Recently I had the opportunity to speak via email with Freda Stemick. Freda was recently profiled in National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers television show and was very forthcoming about her experiences, so I asked if she would be willing to complete an interview for the Plan and Prep website. Lucky for us Freda was more than happy to speak to us.
While speaking with Freda she made it very clear that she had strong feelings about how people view the Doomsday Preppers television show. I am sure she knew I was extremely critical of the show and wanted me to understand that she expected her interview to be posted in the proper context, without me editing it to fit my own agenda.
Over the course of these discussions I found that not only is Freda an extremely well rounded and intelligent prepper, she has her finger directly on the pulse of the prepping movement and could very easily be utilized in a spokesperson role. Freda sent me an email during our exchange that I will post, (in its entirety) at the end of this interview. This email very accurately sums up many of my feelings in prepping and how I hope others will view the television show and others like it.
In order to ensure that my own opinions and ideas about Doomsday Preppers do not interfere with or bias the way I relay Freda’s answers to our questions I will be posting the interview answers complete, in Freda’s own words. I have taken the liberty to clean up the questions and answers for clarity, but the only changes that were made were grammatical or spelling related.
The interview is in two parts, first are general questions about her prepping episode and the second part is questions about the filming of her segment, Doomsday Preppers and Practical Preppers. I will not interject my own opinions and allow my readers to form their own opinions off of Freda’s very wise words. The email portion spoken about above will be posted directly after the questions.
Thank you, Freda, for allowing us to get your opinions and for putting words to the feelings of so many preppers. I look forward to a great many things from you in the prepping community.
You can view Freda’s YouTube channel here – http://www.youtube.com/fstemick
PnP – Freda, you appeared in a recent Doomsday Preppers episode on the National Geographic channel. Can you tell us how you got involved in that project?
FS – Actually, I was contacted by them through my YouTube channel. A scout had been reviewing several preppers channels I suppose and I wound up hearing from them. I turned them down a few times but curiosity kept me talking to them. Finally I agreed.
PnP – In the Doomsday Preppers episode you got a chance to talk about your artesian well and your stored food, but the show didn’t really expand on those subjects. Can you tell us a little more about them? Do you also store water? What other food resources do you have?
FS – We have a mountain stream/creek that runs along our property, and is only a few steps away from the house. We have a regular well also for our house water. A hand pump can be put on it and we plan to install that this year. The artesian well is already tapped and runs non-stop. Actually, our chickens drink from that well when they are out of their coup. We know how to filter water with charcoal and sand so have felt that we would have time if needed to go out and get some water to store inside if need be, but plan to be able to access these water sources as needed. Our bug out plan also follows along the mountain stream for awhile so we would fill our “water ducks” and canteens along the route if we bugged out.
PnP – Living in a self-sustainable environment is a key theme here at Plan and Prep. Have you been living this way your entire life or is this a recent change?
FS – I started to change when everyone else did, with 9/11. I did garden and can, and make homemade bread, things like that. I would store up water and a few supplies to get through a week or two without power but no, I was not living this lifestyle yet. As each year has passed since 9/11, I have worked more and more, step by step to get in a better position to handle any situations that life throws our way. The more I see on the news, and the more I see in the environment, the more I am driven to do more and more to set myself up to be as sustainable as possible.
PnP – In your segment you showcased some throwing devices and a home built catapult. Was this done strictly for the show? If so, how did this idea come about?
FS – The throwing stars were something we already had come up with. The catapult was special for the show. We do NOT plan to find ourselves without our weapons (guns and ammo) but part of being a good prepper is to always plan on your plan failing, therefore, have a backup. The catapult discussion came up once we agreed to do the show. We didn’t have a bunker, or a boat, or a silo, so we were asked if there was anything that we had in our minds that we could do with our throwing stars so we came up with the idea of the catapult. We used items out of our stockpile that Mike has been collecting, and thought we would give it a try. We actually finished the thing the day before the camera crew was arriving. We had never built one before, never seen one in person either. We just literally looked around the yard and came up with something we could build with what we had. It was fun!
PnP – How do you feel about the final overall segment that aired after the many hours of film that was shot?
FS – There were a few things I was surprised that they didn’t include that we shot, but also I know they had to cut it down from 2 days to 18 minutes. I have a hard time cutting down one hour of footage to 10 minutes for my YouTube channel so I can only imagine! I have to say that I would have put more in to our bug out bags, communication, plans, hunting/fishing/trapping etc then they did but I am just glad it came out as well as it did.
PnP – Did you have any influence on what did and did not air? Were you able to say “this is off limits” or ”don’t show this”?
