While media coverage has often focused on a certain gun-toting, masculine segment of the subculture, both women described being drawn to prepping as a form of female self-empowerment. As Bedford sees it, finding yourself unprepared in the midst of a crisis can be a “terrible feeling of weakness” for a mother. “It makes sense to be empowered and trained and have the right supplies—and in this case, to have extra food on hand—because as a mom in particular, your family just relies on you,” she said.
Richard Mitchell Jr., professor emeritus of sociology at Oregon State University, is probably America’s greatest academic authority on prepping. He says modern-day survivalism as we know it is a relatively recent phenomenon, born out of the U.S. real estate boom of the late 1960s and early ’70s and the concurrent rise of guns-and-ammo magazines. Together, he says, these developments gave rise to a baby-boomer fantasy: moving to your second home in the country and learning to protect yourself in the great outdoors.
Long term food storage can be the lifesaving foundation of your survival preparedness plans that protects you in many types of emergency situations. With a little forethought you can establish an emergency food storage program. The emergencies that have people digging in to their stores was NOT the disaster they expected. A plan worked a little at a time can make give you high-level, long-lasting food supply security. The easiest way to finish the project is to purchase a one year supply for your family. Only do this when it won't cause undue financial hardship on you and your family today. In that case, I recommend accumulating by a weekly plan.
For experienced preppers like Daisy Luther, founder of the blog The Organic Prepper and the online survival goods store Preppers Market, ready-to-go freeze-dried meals are more of a last line of defense than anything else. Though she insists these products “have their place,” her version of long-term food storage sounds more like a way of life, a process of slowly building up a pantry that will enable her to feed her family as healthfully and economically as possible. Sometimes that means stocking up on the freeze-dried stuff, or buying whatever’s on sale at the supermarket; but it’s also about living in sync with the seasons, growing food in her own garden and using timetested home preservation methods—like canning and dehydrating—to ensure she always has food on hand.
This kind of focus on the problem at hand is used by some of the best sports coaches in the world. Bill Walsh’s book The Score Will Take Care of Itself dedicates its title to the idea. Phil Jackson describes in Eleven Rings how he’d make his team focus all their energies on the current practice or current game and not on any championships. He even had his team, some of the best athletes in history, meditate in order to do this more effectively. The best way to a better future is focusing on the current step, which is only available in the present moment.
Still, there’s quite a bit of overlap between the two. “There are preppers that are homesteaders, and there are homesteaders that are preppers,” says Levy, who identifies more as a straight-ahead prepper. “If there’s any difference, it’s just a difference in the environment in which we live. If there’s commonality, [it’s that] we still all have this real need to be self-sufficient and not dependent upon others, no matter what happens.”
If the group became indifferent to Finelli’s leadership prior to his ouster, he became just as frustrated with their complacency. Preppers began ignoring his strict no cell phone rule. Few took concrete steps to be more prepared over the years, he says. He’d set out to develop independent thinkers, not apathetic disciples. “I mentioned to the group that at some point, Vinny may not be available,” Finelli says. “So be prepared at a moment’s notice.” That’s why he feels like he failed: He left the preppers unprepared.