Making Money in Hard Times

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FAlley's picture
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Making Money in Hard Times

So long as human beings live, human societies will be productive. The one constant of history is that men work, trade, and need a unit to trade in. Gold and silver are referred to as having 'timeless value,' and those looking to 'short' the dollar are currently hyped on PM investing.

In the long term, the question begs to be asked: what kind of work is to be done when a society is not as well off as it once was? When the rich become richer and the poor become poorer, how does a man make sure he ends up among the 'haves' as opposed to the 'have nots'?

Some 'survivalists' like to fantasize that they'll set up a gunsmithing or soapmaking business, or else maybe get rich when their neighbors give them gold coins for chicken eggs. I don't share that notion. History doesn't share that notion. I don't think hard times mean that humanity will plow itself back into the 1800s. Hard times simply mean that it will harder to make money, and so you better know what you're doing if you want to sustain your standard of living.


All theorizing and arm-chair survivalism aside, somewhere economic collapse has actually taken place in our time is Argentina. Once considered the "Paris of South America," Buenos Ares, Argentina is now heavily slum and crime-infested. But that doesn't mean there wasn't opportunity when its national economy tanked; you just had to know what to look for.

Here's a link to one blogger's site, Ferfal, who writes from Argentina. He writes of take-off entrepreneurial opportunities in fields such as security, public transportation, and education. Small-time farming seems to be one of the worst things to try post-SHTF. Hopefully this can provide an example for a discussion on what "making a profit" looks like in a world changed from what we know.

Farmer Brown's picture
Farmer Brown
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Re: Making Money in Hard Times


Friday, October 10, 2008

Small producers and their situation after the crisis

Yesterday there was a special report on a TV program called “GPS” - by a reporter called Rolando Graña, about child labor.

No wonder, there’s a lot of child labor here, working all day long, even as young as 4 year olds, in factories, selling on the streets and working the fields in the country as well.

The program focused on several small farms and orchards, about 3-5 hectares, where entire families (husband, wife and their children) worked all day growing vegetables.
The program focused on two main points.
1) That these families worked all day, but not only the parents like one would expect, but also the children from ages 4 and 5 to 14, from dusk to dawn. These kids of course didn’t go to school, nor did they have time to play, they truly worked all day, and you could see it to be true in their faces.
2) The irony about it, was that this particular case was going on in the “Children’s city”, a lot that was originally intended (and until before the crisis was quite popular) as a child amusement park, with games and parks for kids to play in, and families to spend the day there.

These folks worked all day just to barely feed themselves and buy the basics any person need to live (one of the guys mentioned clothes, shoes, maybe a toy for the kids once in a while).

The parents interviewed seemed to realize that a 5 year old child should not be working all day, but they explained that they simply had no other choice. They could either do that, or go collecting garbage in the city for paper to recycle like thousands of others do, and still have to do that with their kids along with them as well.

But how’s this possible? Given inflation and the prices you pay at the grocery store, that aren’t exactly cheap?

The middle man makes all the profit.
These people only get 15% to 20% (if lucky)of what the customer ends up paying for.
The middle men have a monopoly over the distribution and selling points each run.

Instead of thinking of thinking about “The little house on the Prairie” scenario, a middle ages Feudal Lord-Vassal relation ship is much more accurate to depicture what small producers are going through in our own in my country, after the 2001 crisis.

So, if you are a producer with a few acres of land (less than 300/400), and you don’t have a critical mass of production , just being an extremely hard worker isn’t enough, and what is happening today to these people may happen in America in the future.

Find some market, some niche, be an entrepreneur because if you do what pretty much everyone else already knows how to do, you’ll end up working so that the middle man makes the profit, while you barely survive.

I imagine you are referring to this article in specific, Tin Man.  This is exactly what is happening in Costa Rica, and we aren't even in a crisis yet.  I know people who have big farms even, and they get next to squat for their produce, yet when you go to the grocery store, prices are rediculous.  One of these farmers told me he wasn't going to re-plant part of his farm this year, because it wasn't worth it and because he felt he could sell it off as land parcels for condos. 

I guess what Fernando says is right - the person that controls the distribution channels and sales centers makes all/most of the profit.  It's especially easy to see how easy this is for them if there are only a handful of major grocery outlets in the country, while the farming industry is very heavilly fragmented.

Nevertheless, I maintain that being able to grow at least some of your own food is a huge relief both in reality and psychologically speaking.  I also feel that in my case, because I am using aquaponics, producing fish of all things gives me a huge edge.  It is easy to grow stuff here, given the soil and climate, but to be able to grow fish without the constant use of water, pretty much doesn't exist here.





FAlley's picture
Status: Bronze Member (Offline)
Joined: Nov 2 2010
Posts: 90
Re: Making Money in Hard Times

I agree that being able to grow some food for sustenance is good and prudent (as is storage of food and water that won't spoil with time). However, the stance of some survivalist-types like James Rawles is that the ideal is to buy your 'retreat' and then happily 'live off the land' in the style of Little House on the Praire. That is a fantasy that can screw people over. Fernando also mentions those in Argentina that did exactly that- generally speaking, they lost everything they had just a few years after doing so.

Also, crime is a NIGHTMARE in rural areas and farmsteads. A home invasion is one thing in a crowded city with atleast police patrols and neighbors. But when you live miles away from anyone, and noone will notice your disappearance for days or weeks... there's nothing that stops home invaders from simply setting up shop and having their way with those they've overpowered. Bad, bad, BAD things happen in those situations.

Some things to chew on for homestead survivalist types.

So.... back to the question. Ideas for post-SHTF enterprises that DON'T assume that TEOTWAWKI is synonomous with time travel to the 1800s?

MarkM's picture
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Joined: Jul 22 2008
Posts: 856
Re: Making Money in Hard Times


Do you guys have farmer's markets, co-ops, csa's there? It seems to me that the small scale farmers doing well these days in America  are directly marketing their products to eliminate the profit suckers of the distribution chain.

I don't doubt Ferfal's perspective. However, I wonder if experiences in rural US would be different? I am not talking about living in a mountain retreat 20 miles from your nearest neighor. I am talking about small rural communities.

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