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Ruminations on the supply chain in light of the virus.... big stuff, actually — The Grow Network Community
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Ruminations on the supply chain in light of the virus.... big stuff, actually

judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,403 admin
edited October 2020 in COVID-19/Coronavirus

Some of this is conjecture, but my education is in economics.... so it may be better described as observations in context. It is difficult to explain the modern supply chain. But, the reason we still don't have toilet paper, alcohol or yeast on the shelves in NC is because of modern "efficiency". Stores (especially Walmart) maximize profit and minimize cost by not storing products in warehouses. Computers record exactly how much of _______ is sold at any store. We will call it "X", but it can be anything form a porkchop to drain cleaner. 

That product is manufactured in the cheapest place possible, in the cheapest way possible... which is why almost all tomatoes sold in America are grown in South America, where people make a few cents an hour and have no insurance or unemployment or health and safety regs. It is picked green, trucked in in huge containers and chemically ripened just before being put on the shelf for sale. It has no flavor, few vitamins, but it looks nice and it is cheap. The goal of the modern supply chain is that when that 1 tomato is sold, it should be replaced by 1 more, shipped in that very day, with no storage… storage costs money.  Sure, domestic production happens seasonally, but it is heavily dependent on the exploitation of illegal immigrant labor (to which "compassionate" politicians turn a blind eye) and ships thousands of miles as well... and usually subsidized to offset regs… not much difference, really.

In this system, there is no place for the traditional American famer, who may wish to grow a variety of crops, or the person who likes food.

American farmers can't compete on produce - the growing season and the wages are lower further south. But, we can compete with grain. And, grain can feed livestock.

So, most American farmers now raise corn and soybeans... and most of that goes to feed, chickens, hogs and cows.... never mind those animals are designed by God to eat grass, vegetables and bugs... and feeding them on corn and soybeans means having to feed them tons of anti-biotics as well, and poisons to kills the worms...etc, etc... Animals are produced in a factory system... crowded into feed lots and containment housing, fed things they should never eat (including their own poop and dead chickens, cows and hogs... sterilized and "recycled"), in a way and in a density that turns their manure (which should be nutritious fertilizer for vegetables) into toxic waste.

Just like the tomato or that drain cleaner, meat becomes "X". It has to follow a strict schedule of production and shipping so exactly 10 packages of porkchops can be sold at Food Lion in _____ Podunk town on Monday afternoon.

So, a month ago, the supply chain got disrupted. The very limited stock on hand got bought up... and restaurants closed. The result? X, Y, and Z is still not on our shelves, because it either hasn't been made yet or is being shipped to higher density areas first. And millions of cows, chickens and pigs are being slaughtered and buried in great big pits. They couldn't go to market... there is no place for them. Farmers can't afford to feed them or house them... there is no place for them. The next generation is coming in tomorrow... stock on hand should have been shipped out yesterday!!!!!! It is like Lucy in the chocolate factory!!!

The entire supply chain is disrupted. More than half of Americans are out of work. You'd think they could benefit by taking this now worthless meat at low or no cost... nope. The whole damn system just fell apart.... leaving people hungry and farmers (potentially... without a bail out) bankrupt... all because of "modern efficiency."

This virus has exposed the vulnerability of food, fuel, etc like nothing before. Just as a collapsing oil price means that gas stations can run out of gas because the fuel companies can't afford to ship the oil, so does a disrupted supply chain in terms of food.

y'all, we need to make big changes in our society now! But, immediately, we need to become as self reliant as possible!



  • VickiPVickiP Posts: 581 ✭✭✭✭

    In our area one of the bigger egg producers recently gave hundreds of dozens of eggs to churches and food banks to distribute as they couldn't sell them. In the store? They had limits on eggs. The dairy farms are dumping milk--same reason. The stores? Limits on dairy products. So for a lot of "limited" items it is a created shortage. It is absolutely crazy.

  • DebiBDebiB Posts: 92 ✭✭✭

    That’s something I’ve noticed. The small guys are the ones who can pivot on a dime. An example is one guy who sells Wagu beef at the farmers market. He normally sells beef at farmers markets and wholesale to restaurants. Because of the shutdowns the restaurants aren’t placing orders right now. So what he’s done because he isn’t selling to restaurants right now and people are running into shortages (and limits on purchases) at the grocery store he has increased the number of pickup opportunities for customers to order beef and he’s offering bulk purchases that would normally only be offered wholesale.

    the large guys can’t adjust, they were planning on selling to restaurants or schools and were all set up for that and when it’s falling through and he strawberries are ripe, they have to plow it under. It’s so sad.

