A crippling ice storm that left Travis Maddox and thousands of other Missouri residents without power in 2007 had an “almost apocalyptic feel to it.”
“No one could move. It just shut the whole region down for two weeks. I wasn’t as prepared as I thought,” said Maddox, a burly man of 43 sporting a long black beard, T-shirt, cargo pants and baseball cap, while tending his garden.
Those two weeks made Maddox realize that being prepared—“prepping,” as it’s called today—was the key to a life of self-reliance and personal freedom.
As an Eagle Scout, he never forgot the Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
“To me, the ultimate level of prepping is being self-sufficient. You’re still being modern, but you’re in control,” Maddox told The Epoch Times in a phone interview on Thursday.
In 2009, Maddox launched his YouTube channel, “The Prepared Homestead,” which now has over 32,000 subscribers.
People, he said, are waking up to the worsening reality of supply chain disruptions and food shortages, and rapid political and social changes that all point toward “a perfect storm” just ahead.
The COVID-19 lockdowns and empty store shelves served only to heighten popular sentiment that the “old normal” is gone, he said.
“When the pandemic struck we started seeing all this panic buying,” Maddox said.
“What’s really increased is the number of people that contact me. These are really personal emails. They’re not crazy extremists. These are single moms, elderly people, disabled people, regular working people. They’re realizing that things are changing. They can just feel things are changing rapidly,” he said.
“The riots [of 2020] were bad. The election was bad. Now what’s happening is the whole world is starting to change,” Maddox added.
Talk of a global political and economic “Great Reset” and vaccine passports have done little to diminish anxiety among the unvaccinated that society is about to turn its back on them. And so they and others prepare—with food, water, alternative power sources, survival gear, and plans to leave the city if possible for the relative safety of rural areas.
Along with The Prepared Homestead, a host of other YouTube channels cater to the seasoned and beginning preppers, including “Magic Prepper” in North Dakota, “Angry Prepper” in New York City, “Alaska Prepper”, “Ice Age Farmer”, and many others.
Maddox said The Prepared Homestead began as a way to share basic gardening tips that grew in scope as political and economic circumstances changed.
Now, he produces at least six videos a week, touching upon controversial topics such as forced vaccination, firearms confiscation, and “cultural secession”—living apart from the government and its “woke” culture—while using careful language to avoid the YouTube censors.
“A huge portion of our country is saying you’ve gone too far,” Maddox said.
“We’re seeing not just a rapid change in politics and policies and the economy, we’re seeing a rapid change in the heart and soul of America.”
A storage room stacked with food is seen at a preppers ranch in Mathias, West Virginia, on March 13, 2020. (Nicholas Kamm/AFP via Getty Images)
While many individual preppers and prepper organizations try to remain anonymous, the number of people preparing appears to be growing. In the last year alone, roughly 45 percent of Americans, or about 116 million people, said they spent money preparing for hard times or spent money stockpiling survival goods, according to Finder.com.
Maddox, however, said there’s a big difference between prepping and “hoarding.”
“Prepping is something most people did all the time” in bygone years.
“Our grandparents were preppers. I suspect if things continue to worsen preppers will be made to be the bad guys,” he said.
In the months following the pandemic lockdowns, online stores that serve a growing number of preppers have experienced record-breaking sales and interest in their products.
Keith Bansemer, president of My Patriot Supply in Salt Lake City, said his business has grown exponentially amid widespread fear of a return to COVID-19 lockdowns, empty store shelves, and forced vaccinations that will limit personal freedoms.
“For those that choose not to be vaccinated, the fear is that it’s going to restrict their access to certain things,” Bansemer told The Epoch Times.
In a word—food.
“Since mid-July, we have seen a [six-fold] increase in orders and are shipping several thousand orders daily from our centers in Utah, Missouri, and Ohio,” Bansemer said.
“Americans are quietly preparing.”
Bansemer said My Patriot Supply has provided over 1 million families in the U.S. with emergency foods, water filtration, and other survival products since the start of the pandemic in March 2020.
“We own and operate three large warehouses covering over 500,000 square feet. We spent the last year adding 10 times the additional capacity to our operations to best serve our customers during times of crisis and emergencies during spikes in orders like we are seeing now,” Bansemer said.
“An increasing number of those new to preparing have placed orders recently. They are primarily purchasing our large food kits that average over 2,000 calories per day and last up to 25 years in storage. The most popular item right now is our 3-Month Emergency Food Kit,” he added.
In the end, he said, being prepared isn’t about politics—it’s that “people just need to eat.”
A prepper collects eggs from his chickens which he raises at his home in Sebastopol, California on March 30, 2017. (Monica Davey/AFP via Getty Images)
At South Carolina-based Practical Preppers, a supplier of emergency preparing supplies, President Scott Hunt said COVID is “definitely a driver of increased demand.”
“The social and political divisions are also making people nervous,” Hunt told The Epoch Times.
The Texas ice storm and the Colonial pipeline ransom earlier this year “really caused people everywhere to pursue independence,” he said.
“Electrical independence is very high on everyone’s list. I predict demand will outstrip supply this month or the next. Shipping difficulties play a very large role in this. Port congestion and trucking shortages are contributing to this perfect storm,” Hunt said.
As a seasoned prepper, Maddox said homesteading is the next level preparing for hard times. Both he and his wife and daughter live in a family-built house tucked away in the pristine Ozarks with the goal of living off the grid.
The family raises goats, chickens, sheep, turkeys, and grows a variety of fruits and vegetables including squash, corn, and asparagus in a large garden.