, and you all plan to share it. (You would need to really trust those friends.)
Let’s walk it back another step. In what do we use corn? If you eat primarily prepared food from the store, almost everything. In Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, he goes into a tremendous amount of detail about the ubiquity of corn. If you eat TV dinners and fast food, you will see your food prices skyrocket.
It might be time to make some dietary changes.
But what about wheat?
Good old-fashioned wheat. I love wheat bread. Simple, homemade bread fresh out of the oven, covered with butter is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a regular side dish to eggs in the morning or soup in the evening at my house. It would be hard to do without.
I don’t plan to do without, not wholly. But I could use less. Do you know what else makes a good side dish? Potatoes and most people can grow some potatoes or another kind of root crop.
One potato, two potato…or other root crops
Potatoes themselves are a crapshoot on my property. Some years they do great. Other years they get some disease. But rutabagas are more consistent for me, and they are something you can grow on a field scale or in a tiny suburban plot. When I lived in Texas, it was too hot for rutabagas, so we grew turnips and sweet potatoes.
Sweet potatoes, in many ways, are the perfect staple crop for suburban gardeners. The plants with their green-purple heart-shaped leaves are so beautiful they can easily be mistaken for ornamentals. They need a growing season too long for Colorado. But they’re an excellent choice for urban/suburban gardeners in southern states.
Now let’s take a look at soy
If you’re a vegetarian, soy may be a staple for you. If you are a meat eater and consume meat from the grocery store, you are probably consuming a lot of soy as well. It is a significant component of most animal feed. Think you’re avoiding soy by eating organic? Nope, for most animals, the organic label just means they’re fed organic soy.
I’ve been avoiding soy for years. I’m not convinced it’s healthy in the quantities the average American eats it. Like corn, it finds its way into all kinds of processed food. And, like corn, if we start avoiding processed food, we will be avoiding one of the foods that the upcoming agricultural commodities supercycle will most impact.
Ahhh, sugar, sugar
Next on the list comes sugar. Like corn and soy, that’s something we eat a lot of without really thinking about it. The average American adult consumes 17 teaspoons of sugar every day, translating into about 57 pounds a year.
Like corn and soy, it’s something we can avoid if we avoid processed food.
But what about the enjoyment of food? Maybe you think this is beginning to sound like something too miserable to undertake. Or perhaps you believe preppers shouldn’t care about the little pleasantries in life. I’m afraid I have to disagree. Plenty of articles on The Organic Prepper are about the importance of mental health and self-care in SHTF scenarios, and for a lot of us, enjoyable food is a part of that.
How I cut down on my sugar intake
Let me share an experience I had regarding dramatically reduced sugar intake. A few years ago, I spent a week in Aomori province, a rural part of Japan. I was there for a family wedding. Aomori province, at least the area I was in, doesn’t cater to many tourists.
Nothing was in English. There weren’t any burger joints. My brother, who lived there and spoke excellent Japanese, told me all the food in the restaurants comes from about a ten-mile radius. They don’t have an equivalent of the USDA. For example, if a gardener in town has a lot of extra garlic or onions one day, he can take them to the restaurants in town, and that’s what they sell.
There was almost no sugar in anything
If you got a fruit pastry, it just tasted like fruit. The frosting on cakes just tasted like cream. It was different. But I spent a bit of time with my brother’s friends, many of whom were Americans living there, and they all told me the same thing. At first, they found the Japanese food strange, but as they were forced to deal with the lack of sugar, they all lost weight and grew used to it. When they took trips back to the States to visit family, they found that they didn’t like the sugar anymore.
I was only there for about a week. Even so, by the end of the trip, my stomach felt better than it had in years. When I got back to the States, I began experimenting with less sugar in my recipes. I can reduce sugar down to half or even a fourth without affecting the flavor in most foods.
Strictly speaking, in general, we don’t need sugar. However, it does come in handy for preserving foods. That is a complicated subject. If you preserve your foods, I would not recommend changing anything without doing some research first. Putting Food By by Hertzberg, Vaughn, and Greene is an excellent resource if you want to determine precisely how much sugar is needed to preserve food safely.
Coffee, cocoa, and cotton
Coffee, cocoa, and cotton are things most of us have less control over. We could do without coffee and cocoa, though I would prefer not to do without coffee. As far as cotton goes, all most of us can do right now is buy clothes that will last a long time. They will cost more upfront, but I think we will be out of cheap options before too long.
