The famous series The Walking Dead presents us with an interesting scenario. In the event of a zombie apocalypse, survivors are forced to reorganize themselves into communities and find their own food. But how do you manage to produce sustainable crops with no previous agricultural experience when you have dozens of people to feed? The magazine Livescience asked Dan Kemper this, a farmer and overseer of the Rodale institute, and this was his response.
Focus on nutritional plants
First of all, go for quality instead of quantity.
‘If you’re in a situation where you didn’t have any tractor equipment and were limited on space, you want to go for the nutrient-dense crops,’ explains Kemper.
‘Things like potatoes, garlic, onions and sweet potatoes.’
Sweet potatoes contain Vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene (which gives it its colour). Vitamin A keeps the body healthy, whilst the potassium also found in this root vegetable helps to keep the heart and muscles healthy. For their part, onions are an excellent source of Vitamin C and garlic reinforces the immune system, reducing the risks of illness.
The nutrients found in potatoes, such as Vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and even potassium, aren’t the only reason they’re so beneficial.
‘You can ferment them into booze and you can trade that.’ According to many experts, exchanging goods is actually very important to reduce competition in a community and therefore allow it to be sustained. It would also give you access to resources that you wouldn’t have time or the means to produce.
These four crops also have the advantage of not needing a lot of water, a crucial resource in the event of a zombie apocalypse. They can also be stored for long periods of time, as long as they’re stored properly.
‘You can pretty much just throw them in a sack or bin out of the sun and out of the rain,’ continues Kemper. Thanks to this characteristic, you can be sure to have enough to eat all year long, including during winter, when it is a lot harder to grow new crops.
Take care of pests
In the series, the characters find themselves confronted with pests, in particular crows, which take their resources. If you’ve seen The Walking Dead, you probably already know that making a scarecrow from a zombie won’t be enough. According to Kemper, the solution has to be more radical. The most efficient way to get rid of these vertebrate pests is to just kill them.
‘It’s the best thing to do,’ he says.
When it comes to insects, if you don’t have easy access to pesticides, it complicates things. Kemper explains how they go about it at the institute when the rain washes away the organic pesticides that they’ve applied to their crops.
‘We get buckets that are half full of water and bleach and we hand shake the plant to get the bugs off.’ To survive in a zombie apocalypse, sometimes you have to get your hands dirty.
Consider good livestock
If you were to consider getting into livestock, go for chickens.
‘They’re really quick to raise, and you can keep a few that lay eggs and keep the eggs.’ A bigger animal would be more complicated to rear and requires a lot of work and effort. Kemper suggests trying to keep just one animal at a time during a season.
A cow for example, would be enough to feed everyone during the winter, and depending on the animal, you can get a lot of other products from it afterwards, including leather, soap, glue, etc. Whatever they are, Kemper believes the small farms on The Walking Dead aren’t enough to ensure the survival of the community.
‘They would need concentration on hunting and gathering still,’ he explains.
‘So, stay well-armed.’