“No. Well, yes,” she says, laughing. “I mean we do prepare. But ‘prepper’ makes me think of those weirdos you see on TV getting ready for the end of the world. We don’t do that, but we want to be ready … just in case.”
“Preppers” are those preparing for the collapse of civilization, either manmade or by natural disaster, by stockpiling vast stores of supplies — everything from freeze-dried food and bottled water to weapons.
But the term, made popular by the top-rated National Geography Channel reality show “Doomsday Preppers,” has given preppers a bad name, conjuring up images of gas mask-wearing zealots with rifles slung over their shoulder hunkered down in secret bunkers waiting for the apocalypse.
Harcrow wants to make it clear, she’s not one of those “crazy” preppers. Her family doesn’t even have a bunker, but she and her large extended family have talked about an “alternative” security option — maybe “something underground.”
“If it gets bad, people will do whatever it takes to survive,” she said. “So we’d need a place to go. But it’s just talk. We’re not going full-on weird. We’re normal, everyday people who want to be prepared.
“Plus, there’s safety in numbers.”
Those of the same mind as Harcrow will converge on the Oxford Civic Center next weekend for the Southern Preppers Convention and Green Living Expo. The free event will feature vendors, giveaways — including a year’s supply of food — and guest speakers addressing every facet of the prepper lifestyle and environmental awareness.
The goal of the event, explains Brian Breedwell, who’s organizing the expo along with partner George Bruno, is to provide an opportunity for preppers to get together, share ideas and educate themselves. Breedwell expects a crowd somewhere in the middle — between the complacent and the lunatic fringe.
“This is for those everyday people who just want to be prepared, to be ready for whatever may happen,” Breedwell said.
He can’t help but laugh over the pop culture rise of the prepper movement.
“I grew up in the country, and we were preppers before it was a hashtag on Twitter,” he said. “We just called it growing up.”
According to Breedwell, there’s a stigma attached to the prepper label, but there is “a real-world application” to the movement.
“All it takes is one storm — a tornado — to make it seem like the end of the world, when you can’t get food or money out of the bank and the power’s off,” he said. “For the most part, these are intelligent, capable people who want to take this knowledge ... and be able to help their neighbors and community if the need comes.”
Harcrow did just that when an F4 tornado tore through Ohatchee in April 2011. Though her own property was relatively undamaged, Harcrow needed only to walk over the hill to see the devastation. With the power out and more food than her family could ever eat, Harcrow was able to help those who otherwise would have done without.
“My freezer fed 300 folks,” she says. “For such a time as that, we were prepared. We were ready, and we’ll be ready the next time.”
Harcrow’s family is just starting to learn about things like hydroponics and aquaponics. She’s studying to be a natural herbalist and wants to learn about dressing wounds when and if hospitals are no longer an option.
If Harcrow and other burgeoning preppers are looking for guidance, Mike Nocks would be a good candidate. As owner of the family-operated White Harvest Seed Company, Nocks will be making the nine-plus hour drive from the Missouri Ozarks to Oxford, where he will serve as a vendor and guest lecturer.
Nocks and his family were “typical suburbanites” before deciding to move to the Ozarks, where they own 40 acres.
“We live totally off the grid,” Nocks says, adding that they have their own water system and raise chickens and grow their own fruits and vegetables. “We just wanted to go simple. This is where the Lord was leading us, to this self-sustained lifestyle. For us, it’s the only way to be.”
Same goes for the Harcrows, who were also led into the prepper movement. It was about two years ago when Darlene was praying and she heard a voice tell her to “get prepared.” At first, the message confused her, until it came again in the midst of prayer.
“That was confirmation,” she says. “It was God telling me that when all hell breaks loose, I can still help lead people to God.
“God will provide. We need to be prepared.”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IF YOU GO…
What: The Southern Preppers and Green Living Expo
When: Saturday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Where: Oxford Civic Center
Cost: Admission is free
Info: Visit www.thesouthernpreppers.com for list of vendors and guest speakers.