We might as well get things that will last us while we still can.
The agricultural commodities super-cycle will affect us all
If we are willing to be flexible in our food choices, we will find that we can roll with the punches better than those who refuse to make changes.
The Organic Prepper has had a lot of great articles lately about urban and suburban homesteading. If these articles have inspired you, I encourage you to set aside a tiny portion of land or space to see what kind of high-calorie staple crops (potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, rutabagas) will work for you.
Will a suburban gardener be able to produce a year’s worth of food for their family? Probably not. But you may have more options than you realize in terms of producing actual meals. The Suburban Micro-Farm by Amy Stross, will show you how to grow your own fruits, herbs, and vegetables even on a limited schedule. From seed to harvest, this book will keep you on track so you feel a sense of accomplishment for your efforts.
What will you do to thrive now and in the years ahead?
Prepping isn’t just about making sure you survive some far-off doomsday. Prepping is also about adding to your skill sets to give you peace of mind today. I get accused of being pessimistic and cynical a lot in personal life, because I don’t think we’re ever going back to normal and I refuse to pretend so. However I’m not miserable or depressed about it. I believe I’ve been doing all I can to prepare accordingly. If I thrive in the upcoming years, great. And, if not, I know I did my best with what I could, and will have no regrets.
Daisy’s written and published many articles about the importance of gardening. If you’ve been inspired to plant a garden, or even just one tomato plant, let us know! We would love to know what inspired you and how it went! What will you add to your preps for this looming crisis? What are you willing to cut down on in the event of an agricultural commodities supercycle? Share with other readers in the comment section below.
About Joanna Miller
Joanna has been homeschooling three children since 2012. In 2014, she moved to the High Plains of Colorado. She and her children began a little homestead, gardening and raising chickens for eggs and meat. One animal led to another, and these days they have livestock guardian dogs, chickens, geese, ducks, alpacas, goats, pigs, and one very spoiled cat.
A good book on producing grains on a small scale is Small-Scale Grain Raising by Gene Logsdon (RIP), second edition.
The book inspired me to get a European style scythe too.
I love Gene Logsdon!! His “All Flesh is Grass” was one of those books that really inspired me to make some changes when I was still living in the burbs. I’ll have to check that one out too 🙂
Another good one is his book Holy Shit: Managing Manure to Save Mankind.
I thought “All Flesh is Grass” was by Clifford Simak?
Still planning on checking out Gene Logsdon though.
Anyone have experience growing buckwheat? Trying this year for the first time. So far it seems good, haven’t gotten any buckwheat grain yet but the seeds sprouted great, reallly quickly and already flowering. They’re a little yellow but we have been getting ridiculous amounts of rain.
Put some sweet potatoes in with them just to see what would happen… the bugs love the leaves. I hope the roots are doing better than the leaves….
Sweet potato leaves are very nutritious, but the more you harvest, the smaller the tubers. I grow some just for the leaves and others for the potato.
Is there a book you can recommend for Japanese cooking that follows what you ate in that area?
Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any. But really it was all very simple. Most days I would have ramen for lunch and dinner. Each big bowl was 650 or 700 yen (so $6 or $7). It would just be noodles in some kind of fish or meat broth, with whatever vegetables they happened to have a lot of that day. There was a lot of garlic and onion, but also things like burdock and some other root vegetables, I don’t remember the names. It was all extremely fresh. We were surrounded by farms and the ocean is never far off in Japan.
You mentioned Sweet Potatoes as the perfect crop for suburbs and I cannot agree more! We are on the Georgia coast and I have them growing everywhere I can find room on our .3 acre lot. Another great thing about sweet potatoes is that the greens are edible and do not impact the root production. They taste a bit like spinach, so I often add them to pasta dishes or soups. I have also heard that the leaves can be stuffed, kind of like grape leaves (have not tried it personally yet, but seems like a great idea). In this climate, they also come back year after year, which I LOVE – less work! All it takes is a bit of root left in the soil and they will pop back up in the spring. If my husband wasn’t so in love with the lawn, I would have likely turned it into a sweet potato patch. I see it as a waste of good garden space. 🙂
The one crop I can grow well in this lousy AZ dirt is beets. I happen to like them, a lot of people don’t but they are really good for you. Swiss Chard also grows well too. Chard and sweet potatoes can survive the heat – even when it hits 125+.
