When it comes to preps, this is the meaty one. These are the preps that turn families into cultures, clans into nations. Long term preps, in my eyes, are the ones that last forever.
Granted, forever is a very long time- considering that, with proper storage and care, even medium term preps can last years. But for the sake of a nebulous definition, long term preps are the ones that take effect after the first year goes by without help arriving.
The thing about long term, of course, is the cost; it's remarkably small, because most of the things I consider long term are skills, not supplies. Skills such as gardening and farming will never wear out, though the tools eventually will. Having a good, solid shed that will last years is a commodity; knowing how to fell trees and build your own is a legacy skill. Medium term is having a good chainsaw and a supply of fuel and oil, but long term is having a two man crosscut saw and a good axe. A rifle has a very long span of usefulness, but knowing how to select a proper branch and craft a bow is a permanent skill, and one that can be taught to generations.
With the industrial revolution came an ever increasing amount of specialization. These days, few outside of our little community of preppers and rugged individualists maintain the skills that were common in this country even one hundred years ago. Even more concerning is the level of skill loss in the last two generations. Skills that our parents and grandparents took for granted, some as mundane as cooking and vehicle maintenance, are lost on our contemporaries, and the next generation is abjectly unaware that these things ever existed. Food comes from the store, electricity comes from the plug, and if something goes wrong you can always hire someone to fix it. Specialization works well for us, in an ever increasingly technical and complicated system. It does, however, come at a cost; skills that were once common become rare, and skills that are supplanted by advancements in technology are lost. I refer to these, quite often, as Legacy Skills.
Of all the various legacy skills I have tried to accumulate, none is so critical as food supply. Gardening, drying, canning, and preserving are skills that will certainly outlast even the longest stock of MREs and canned foods. That is why I've taken to gardening with such fervor since my little family moved here to Oregon. Do I grow enough food to sustain my family on only that which I raise myself? Of course not- it would take a great deal more garden space than I maintain to do that. However, the plants are not the only thing being cultivated. The skill is cultivated, as well; like the garden itself, skill must be maintained, fertilized, and tended, lest it lose ground to weeds and disarray. This is why medium term preps are important- they get you through until you can stand on your own. A good supply of food is the bridge between a supply disruption and the next planting season. Without the knowledge of gardening and farming, you will surely reach the end of your supply someday.
Other than gardening, there are many legacy skills in food preparation. Hunting and fishing skills come to mind here, which can become very important in a long term situation. A couple of notes here- I'm a lousy fisherman. My presence alone seems to cure all fish in the area of any nascent hunger, and thus my attempts at learning to fish have not born out well. This is, of course, good for the fish, but not for the fisherman. At hunting, I have some success; hunting, however, is a skill that requires time, patience, and dedication to apply. Much as with the Bug Out Bag concept (some of you may have read my Bad Things Happen to Good People Bag post) I note a certain tendency of people to believe that they, without any prior experience, will remove themselves to the wild with their 80 lb duffel bag and live by hunting and gathering. I wish them all the luck, of course, but I find it suitably apt to TRY these sorts of things prior to surviving on them alone. Even successful hunters have legacy skills to pursue, however. Once you have killed your prized food source, there may be no butcher to take your haul to, no freezer to place your meat in. Dressing, skinning, butchering, salting, curing and drying are all skills with a certain learning curve, and I experiment with them both for enjoyment and practice.
Food is only one aspect of true long term prep, of course, but it illustrates the concept. Medium term preps are a vital part of surviving a critical situation, but they are still an exhaustable resource. Long term preps and legacy skills can be passed along to children, shared with friends and neighbors, and used to recover a suitable standard of living even in a loss of services that lasts for years. Not only that, but they are often a sustainable solution- with only a little more effort, one can utilize long term preps in a medium term situation and greatly extend the length of one's provisions. Long term preps are the skills and tools to rebuild the very foundations of our way of life- they are the tools we used to build these United States. With a little preparation, they can sustain one in relative comfort and prosperity through trials that will break the very bonds of our culture. They are the form of preps that are not lessened by their use, only honed and increased.