  • RachelWritesRachelWrites Colorado Posts: 20 ✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 Thank you for giving us your insight from an economics background. I wholeheartedly agree. I especially liked your conclusion that the solution is less centralization, not more. More of the Joel Salatin mindset rather than Bill Gates. I just don’t know that it enough people will buy into the idea, but I think this group and others are encouraging people in the right direction. I’ve lived in the suburbs my whole life and I’m only just starting to grow food. I love the things Marjorie has suggested about keeping small backyard animals. I can’t currently because of the HOA, but I think that’s the future that our government and society should encourage.

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,403 admin

    Thanks! I really expanded on this in a op-ed for TGN: https://thegrownetwork.com/food-security-covid-19/

    I don't presume to have answers... at least, not for most folks. 5% of the population are innovators. Another 10-15% leaders, business owners... the people who make things happen. Another 5% are artists. Most folks live in a world they do not even influence. It can be for good or ill... history seems to run on 40 year cycles. All I can really do as an individual, is strive for quality and work toward resilience.

  • I bought an entire cart load of groceries yesterday (Thursday) at the local Wal Mart. Hadn't intended to, but there were lots of empty shelves, so I stocked up on cat and dog food, kitty litter, trash bags, toilet paper (yes, although I had just opened a 12 pack). Got some meats, pastas, coffee, the dairy products I went in after, and some extra treats for me (ice cream and potato chips).

    My sister pointed out that on Wednesday it was announced that masks will be required, starting on Monday, so she thinks that's the reason for this run. But I'm glad I could stock up. If I don't need it now, I will eventually.

    I didn't have to get produce because Mom has signed up for some senior food services, and is getting way more fresh veggies than the 2 of them can use up. I'm well supplied with fruits and veggies right now! I just ate a wonderful peach, and have grapes, carrots, potatoes, lettuce, a yellow squash, tangerines, cauliflower, and a sweet potato to eat this week - before they bring more!

    I've chopped and frozen a bunch of onions, and tomorrow I will slice up a bunch of apples and throw them on the dehydrator. If there are too many to fit on my 6 trays, I'll make some applesauce.

  • RustBeltCowgirlRustBeltCowgirl North Coast OhioPosts: 781 ✭✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 I so get what you're saying. I work in a supply chain function as an Inventory Control Coordinator for a large manufacturing company. If any one of those links break, the entire chain feels it.

  • MommaMoMommaMo Posts: 137 ✭✭✭

    Being more self-sufficient is definitely a plus in times like these. We can also share with others who are not as fortunate.

  • DesireeDesiree Posts: 219 ✭✭✭

    I live in a very small rural part of Ohio and I have been fortunate that I have not been deeply affected by the shortages that other larger communities are experiencing. We did have a run on TP, paper products, canned food and some meat initially but our small grocery store worked hard finding other suppliers pretty quick. We had some weird brands for a while but that has evened out. Unfortunately the increase in prices did and still does affect us. I am one of those "shop the perimeter" people so I don't miss the inside aisle stuff, I just saw the huge holes in stock. I grow or purchase my produce from farmers markets in season that either can or freeze for use out of season. I purchase most of my meat from local growers and have it processed by local butchers. Neither of these were deeply affected and were able to carry on on essential services.

    One of the reasons our store ran out was because of people coming from larger communities that had already run out of supplies. As much as I agree that something needs to change in our supply chain and food growing systems, I can't imagine a way to supply large communities on a grand scale. I think it is education of people and teaching self reliance tools. Heck, most people don't even cook any more, much less understand how it's grown.

  • Annie KateAnnie Kate Eastern Ontario, CanadaPosts: 473 ✭✭✭✭

    In Canada we do not seem to have many shortages; we did have lots in March, but the stores seem to be running normally. But we are growing a large potato crop just in case and I'm starting to stock up on vitamins etc for the fall.

    We need to be more self-reliant, learn to use less, and spread that attitude to others.

  • dipat2005dipat2005 Posts: 358 ✭✭✭

    I am so grateful that in the Willamette Valley her in Oregon that we have an abundance of farm stands that sell produce, honey, even corn stalks that are dried and so many other seasonal items. We also have several farmer’s markets in our area.

