|A woman in Russia working the garden at her dacha|
I've been reading a lot recently about Russian agriculture. More so than any country in the world, Russia's citizens actually grow most of their own food. They do it with traditional hand tools and they grow organically - and in a much shorter growing season than most Americans have available. They have a cultural model that could allow much of the world to feed itself and live healthier lives. While most industrialized nations depend on large scale agriculture, transportation to move it around and big grocery stores to store and sell it, most Russians actually feed themselves.
As a child of the Cold War era, I watched as American news offered abundant reports of the lack of goods available in what was then the USSR. We were shown footage of empty store shelves and how much these people had to do without. What we didn't know - or simply weren't told about - is that this way of life was simply customary and the people were only being deprived of what we Americans thought we couldn't live without.
Russia is a vast expanse of real estate that leaves many regions hard to reach, especially in the bitterly cold regions, making import and distribution of food and other goods difficult at best. Yet enterprising Russians have grown all or most of their own food for centuries and continue to do so today. It's easy to ban the unhealthy stuff like herbicides, pesticides and GMO's there because they're not hooked on them any way!
A DACHA is a small plot of land in the country where food is farmed. The great part of the concept is that Russian citizens need simply apply for an alotment and they get it free of charge. The dacha is property of the family, so much of this land has been farmed for centuries; first by Russian nobility on larger estates and now by the population at large.
Following the world wars and the devastating poverty they caused, average Russian citizens often had a hard time getting enough food in the cities where the population is concentrated, and sought to grow their own to extend their incomes. The dacha concept was reborn but carefully planned to provide barely enough land to produce food and usually not a large enough tract for even the tiniest house. And as there were no utilities available, these tiny cottages had only the barest essentials. School children were transported to the country to work on farms and educated about growing their own food, so the concept was ingrained early.
By the 1980's the dacha had gained huge popularity and millions of Russians left the city Friday evening to spend the weekend in the country gardening and spending time with their families communing with nature before returning to their city homes Sunday evening. Soil unspoiled by industry provided abundant harvests that weren't taxed by the government. Excess produce and other foods could be sold or bartered, further extending a family's limited income.
Wouldn't it be wonderful for our country and its citizens to adopt this practice? Families spending time in the country, enjoying nature and each other's company, producing their own healthy food and even perhaps some extra to share, barter or sell? I think the big agricultural farms and agricultural chemical manufacturers would hate if if this concept caught on in the United States... so let's do it!
Photo via Museumofthecity.org