THE THIRD WAY POST COLLAPSE
Everyone wants to be a farmer after the collapse. First off, most of us are familiar with gardening. There is no mystery, even if there is some mastery to go. We can practice ahead of time. Secondly, I think it holds a great appeal in that it has deep, primal meaning. You are filling your days trying to fill your belly. This is no abstract job or career, looking back at middle age wondering if you've done something with your life. You are directly providing for your family with no middleman. Alas, even though I have been trying to point out that farming isn't some fantasy where everything turns out all ducky, that it is full of danger and pitfalls, everyone is still looking at me like I'm a flaming idiot. How could he not want to be a farmer? How dare he point out that a local strongman will prey on you since you are immobile! Wanting to be a nomad/herder is so impractical! You're going to die! It's nice that you care enough about me that you are worried. Look, I've pointed out the good and bad points of both farmer and a nomad existence before. One is easy to prepare for but presents problems later, the other is hard to convert to but makes things easier in the long run. Neither is perfect, except for you specifically.
Now, how about the third way that doesn't get a lot of press? We rarely talk about it, mainly since it is so unrealistic with our population levels. Hunter/gatherer. I'm not talking about something new here, the Stone Age guys have had a handle on this for years. Would it be once again be feasible after the die off? We are talking about a huge die off, by the way. As in Mayan civilization die off rather than Black Plague die off. Despite how panicked I've been about Peak Oil, and despite how massive I think the population decrease will be ( although to be fair my thinking is always colored by extreme paranoia ), will it be enough to allow a true hunter/gatherer existence to once again flourish? Somehow, I have my doubts. Look, since the Agricultural Revolution has there been anything other than the steady encroachment of land from farmers? Even after the fall of Rome. Entire areas went fallow after overproduction, but did anyone live in those areas other than hunter/farmers? Small scale farming ( since the soil now supported far less ) subsidised by hunting. You needed both since the area still wasn't depopulated enough. Outside of the plains Indians with their buffalo, you mostly had farmer/gatherers, farmer/hunters. I'm sure even the wild orchards were domesticated over time, as in almonds/walnuts. Yes, a bit rusty on tribal food logistics. But I think it's safe to say that even if there were a few exceptions, once farming was introduced it crowded out pure foraging.
So if the predominate mode of food production, even with the Indians before Whitey showed up, was farming, how can we ever think we'll go back to a pure hunting and gathering existence? At best we can emulate the Indians and adopt the best features of both farming and wild livestock. Raising livestock depends on lots of fertile land for growing fodder. In effect, it is surplus land left over from feeding humans. Nomads are able to utilize waste land to feed livestock. Hunter/gathers are so disbursed that nature can feed them both wild meat and plants at a replenishment level. The Indians had the middle ground. Fertile farms surrounded by enough wilderness for game. Could that happen again after die off? It would somewhat alleviate the negative aspects of farming, the vulnerability of staying in one spot. With enough of a buffer between neighbors, attacks could be forewarned against by your mobile hunters. And it would provide another means of food besides just meat ( nomads must contact the farmers for trade, becoming somewhat vulnerable ).
I can't say for sure we'll devolve back into Dancing With Wolves. The past is a fuzzy Xerox copy of the future, not a crisp digital copy. Perhaps in some areas such as the Rockies you might see a true hunting/gatherer lifestyle. Perhaps the Great Basin might have the few fertile valleys farmed with the mountains surrounding them providing game. Perhaps the swamps down South will keep a few tribes of primitives alive off the land. I still think the symbiosis of outer protection from nomads surrounding a friendly farming community holds a lot of promise, but I'm also sure there will be some areas that support other types of survival.