GeoAZ, I am surprised that you can grow beets in such heat. Here in our part of Florida we put them in early Springtime, February, and harvest by late March/mid April. Then we pickle them for canning. You are so right, they are very healthy to eat.
Same in the high mountain desert of New Mexico. I love beets. Fresh boiled, canned, Harvard, pickled, borscht… all good eating and grow easy here. So do turnips, dikon radish and other root crops. They seem less bothered by the temperature swings day to night because of the altitude. 6,280 ft here. We can have a 100° day with a 45° to 55° night. Crazy weather makes tomatoes slow and corn must be a quick dwarf or a native dent corn planted as early as possible.
I am 82 years old, still living independently in my rural West TN home. I discovered The Organic Gardener about 20 months ago when Daisy ran some sort of contest about prepping. I got involved, started to keep up with the forums, and gradually began to learn. My gardening efforts are small but give me great pleasure and out-door exercise I need. I’m thrilled that seeds I saved last year from my favorite cherry tomato have germinated and I actually now have tiny little green tomatoes growing! Yeah. Potatoes in five gallon buckets have done fairly well. I am canning and dehydrating successfully. My pantry should hold me well for sometime to come. Overall I am pleased with feeling I am well prepared to cope with food shortages. My next goal is to obtain my ham radio license and equipment. I think this will be a wonderful skill to have as I no longer get out and about as much and communicating with others by radio should keep me involved. I also see that communication ability a real asset for my little rural community in a serious SHTF scenario. Life is good. I’m slower now but taking each beautiful day God gives me to enjoy and share blessings with others. Muffy1938 🙂
You’re an inspiration Muffy! I want to be just like you when I grow up. (hugs)
Blessings on you. My husband was also born in 38. He still calls me a baby. 1947 here. He has alheimers so I’m doing it all and I’m his caretaker as well. I also want a ham radio. For years I enjoyed a CB. I may just get another. I also have walki talkis I share with close neighbors and friends so during certain hours we can always communicate. When my husband was hospitalized a few a days ago it was nice to have a friend here before he was transported. She drove me to the hospital. I gave out the waki takis and batteries along with a small solar charger and rechargeable batteries. This way we can check on each other. Its hard for me to get away with my husband’s constant need of being watched. My closest neighbor is raising three little grandchildren. Others are in poor health. Its been my investment in my little area to reach out to a few that other wise are mostly out of touch with others.
God bless you
We mound potatoes and usually get 10lbs or so. We rafely do cotn, but do trade with a friend for some of his. Squash is also good for fiber, and makes a great side or simple soup. I usually do a large batch in the fall. Wd were gifted a grain mill last Christmas, along with 20 lbs of wheat berries. I am still working oon perfecting the grind, and the dough handles very differently than processed flour. Michael Pollan has a new series on Netflix called Cooked. It was very enlightening.
I garden most basically because of two things. It’s handy and I love gardening. Ok fresh tastes best. I’ve cut down on processed foods because I have less problems from the fribromyalgia when I’m eating better. Alright atleast 4 good reasons to garden.
I saved up and bought a lityle used flour grinder. It works beautifully. I have seed and room for growing more grain. I also have seed for a cover crop of peas that are actually quite edible. Well eat what we zero want fresh, gather what we want dried, and spade under plant and all when it’s planting time in spring. Just no peas in the strawberry bed of on the Jerusalem artichokes..
Its amazing the things that can be ground and used as flour. Not all have gluten for nice breads or thicken sauces but each in some combination is good. I grind almonds, rice, millet, wheat, rye, corn and oats. Some I make a course grind like corn meal. Almond flour in quick breads adds a nice subtle flavor. Rice and nuts can make gluten free breads or pancakes. Thats for visitors. I like to make pancakes by adding wheat to milk in a blender till its ground fine then add salt, baking powder, a bit of oil and an egg. Vanilla or cinnamon are good added also. I also like amaranth seeds or millet popped like pop corn then eat them as dry cereal with milk. I blend up the half popped kernels of popcorn for cereal also. Or they can be ground and added to anything I’m baking.
I use sugar but only sparingly to enhance flavors like adding a bit of salt just enough to enhance flavors. I find many things are now too sweet for my taste. Who needs candied sweet potatoes. A bit of salt and butter is plenty for a boiled sweet potato.
