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6 Ways To Increase Community Food Security For Winter

When winter arrives and gardens stop producing, community food security can take a hit. Here are six ways to store produce for the cold months.

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by Zach LoeksOctober 23, 2020
PHOTO: Zach Loeks

Wintertime is the long stretch between the natural productivity of most landscapes, including farms, gardens and wild ecosystems. Sometimes is it the dry season, while during other times the land is blanketed with snow.

In all cases, though, the natural environment produces less bounty. This is true in both human-managed landscapes, like farms with vegetables, or wild landscapes such forests with blueberries. As such, storing food over the winter and planning for scarcity is a big part of community food security.

Food security, in its simplest sense, means access to food for a community—especially good-quality food. And I would add to this definition access to local food, which is more secure in uncertain times and not prone to disruption in global food supply chains from transport issues or global economic upheaval.

How food secure are your family and community going into the winter?  If the answer is “not very” (or even “I don’t know”), these six tips can help.


1. Freezing

Freezing food is a great way to put food aside for winter. Not only does it allow you to stock up on many foods available in bulk in the autumn months, but it is also a quick way to process items for storage.

Sometimes a simple freezer container or freezer Ziploc is all you need. Other times, you may need to blanch to improve storability.

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An important, if obvious note: Make sure your freezer is always plugged in, and safeguard against a door being left open.


Read more: Make your harvest last by building a root cellar in your home’s basement.


2. Root Cellar

You don’t need to bust out the shovels for a massive building project. A root cellar can be as simple as a Rubbermaid bin with carrots layered in sand in your cold entranceway or garage.

As long as the temperature stays around 32 degrees Fahrenheit, root vegetables will store nicely. Root vegetables want 95 percent humidity and 32-37 degrees F to store through winter. This includes carrots, beets and storage radish.

Want something bigger? You can build a small root cellar cache outside. Consider a small dugout in the side of a hill, lined with cedar logs and covered over with 3 to 4 inches of soil.

If you’re on a larger farm, an in-ground or barn cold storage can store plenty of food. You’ll find various root cellar designs online.

winter cold food security produce
Zach Loeks

3. Drying

Drying food is another great way to put food up for the winter.  You can dry everything from mushrooms to apples, carrots to tomatoes. These dried foods can rehydrate easily in soups and stir-fries, or you can use them in baking. Or, simply snack on them in a trail mix.

You can dry in your wood stove or electric oven, or you can use a dehydrator. Peruse the many online resources with recommendations for drying techniques.


Read more: Learn more about dehydrating (and rehydrating) produce using a wood stove.


4. A Pantry

A pantry space that is cool, dark and dry can provide ideal storage for bulk beans, rice, and other staples.  It can also store garlic, onions, squash and other storage crops that like dry conditions.

You can easily build a pantry in a house on the ground level. A closet is a great place to retrofit for larger pantry space.

5. A Leaf Cellar

I use the term “leaf cellar” for my habit of growing an abundance of cold-hardy leafy greens outside, which I then simply protect with row cover or in a small, unheated greenhouse (or cold frame) for easy access in wintertime.

Crops like kale, spinach, mizuna and other hardy greens will stay fresh deep into the winter. These plants, even if frozen, will liven up when they thaw in your house.

6. Relationships With Neighbors

What you do not grow, store or buy in bulk, you may find through relationships with like-minded neighbors. Continue to share and exchange your food stuff with neighbors.  Specialize in a great crop and barter for other food stuff from honey to sheep cheese, from meat to popcorn.  Food security is a community effort.

Keep it fresh,

Zach

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