Taking the lone wolf approach to survival is popular with some in the prepper community, but many others focused on prepping for a SHTF scenario feel a family or mutual assistance group approach boasts the best chance to live through a disaster.
All preppers should incorporate a post-disaster plan into their overall preparedness activities. Making sure the basement is stockpiled with heirloom seeds, hand tools, advanced first aid equipment, ammo, and other various survival gear is obviously extremely important.
However, more can be done to ensure the long-term well-being and prosperity of the family or tribe (my favorite term for mutual assistance groups).
Stockpiling items that make "good barter" during and after a disaster is a routine task for nearly all preppers. By taking the concept one step further and opening a trading post, you could have both a lucrative and fulfilling SHTF business on your hands.
If the power grid goes down, the nation (or the entire world) will suddenly be thrust into an 1800s existence. Virtually any type of massive man-made or natural disaster can end life as we know it for an extremely long time.
Surviving is the first goal, but once that is achieved, thriving should become the new focus for the family or tribe. We only have to think back to the formative stages of our nation to brainstorm for ideas about the types of goods and services that will be needed and can be accomplished without the aid of modern technology.
Honing your homesteading skills or learning new ones will likely offer you some job security after the SHTF. Blacksmithing, horse-shoeing, sewing, and medical care for both humans and animals are but a few examples of TEOTWAWKI career options.
Unless you have bottomless pockets and have created a compound with all the food, supplies, and man power needed to keep your family alive for one to five years, start pondering post-disaster job opportunities now, while the lights are still on.
One bad growing season could wipe out your entire crop and overtax your long-term food storage stockpiles. An incident of swine flu or mad cow disease could equally devastate the livestock currently grazing on the back 40.
Opening a trading post is an end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it business that does not require the expertise required of a blacksmith or a seamstress. The economic unrest currently going on in many parts of the world is a great reminder that we all should be investing more in "tangibles" anyway. If hyper-inflation does one day strike the United States, it will be almost too late to start buying items that will retain their value such as seeds, gardening tools, thread, sharpening stones, sources of energy and light, and footwear.
Becoming a SHTF kingpin might sound enticing, but safety and security concerns will multiply if you envision opening a TEOTWAWKI regional shopping mall. Providing goods and a place to gather to trade goods and services for your own community helps both your own family and others. You do not want every semi-decent and needy person or road bandit three counties over knowing that you are the guy or gal sitting on an enormous pile of goods.
Location, Location, Location!
While there are some advantages to setting up a trading post on your own property, there are some distinct disadvantages as well. Using a barn or other structure near your home as the trading post would bring unknown individuals to your land, allowing them to get a big eyeful of your garden, livestock, security measures, and your family. A disgruntled customer or person turned away for lack of quality items or services to trade could come back and attempt to break in to the trading post or home later or take one of your loved ones hostage.
The convenience of not having to risk leaving your own property is a plus when considering where to locate the trading post. The business should not be started until after the initial phase of the disaster and bulk of the civil unrest are long since over with, reducing the fear of travel at least somewhat.
The trading post could be held once a week, several times a month, or open on a daily basis, much like an old-fashioned general store. Information sharing among community members could be fostered both in person and via a bulletin board or chalkboard mounted on the inside or outside of the building.
A ham radio should already be on the must-have list for all survivalist-minded folks. The sharing of news from outside the community could alert townspeople to marauding bands operating in the area, government actions, or an illness spreading throughout the region.
A trading post operator could charge or barter with customers to use the ham radio to contact their loved ones or to learn of news from the towns where people they care about were living before the disaster.
The mere presence of a ham radio scanning in the background at the trading post will encourage community members to stop by frequently and possibly purchase extra items while standing around listening for news.
The Benefits of Sharing
Renting out space inside or outside the trading post to neighbors who have a particular useful skill is a win-win. If you do not have the skill or the equipment to reload your own ammo, you could offer a workbench to someone who does in exchange for reloading ammo for the weapons used by your family or mutual assistance group.
Allow those with sewing skills to place items on consignment in your trading post in exchange for mending or clothes-making for your family or group.
Those of us who grew up in the late '70s or early '80s surely watched at least an episode or two of Little House on the Prairie. Half Pint was often tasked with taking eggs to the Olsen Mercantile to earn extra money. Mimic the same system and trade space for eggs and other produce with local farmers and growers. Those who are fortunate to have more than enough food to feed their family will likely jump at the opportunity to easily trade crops, meat, and dairy products for other needed items and services.
Top Trading Post Shelf-Stockers
- First aid items
- Heirloom seeds
- Hand tools
- Solar power systems and charging mats
- Water filtration products
- Long-term storage food
- Cast iron cookware
- Shoes, boots, socks, and shoelaces in all sizes
- Cloth diapers
- Condoms, pregnancy test kits, morning after pills
- Fuel - gasoline and oil
- Sewing supplies
- Pressure canning supplies
- Gloves, hats, scarves
- Coats in all sizes — I bought two dozen coats for 25 cents each at a church rummage sale recently, best prepping on the cheap score this year!
- Candles, flashlights, oil lamps, and batteries. Don't forget extra lamp wicks.
- Heavy-duty work gloves and outerwear in various sizes
- Children's clothing
- Horse tack
- Gardening tools
- Cleaning supplies — germs will spread disease quickly after the SHTF