FS – Absolutely. We were on guard anyway to not discuss or show anything that we didn’t want them to put on a camera from the start, but I did have many discussions about a few things with them and they were very gracious and worked well with us on it. If something was accidentally said, we looked in the camera and said “scratch that, I do not give permission for that to be used” and then there were some areas of the yard we asked the cameraman to not get on film so he was careful with angles of the camera to exclude those private areas. Our camera crew and director (which are different for each episode) were just a really great group of guys who we hit it off with personally and I think that helped us because ultimately, they were the ones hitting “record”.
PnP – I know you were following the twitter feeds about the show, do you feel that you were treated fairly by the audience?
FS – All in all, sure. In the world of social media it’s easy for people to point fingers and laugh or criticize. We received a lot of positive feedback and only minor negative comments that didn’t last long at all (at least from what I saw).
PnP – After watching the segment is there anything you would have changed had you known how it would be shown?
FS – Absolutely… hind sight is always 20/20. But, at the same time, I did not give up more then I planned to, they treated me with respect (other than the score), we had fun and we learned a lot. These thoughts that I have about things that I wish were on the show, are only setting the stage for upcoming YouTube videos that I can do myself. Mike and I have already talked about that.
PnP – Does National Geographic or Doomsday Preppers provide you with any financial or technical assistance to prepare for the filming of your segment?
FS – No
PnP – Does National Geographic or Doomsday Preppers provide any payment or gifts in exchange for your involvement in the show?
FS – No payment was received at all. As for gifts, I do not know about other people who have been on the show but I personally resisted being on the show for a long time so they did connect me to one of their sponsors to get a good deal on some things.
PnP – I have felt after watching the show since its initial airing that Doomsday Preppers puts too much emphasis on purchasing Wise stored foods. Several people commented that they noticed a Wise Foods container in your segment. Was that yours or placed specifically for product placement by the show staff?
FS – Wise Foods is a SPONSOR of the show. Again its tv and people have to remember that you do not put a tv show on for free, it isn’t YouTube. It’s like any other tv show out there, you have sponsors who buy ad space during that tv show. How can that be wrong or something people are confused about? It sounds like people want this show to be their life line and teacher. I think people worry too much about little things like that. If you don’t use or like Wise foods, so what, ignore the commercial. Anyway, I had signed on as a potential distributor for Wise as I was looking at several emergency food suppliers for my own use. I spoke to my contact at Wise and I told them that I was going to be on the show and I told them that I was interested in trying their product. Did they rush to get me some of my buckets in time for my show to air, of course! why wouldn’t they? Was I going to try the product already? Yes. I have since decided against being a distributor for them due to their locked in pricing points and the high cost associated with the product. I am wanting to find a product that is more definitively GMO and MSG free if possible, more organic and natural. But they were very good to me and helpful at my request. Now, I can NOT speak for the other people on the show but either way, I don’t see any conspiracy here other then what every other tv show out there does on every other channel.
PnP – Did Practical Preppers review all of your preps or only those that appeared in the show?
FS – There were preps that we did not offer them to review. We went in to it with the idea that we hold in everyday life, share some of the stuff that others need to know, but keep your jewel preps to yourself. There were only a couple of things we did show them that did not make it on the show.
PnP – In the show I felt you were scored quite low. Did Practical Preppers actually come on location to score your preps?
FS – No. They are a separate group who is hired to review the information ahead of time based on information you give them. At the time I completed their questions, I was still not sure I wanted to do the show and I was very hesitant to give too much information. However, I did give them the info on the water supply so I am still confused about that part of the score. Other parts of the score however, I think I would have scored higher if I had given more information.
PnP – You stated that Practical Preppers did not actually come to your location. Do you feel, as a prepper, that they can accurately ascertain your readiness and survivability without actually seeing your property, surroundings, environment and the context of your life?
FS – They certainly give you every opportunity to give them all of the information you wish to share with them. Obviously, there are certain things that would be easier to grade if they were on site but they do allow you to send photos, video etc along with your info sheet. To be honest, its a tv show, not a true assessment. I think if anyone was relying on anyone connected to a tv show to give them true hard core guidance and input, they are being ridiculous and naive.These guys can only assess based on the info you give them and they do have their scoring points posted for your review so if you want to ensure a high score, you can make sure you include info that they assess on.
PnP – If National Geographic (or another network) were to approach you about a new show, one that deals with Homesteading and Self-Sustainable living but NOT doomsday scenarios, would you be interested in appearing on that show?
FS – I would consider it for sure, but the odds I would go forward would only be about 50/50 simply because I think I have put enough out there about my homestead. I have previously received contact from people out there who have informed me that they prep by watching preppers and planning to attack them. The more I show my homestead on the television, the more I open myself for people to study it and plan against me. I personally see the public as more the conspiracy then the advertisers of a show.
