The Van Trump Report

Doomsday Prep is Going Mainstream and Some Ag Businesses are Cashing In

A growing number of Americans are preparing for doomsday. However, the number of companies catering to the so-called “prepper” community doesn’t seem to be keeping up. Estimates vary but some peg the share of Americans actively getting ready to ride out some sort of catastrophe is as high as 20%. That’s compared to an estimated 2%-4% of Americans in 2018. Whether the perceived threats are climate disasters, institutional failure, disease, nuclear war, armageddon, etc., preparing for the worst is going mainstream. It’s also expanding business for existing companies and creating some strange as well as interesting new ideas.  

According to a recent Bloomberg article, the “emergency food” market, generating an estimated $500 million in annual sales today, is expected to grow as much as +$2.9 billion by 2026. The customer base for survival food isn’t just limited to people stocking their underground bunkers, either. A growing segment comes from people worried about climate disasters, whether that be temporary fallout from things like hurricanes and wildfires, or more long-term disasters like global crop failure. There is also a solid market for emergency food among the outdoorsy/adventure crowd.

A freeze-dried food company called Mountain House has more than doubled sales in the past two years through companies like Bass Pro Shops and REI, according to Bloomberg. The stores cater to both the prepper market and outdoor enthusiasts. Emergency food vendor ReadyWise says its business has shifted from 95% men to more than 50% women. Augason Farms, one of the largest and oldest survival food businesses, saw orders triple during the pandemic in 2020, and was forced to suspend operations in the last part of 2021 due to a combination of supply shortages and overwhelming demand. Many emergency food supply companies also offer a growing array of vegan options, which says a lot about their expanding customer base.  

Also food related but a little on the wild side comes from a recent article published in The Guardian, about a guy who wants to build farms specifically for millionaires. He says they will be located in secret locations and envisions them being guarded by former Navy Seals. The concept is called “American Heritage Farms”  and includes underground living quarters, security, medical care, security, etc., though it does not appear that he’s attracted any investors yet. This gentleman has also developed a prototype sustainable farm that he says can be modeled by others to create a local or regional network, guaranteeing a stable food supply in case of catastrophe.      

A different approach to the survival market is an outfit called Fortitude Ranch which touts itself as a “private membership vacation country club and survival community.” The company offers year-round lodging at a network of “ranches” that are designed to transform into fortified survival communities should disaster strike. Fortitude Ranch CEO Drew Miller, a retired Air Force colonel, calls the business model a “timeshare that switch-hits as an underground bunker.”

Miller says he has nearly 1,000 clients throughout locations in West Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and Wisconsin. A fifth location in Texas currently under development and he is also looking to open “ranches” in Wisconsin and Tennessee. The property in Texas is actually owned by a fund manager named David Tice who bought it as a safe haven for his family. However, having no survival skills himself, he basically handed the property over to Miller to shape it into “a bona fide survival compound.”

Membership fees at the ranches vary depending on the room size and options, but the website quotes them anywhere from an initial down payment of $1,800 to $35,750, with annual and quarterly fees of $75 to $1,340. Fortitude Ranch is also working on a tiny home model in Nevada for clients interested in living in a survivalist community full-time, with prices estimated at $60,000 to $300,000. (Sources: Reno Gazette, NPR, Insider, Bloomberg, The Guardian)

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