  • seeker.nancy - Central Texasseeker.nancy - Central Texas Posts: 803 ✭✭✭✭

    You'all have raised some very valid points. Our system is in a downward spiral and has been; it's just accelerated now. My concern is how much more the "system" can take...I feel like it would take very little for it all to come crashing down. A lot of people will die then, from starvation, from lack of health care, from violence as the normally peaceful people will do almost anything to feed their families. @Desiree pointed out, people from the cities are going to smaller towns to purchase what is no longer available where they live. This leads me to a video that I cannot remember who made it. We need to not flash around or brag too much on our Facebook page or whatever media people use. This can make us a target in the future. I'm not talking about this group or really most any group of self reliant people. I view that as decidedly different than the general population.

    What we really need to focus on is educating these displaced (or about to be) people so they can become self reliant as well. I'm so happy to see more of us taking up the mantle of educators. This is preserving our future.

  • chimboodle04chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

    @Desiree I too live in Ohio and purchase from many of our local farmers when they have items available. What I noticed was a huge run on our local farms when the grocery stores ran out of needed items. The farmer who we have bought our meat from by the whole, half, or quarter animal was no longer selling in bulk due to the huge and sudden demand because of empty supermarket shelves. This is the time of year that we have traditionally placed bulk orders to stock up our freezers for the coming year, and we have had to go much further afield to find farmers who had meat to sell. Not only that, but the butchers around us have been booked for months into the future (some until fall of 2021!?!) You wouldn't think both of those circumstances would exist at the same time - proof of the craziness of life right now.....

  • dottile46dottile46 Posts: 429 ✭✭✭

    All very valid points. We, as a country, have put all our eggs in one basket, so to speak. We, as a country, need to diversify, decentralize, go back to grown local, and grow what we can. The shopping, whether it is from a farmers market, big box store, CSA, or whatever, needs to be optional like Lynn Gillespie says. We have seen where it put us when we let them, basically, be in control of our food production.

    We will have to band together, neighbor and neighbor, to share labor, skills, and equipment just like we did years ago.

  • RustBeltCowgirlRustBeltCowgirl North Coast OhioPosts: 781 ✭✭✭✭

    "We will have to band together, neighbor and neighbor, to share labor, skills, and equipment just like we did years ago."

    I agree wholeheartedly. This has been a learning experience for many. Some will get it; some will not. There is a huge disconnect between knowledge of origin and table.

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 221 ✭✭✭

    Much of the blame goes to former President Richard Nixon and his Secretary of Ag, Earl "Get Big or Get Out" Butz. Nixon and Butz wanted some way of controlling the farmers, who were still a large voting bloc and considered too politically independent. Pushing them into consolidation, and then vertical integration so they would be controlled by big food processors, chemical and pharmaceutical companies in the name of "efficiency", was the scheme by which their numbers would be reduced and their votes neutralized. "The American farmer, feeding the world" became the patriotic slogan behind which they hid the realities of what they were doing while manipulating the American desire to help others into a noose to strangle American farmers (while not doing most of the rest of the world much good, either). The end game was to replace masses of skeptical farmers with a handful of corporations, often run by cronies, that could fund the political campaigns and buy legislation. Butz was also the psychopath who famously quipped about hogs, "Treat 'em like sausage producing machines!" I personally hope that there's a special place in hell where both Nixon and Butz are both rotting (and no, that's not a political statement, it's a statement entirely about ethics!!)

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,403 admin

    I can't disagree with you on that. Nixon was a disaster economically. I'm always amazed at how some of the same folks who defend the Nixon legacy simply because of his party affiliation, adamantly oppose Sanders and AOC's very similar policies. Nixon went further than they ever dreamed - he instituted wage and price controls, trade with China and the very tax, monetary, environmental and labor agencies and policies embraced by the Left. It is revisionist history to portray Nixon and Ford as being on the same side as Goldwater and Reagan - their inter party differences were in many ways deeper than the divide between D and R these days. The parties, especially in DC, get along just fine so long as their pockets are filled.

  • LaurieLovesLearningLaurieLovesLearning Moderator Manitoba, Canada 🍁 zone 3, PrairiesPosts: 3,771 admin


    ...And let's get back to the original subject at hand, of becoming self-reliant, before this discussion goes fully political & I need to close it.

    Thanks everyone for your cooperation!


  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 221 ✭✭✭

    Yup - nothing that EITHER party fears more than self-reliant citizens. Nothing has changed. The name of the game today is to become the equivalent of yesterday's independent family farmers in a very changed landscape. I read in a research report several years ago that the third largest biome in America is now....... drum roll, please..... suburbia! Thus my attempt to find ways by which suburbanites can become more self-sufficient and eco-friendly without raising the ire and suppression of their HOA's and neighbors who still believe in the pristine grass lawn (or even the more enlightened, but still purely decorative) xeriscape. Can we replace it, or at least water it down, with something aesthetically acceptable but actually useful? Marjory should get a medal for what she's started in that direction, in my opinion.

