Can Russia’s Garden Plot Model Feed the World, Organically?
In 1999, 35 million small family plots produced 90% of Russia’s potatoes, 77% of vegetables, 87% of fruits, 59% of meat, 49% of milk — way to go, people! And since 1999, it seems things have only gotten better when it comes to small-scale agriculture in Russia.
In 2003 the Russian President signed into law a further “Private Garden Plot Act” enabling Russian citizens to receive free of charge from the state, plots of land in private inheritable ownership. Sizes of the plots differ by region but are between one and three hectares each [1 hectare = 2.2 acres]. Produce grown on these plots is not subject to taxation. A further subsequent law to facilitate the acquisition of land for gardening was passed in June 2006. (according to a footnote in “Who We Are” by Vladimir Megre, pg. 42)
What other country raises so much of their food in such sustainable, organic, and non-GMO modes of production? While the European Union is setting the stage for agribusiness takeovers of major market share from traditional peasant farmers in places like Poland, Russia seems to be one of the few countries on the global stage moving so clearly in a sustainable and healthy direction.
And while organic farming gets a lot of media attention in North America, the fraction of agricultural land actually under organic cultivation is miniscule at 0.6%. The EU is a bit better at 4%. In spite of the minimal land area under organic cultivation, the movement for healthy agriculture in North America is under increasing siege by government “regulators”.
So what’s behind this wonderful new revival of Russian peasant agriculture? Could it be as simple as one person — Anastasia — a 40-year-old woman from Siberia who befriended a traveling Russian entrepreneur? Based on material Anastasia gave him, that entrepreneur, Vladimir Megre, has published nine books which have become underground best-sellers in Russia.
One of Anastasia’s imaginations, which Megre describes in considerable detail, is a future in which more and more people live on small (one-hectare) homesteads, which she calls Kin’s Domains. There they cultivate the earth to grow trees and raise vegetables and fruits of exceptional nutritional value, with enough surplus to sell. Anastasia imagines a national culture based on simple rural life in eco-villages like these, in which values of health, love, truth, freedom and beauty take precedence. Eventually she sees this leading to a booming business in eco-tourism as people from all over the world want to come to Russia and catch with their own eyes a glimpse of what humanity and the world can become.
Anastasia, however, is not just a simple peasant woman. In fact, she seems to be something of a spiritual adept, in the ancient Vedic tradition. In addition to her suggestions for agriculture and nutrition, she shares with author Vladimir Megre, insights on subjects as diverse as statecraft and the education of children. The books are an enjoyable and educational read. Though it’s sometimes tiresome to wade through Megre’s personal struggles with the material, I don’t think there’s anything I’ve seen yet that quite compares with what Anastasia has put before us in these few slim volumes. She describes her mission as helping people find their way through “the dark forces’ window of time”. And that’s something we could sure use some help with. Thanks Anastasia!
Here’s an excerpt from one report on the Anastasia material from Scott Fraser, writing for RealitySandwich.com:
“….Vladimir Megre, a Siberian entrepreneur, is the author of The Ringing Cedars Series. The story begins with Vladimir on a commercial trade run through some remote communities of Siberia. He starts to build an interest in the economic value of the Siberian cedar, and then pursues reports of a “ringing cedar,” an anomalous tree that stores cosmic energies and, after many hundreds of years, begins to ring. On his journey, Vladimir meets Anastasia, a young woman who has grown up in the Siberian wilderness. She brings Vladimir back to her forest glade and shares her advice with him regarding the raising of children, living a natural lifestyle, and illuminating the spirit of Creation that rests within every person.
For Vladimir, living a few days in Anastasia’s world is full of shocking and mystifying experiences. Humbled by the simple accommodations of a grass-lined dugout and not even a fire, Vladimir witnesses the abilities of Anastasia’s visionary “Ray,” as well as her astonishing somersaults, swings, and soaring through the forest canopy. Both the wild animals and the plants in her domain are seemingly tamed, observes Vladimir, as he watches the squirrels bring her food, the cedars shower her in pollen, and witnesses a show of acrobatics with the denizen bear!
As Vladimir’s critical interest in these phenomena grow, Anastasia stresses the importance of the wisdom she offers, offering the vision of an emerging culture re-united with Nature. Letting the children grow up in orchards and gardens full of our love is the key to reclaiming humanity’s Creator role on earth, and this new Age of Co-Creation will be realized when we empower our dreams with the purity of thought that comes from living a natural life.
This is the story of The Ringing Cedars. Whether one accepts it as fact or fiction, it is playing a massive role in transforming the culture of Russia, and in various communities around the world.
Dachniks is a term for the cottage-gardeners of Russia, and we become very familiar with their story in reading Anastasia. Leonid Sharashkin, editor of The Ringing Cedars Series’ English editions and a doctoral student in Agroforestry, is able to share with us the massive impacts of this gardening movement in the larger context of Russia’s agricultural economy:
“Currently, with 35 million families (70% of Russia’s population) working 8 million [hectares] of land and producing more than 40% of Russia’s agricultural output, this is in all likelihood the most extensive microscale food production practice in any industrially developed nation.
“According to official statistics, in 1999 more than 35 million families (105 million people, or 71% of country’s population) owned a dacha or a subsidiary plot and were cultivating it… The 35 million plots of these families occupy more than 8 million hectares and provide 92% of Russia’s harvest of potatoes, 77% of its vegetables, 87% of berries and fruits, 59.4% of meat, and 49.2% of milk.”
“When you look at the contribution of gardening to the national economy as a whole, it’s even more stunning,” Sharashkin said. “In 2004, gardeners’ output amounted to 51% (by value) of the total agricultural output of the Russian Federation. This represents 384 billion rubles (approx. US$14 billion!!!), or 2.3% of Russia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). This is greater, for example, than the contribution of the whole of electric power generation industry (317 bn rubles), significantly greater than all of forestry, wood-processing and pulp and paper industry (180 bn), significantly greater than the coal (54 bn), natural gas (63 bn) and oil refining (88 bn) industries taken together. The share of food gardening in national agriculture has increased from 32% in 1992 to over 50% by 2000.”
“Essentially, what Russian gardeners do,” he concludes, “is demonstrate that gardeners can feed the world – and you do not need any GMOs, industrial farms, or any other technological gimmicks to guarantee everybody’s got enough food to eat. Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year – so in the US, for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today, however, the area taken up by lawns in the US is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens – and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.”