Self-sustenance

Friday, Feb 27, 2009

Russia's family gardens currently produce over half of the country's agricultural output, while using only 6% of agricultural lands in the country. The collective output of family gardeners represents 2.3% of Russia's GDP and over $14 billion worth of products each year. With over 30 million families (approx. two thirds of the Russian population) -- both urban and rural -- owning a garden-plot, the Russian gardening movement represents what may be the most extensive self-provisioning effort anywhere in the industrially developed world. Despite this prominence, household gardening has been viewed as a fairly recent phenomenon, a mere adjunct to the country's industrial agriculture, and a temporary response to the economic hardships of Russia's transition to capitalism and market-based economy. I argue, however, that contemporary gardening is Russia's primary agriculture -- both in its economic significance and as a practice based on a millennia-long tradition of living a simple and self-sufficient, land- based life. A study of the current status of family agriculture, Russia's agrarian history, and the results of my 2006 survey of 1,500 families in the Vladimir region of Russia confirm that the significance of gardens goes well beyond the production of foodstuffs, and that gardens perform a wide range of economic, social and cultural functions.

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Based on the results, family gardening can be seen as a highly sustainable, diversified and culturally important practice, which needs to be given due consideration by scholars and policy-makers alike. The results of this research are highly relevant for America and other industrially developed countries. Russia's example shows that a highly decentralized, small-scale, sustainable, and culturally rich food- production system is possible today on a national scale. Russian gardeners are not dependent on government subsidies, petroleum availability, hired labor, or complex and industrialized food distribution networks, and demonstrate the viability -- and the benefits -- of family agriculture.

The Socioeconomic And Cultural Significance Of Food Gardening In The Vladimir Region Of Russia, Dr. Leonid Evgenievitch Sharashkin, University of Missouri, May 2008.