  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft ✭✭✭ Posts: 1,059 admin

    I've had a lot of people ask me if I worry that the Grow Network will be squashed by the powers that be if we ever get that big... seeing as how self-reliance does engender freedom and independent thinking - Gov'ts and rulers aren't fond of that.

    I honestly don't know - I'm just going to keep on doing what I know is right. And, I also suspect that things will get so bad that backyard food production will be sanctioned and supported by whatever powers that be as it will help reduce real rioting (unlike the current civil unrest which is paid for, there will be true rioting as people get desperate), and it is "green" which is a part of thier talking points. The Victory Garden movement was initiated by citizens and it became a cooperative venture between the people and the Gov't.

    But who knows???

  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft ✭✭✭ Posts: 1,059 admin

    Here is an interesting supply chain thing: @bmaverick is working with me to develop a set of detailed plans for how to build a backyard chicken coop for 6 laying hens.

    BM was going to include a price list and just in the last two weeks the prices of materials has jumped!

    Also check out this graph on lumber prices. Apparently supplies were short before COVID, then everyone got to building that deck, and some mills are shut down or at reduced capacity due to illness... oh yeah, and there are some trade disputes.

    But don't worry! Lumber isn't in the consumer price index, so this isn't inflation.

  • bcabrobinbcabrobin Posts: 228 ✭✭✭

    All the tree cutters, log truck drivers and mills were closed in PA. They were not part of the essential workers. Some are still only running at half crews. The prices jumped because this created a shortage.

    My oldest son made a chicken coop from pallets as my Christmas gift 2 yrs ago. There are some really cute ideas using the pallet wood and in our area most place just give them away, there are some places that you have to pay for them, one charge $3 each, but that would still be cheaper than buying enough wood.

  • stephanie447stephanie447 Ayurvedic Practitioner Annapolis, MDPosts: 299 ✭✭✭

    I'm just waiting for the day where big tech goes beyond censoring at the level of social media and starts outright blocking of domain names and websites from the network level. Hope it won't come to that.

  • Suburban PioneerSuburban Pioneer Posts: 221 ✭✭✭

    And if you followed the Jackson Hole (virtual) meeting last week, you're aware that the Fed has changed its policy stance on inflation to "allow" inflation to rise above the already contrived 2% until the level, when averaged over time, reaches an average of 2%. In other words, they're so thoroughly caught in the trap of their own making that they've lost control of inflation and are now spinning stories to male it appear that they're doing something ("allowing" inflation to rise) when they're actually starting to stand around helplessly and watching events unfold beyond their control. Because the national debt now so far exceeds GDP, the Fed can never, ever again raise interest rates to tame inflation except as the very last, futile act of desperation. That's why they cagily declined to put a cap on inflation expectations or a timeline on when they'll start trying to tame it again. They may still try negative interest rates (which is why the long bond trade got so crowded when the Fed announced negative interest as a possibility - because the initial flip from positive to negative rates is so profitable for those bonds that pay a positive rate), but so far, negative rates have failed everywhere they've been applied. The other option is the cashless society, but even then, what will the government do after it's bled every working citizen dry, or after the workers have had enough and revolted? So, inflation IS going to be the future, though there may be a temporary general deflation in areas of discretionary goods and services as people shift into a more defensive mode. With the current national debt and $5 trillion in unfunded Social Security mandates looming around 20204 the U.S. can't afford to pay its obligations in dollars worth even as little as they are today. And many economists are now predicting that our economy won't be back even to pre-COVID levels until 2022. With fiscal restraint nowhere in sight, and even the pension plans piling into gold because they see no other way to protect what they have left, where else can the economy head except into overall devaluation of the dollar? That's why I think it's a good idea to get seeds, tools, livestock and what have you now while the dollar still has some purchasing power and things are still available. They might not be in another year or two.

  • Marjory WildcraftMarjory Wildcraft ✭✭✭ Posts: 1,059 admin

    @Suburban Pioneer I wish the National debt were only $5 trillion. It's way more like over $50 trillion? Seriously, there is a missing $21 trillion no one can account for and people are trying to figure out where it went... Here is a faxcinating overview of the topic : https://missingmoney.solari.com/

  • judsoncarroll4judsoncarroll4 Posts: 3,403 admin

    I am sending you a PM.... I know someone you may wish to contact.

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