Weight loss is a nice side benefit. It wasn’t my main goal. Pain and exhaustion management was the object of my dietary change. Loosing weight makes being more active easier. A nice plus.
Fabulous article Joanne with lots of practical tips. Thank you.
To add to the list, I’m finding shopping at Thrift stores very productive for clothing, footwear and household goods, especially kitchen items. I choose stores in more affluent areas and have often found good brand name clothes and shoes at prices so low I couldn’t pass them up! Just this week I picked up a pairs of 100% cotton capris from a good outdoor name brand for a couple of dollars. 🙂
I do the same regarding thrift stores. I purchased two pairs of Rocket Dog clogs and a pair of winter boots for $17. The clogs themselves were worth close to $50 each and the boots about $70. All 3 pairs had hardly been worn (if at all) Last month I got the score of all scores…a pair of Timberland hiking boots averaging $170 for $15. I giggled all the way to the car. Other than socks and underwear no one in the family wears new clothes, except what we get at Christmas time. I haven’t bought new dishes or any other household items in years. Electronics are about the only things that come new into our house. Oh, and yarn for dishcloths and other crafting supplies, those are hard to find in charity shops.
Great article…..def going to try the sweet potatoes next summer. This year we’re doing 5 different winter squashes, hopefully we’ll have a few for storage as we all love them roasted with some carrots, potatoes. etc. We also have some “volunteer” potatoes, but we haven’t grown spuds for about 3 years now. Decided to let them do their thing.
Just a quick clarification on corn: sweet corn is what you eat off the cob in summer. Hard or field corn is what you would want to grind into cornmeal. I’ve purchased packets of the latter from places like Seeds for Generations, Baker Creek, and Seed Savers. Where I live, I can only plant it in years my neighbors plant soybeans in the field, lest their GMO corn cross pollinates with mine.
I hate the idea of contamination with GMO pollination.
I grow short season sweet corn and native dent corn mostly for corn meal. Yup. They are different.
As someone who practices low carb/keto type lifestyle, vegetable oils and corn don’t figure into my diet at all. I’m lucky in that regard. I quit sugar a couple of years ago. If I need sweetness, like in my homemade lemonade, I use alternatives such as stevia. I do love my coffee so I could feel the impact there. Chocolate, the 100% cacao kind, figures pretty high in my eating plan, so that could be a problem. I have no idea how to find meat that hasn’t been tainted by soy. Grass fed, grass finished is very costly. I agree with the idea of growing sweet potatoes, even though they are too high carb for me right now. They are easy to grow, produce a lot of food, and the vines are beautiful. I’m growing some in my garden right now. In desperate times, should they come, I would break my self-imposed food rules and eat them. They are delicious. If things don’t get desperate, I’ll give them to family and friends. Bottom line is, I love this article. Anytime we take charge over an area of our life, we are expanding our freedom from control by outside forces (which rarely have our best interests at heart)
One thing that amazes me is how much our diet as Americans has become, basically, a monoculture. Corn, wheat, soybeans. We seem to have lost so much information about what’s edible in our own back yards, including parts of the plants we grow! I recently learned that radish greens are not only edible, but quite tasty. I won’t be throwing them out anymore! Beet greens too, hey? I’m growing beets for the first time this year. I’ll keep that in mind.
The world is full of wondrous variety. Those who adapt will have not only full bellies, but happier ones! And I wouldn’t be surprised if dietary changes made us healthier as well. Processed food is especially bad for its lack of nutrition. Who needs all of that green lawn anyway? I might not be able to grow 100% of my food on my small urban lot but between what I grow and what I can source directly from the farmer, I haven’t bought vegetables in the grocery store in years. Both my physical health and my wallet are better off for it.
Permaculture is a wonderful way to pack lots of edibles into a very small space. You can feed a family of 4 on 1/4 of an acre year round. It’s worth checking into. And the time to start something like this is now because some things don’t produce the first year- like fruit trees.
The Sprout Book by Doug Evans is my new go-to for 3-5 days production of many varieties of sprouts. From the back cover… “SPROUTS: have 20-30 times the nutrients of other vegetables and 100 times those of meat and dairy …” it goes on, and it’s nothing but good. I enjoy instant gratification, and sprouts have so many benefits. Just thought I’d throw it out there 🙂 cheers!
I’m trying wild rice in Florida, it grows in wetlands wild, so have a few 55 gallon drums cut in half length wise & seeing if I can eventually grow a crop