Only a 110-day growing season and they’re producing enough food to feed half of Russia. In the middle of a charming (if somewhat fey) story about Russia’s Ringing Cedars cult books, I found embedded some amazing statistics. While Susan has written before about
Moscow’s botanical gardens and their amazing contributions to their communities and the country’s botanical heritage, I had not heard before what a thriving home garden culture Russia has.
According to Vladimir Megre, the author of the books, over 35 million families (70% of Russia’s population) produce 40% of Russia’s agricultural output on their garden plots/dachas, providing 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. I’m pretty much quoting verbatim because the stats are so impressive. (And some fact-checking bears this out, with caveats.) We use twice the space the Russians use for gardening for our lawns, which produce … well, not much, though they do support a large and I suppose lucrative lawn care industry.
The Ringing Cedars books, which first appeared in the 90s, advocate a return to the land and the forest, (specifically the forests of Siberia in one of them—brrr). Apparently, the books have reinforced the already-ingrained dacha culture, encouraging home farming even more. This is very different from my inner vision of Russia, which generally features a cold, gray, urban scene, dominated by decaying 60s-era institutional culture and lots of people drinking vodka. (They probably have the same vision of Buffalo, with some tweaks.) The general economic picture for Russia still does have a gray hue; if home gardeners are doing well, it sure doesn’t look like the big farmers are, as outmoded equipment and out-of-sight fuel prices make subsidies the only solution. But it does look like a lot of Russians are better at feeding themselves sustainably than we are.
Wondering about the ringing cedars? They are cedars so old that they have gathered enough energy to create a ringing sound.
Thanks to mentee Ron for the HT.