The email below is a response from Freda in which she imparts her feelings about Doomsday Preppers and Practical Preppers. Freda was assuming that I was critical of the show and Practical Preppers, which I am, and wanted to ensure that I understood her position completely. I believe the email is a fantastic view of how the rest of us (preppers) should act, myself included.
—————– Email Starts Here ——————
Perhaps not the answers you were looking for.. but I happened to have a very good experience with the show in general. I just have nothing negative that I can rightfully say. I however went in to the whole thing understanding realistically that the show is for entertainment, not true education. I think the fascination people have with slamming shows like this is that they are looking for education and direction from Hollywood, not true sources. I noticed on your website so much good information, and a platform to reach so many people who truly want this type of information. It is people like YOU who need to put this desired education out there, not Hollywood. And people should remember that no tv show is going to give them all of the answers they are looking for. The show is only showing examples of others out there who are showing their “toys” and sharing/showing only those parts of it they wish to share with the world. I have noticed also that many people who have been on the show suddenly feel they are experts and above all other preppers. This is a mistake on the participant’s side. There are also people on the show who claim to have felt like the show made them look crazy, or scary, or showed things they didn’t approve them to show. I believe the camera can only show what you allow it to see. There is that moment where you realize that there is no turning back, it’s going to air.. period.. and you have regrets and almost a type of stage fright. You feel pretty helpless in that moment and think about things you said or did in the excitement that you wish you hadn’t.. and now all of your friends are about to see you on the big tv screen! It would be easy at that time to start saying you didn’t mean it like that, or you didn’t show it like that.. but really, they can only show what you show them. Perhaps that is one reason that people felt I didn’t appear too crazy… I didn’t try to show them my extreme side. In fact, I watched and thought “yep, that is me whether I like it or not”.
Preppers will learn more from your review of the preppers on the show, then they will ever learn just watching the show. It should be seen as that and nothing more, a platform from which to begin the conversations with those who truly want to know and learn. There are a number of viewers out there who truly only watch the show for entertainment. They are NOT preppers, they only like to watch other people who fear or struggle with something. Like the show Hoarders.. people watch it who are not hoarders just so they can see inside the mind of someone not like them. Those people want the Hollywood, the true preppers and the people who are truly interested in the lifestyle would do better to plug in to websites like yours or on to YouTube where other real people are sharing their real experiences in raw form. Uncut, not diluted with sponsors, and not set up for channel ratings.
Many people say that the show has made all Preppers look crazy. If that’s true, so what. Let them think we are crazy if they want, if that is what entertains them. If they don’t take it seriously, then they won’t remember who we are when the lights go out and they won’t find us! But, I feel that whole thought process is wrong. I think that people say Preppers are crazy the same way a bully on the playground calls another boy fat.. it’s their own insecurity and confusion. It is their own way of making themselves feel better about not being able to take care of themselves in a grid down scenario. I think that humans in general, are still animals deep inside. We all have the desire to live and thrive.. but society has told us that this means different things then it truly does. There are many of us who fight that internal battle. We say “I want to store some water in my basement, but my friends will think I am crazy because society tells me that there will be water there in my sink or at the store tomorrow” so no water is stored. They say “I wish I had already gone to the store a few days ago and bought more than 3 to 5 day’s worth of food instead of having to go out today one day in front of this major storm coming. Now I have to fight the crowds.. but if I had bought that food the other day my spouse or my kids would make fun of me and call me a hoarder!”.. so there they are in line at the store trying to buy a loaf of bread. In many unfortunate ways, those of us who throw off the veil of societies rules and follow our truer animal instincts of survival (like a squirrel storing up nuts), rely on the fact that those people are not buying our stockpile in front of us. Survival of the fittest is an ugly true normal natural line in the sand that scares the hell out of those more worried about societies view of them. Their safe zone for the time being requires them to mock Preppers. And that is something that we all must accept, and understand, and find the positive side of. To me, the show merely opens the doors of discussion for those on the fence to then come to us all for more information and direction when they are ready. I see the show as nothing more than that. And it is doing that for me already. I am getting contacted by many people who have question, legitimate questions… people who may not have felt comfortable or needy of information about a boat, or a silo or a bunker.. I gave an option out there to those who simply want to live closer to the land and the mountains and history thereby creating a means to survive in any situation that we may face in these troubling times. Many people realize that there are so many things on the verge of breaking (economy, world politics, germs/viruses, societal collapse, hyperinflation, nukes, etc) that SOMETHING is going to eventually give way. These people who are sincere in their desire to feed that inner animal instinct versus societies rules need to feel a warm fuzzy welcome feeling from us who are willing to share and help instead of hearing us tear each other apart at any step of the way. And that is my mission, and that is my direction.