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Survivalist businesses surge in uncertain times

Increasing numbers of mainstream Americans are preparing for disasters, many of these companies say.

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Four years ago, after years spent working in construction administration, Viola Moss wanted to leave Florida. She was looking for a home that offered her and her family a chance to grow their own food and live free of dependence on society. But realtors kept showing her homes in retirement communities.

Ms. Moss finally found what she was looking for in a home in remote Libby, Mont.: room to raise crops, distance from big-city crime, and proximity to good hunting and fishing, just in case hard times – or a disaster – made food hard to come by. Knowing she wasn't alone in her desire to live a "prepared" lifestyle, Moss decided to turn her interests into a business and set up shop as a realtor herself.

Her offerings on include a five-acre, three-bedroom property with the trappings of practical survivalism: a 10,000-gallon cistern for cultivating organic fruit trees, a 250-foot fire hose, and a dual-use root cellar/fallout shelter with "essential living quarters" and a backup generator.

"I've had inquiries from people all over the country, from professionals – doctors, lawyers, commodity brokers – to blue-collar workers like mechanics and nurserymen," says Moss. "Some people really do want a lifestyle change."

Once seen as a radical and paranoid ideology, survivalism is expanding as a business, and growing fast.

Lehman's, an Ohio retailer of home self-sufficiency equipment, has recorded large sales increases, with water-pump sales up 95 percent and sales of home agriculture equipment up 50 percent from last fall. The growth is coming from across the preparedness spectrum, from the curious buyer to the serious die-hard, says Glenda Ervin, the firm's vice president of marketing.


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