Apr 092010

Russian Dacha

In contemporary Russia 66% of the country’s households (35 million families) produce over 50% of Russia’s total agricultural output.  This is typically done on small allotments known as a dacha. Urban families flee to their dachas on weekends and in summer. On these small plots they use a kind of permaculture technique growing annuals and perennials, fruits and vegetables. The word dachnik is used interchangeably with gardener.
This is often referred to as the ‘dacha movement’ but the gardening tradition in Russia goes back 1000 years.

“Russia’s household agriculture — possibly the most extensive in any industrially developed nation — suggests that in developed countries highly decentralized, small-scale food production is possible on a national scale. This practice therefore warrants close attention, since the degree of self-sufficiency in a number of food staples attained by Russian house- holds points to the reemergence of a distinct, highly localized food regime, on a nation- scale level.”

As the United States moves into a transition period away from cheap oil we have a lot to learn from other countries such as Cuba and Russia. Clearly, it is possible to raise much of our food in our yards.

My internet addiction led me this week to a Ph’d thesis by a Russian academic titled THE SOCIOECONOMIC AND CULTURAL SIGNIFICANCE OF FOOD GARDENING IN THE VLADIMIR REGION OF RUSSIA by Leonid Sharashkin
The cultural differences in gardening in the US vs Russia are dramatic because of the thousand year tradition of gardening there. Mr. Sharashkin points out that in the US during times of war or economic stress home gardens flourish in the US. But in normal times statistics like the following apply:

“Russia has 18.8 million acres of family gardens, which produce US$14 billion worth of products per year, equivalent to over 50% of Russia’s agricultural output, or 2.3% of the country’s GDP (Rosstat 2007b). The United States, on the other hand, have 27.6 million acres of lawn, which produce a US$30 billion per year lawn care industry (Bormann, Balmori, and Geballe 2001).

In the Vladimir region of Russia, gardeners spend, on average, 17 hrs per week (during the growing season) tending their gardens. Surveys from other regions (Clarke et al. 1999) offer similar results. By comparison, Americans, on average, spend 32 hrs per week watching television (Nielsen Media Group 2006).”

Appalling when you stop to think about it.

There’s much to digest in Mr. Sharashkin’s theis and I will continue to wade through it.


  5 Responses to “Dachnik”

  1. I enjoyed this and the dissertation. One important point to undertand is that the Russians lives suck. Their life is so miserable that the Dacha is their one and only affordable outlet. And of course it provides them with food they cannot afford to buy even if it were available in the stores. So the point is in order to achieve this in the U.S. all you need to do is imporvish us all eliminate TV’s, cars, bowling alleys, baseball, and anything “good” in our life. Then maybe we would be willing to spend our summers gardening.

  2. Russians would feed families while Americans would slowly, hungrily watch dandelions emerge from their pesticided lawns….

  3. Wow hmm, good to know.

    17 hours/wk spent gangening is not what distinguishes our technical standards of living. Already most US employment has been make-work fluff, i.e. parking security, law, video entertainment, telemarketing… If we had had any sense, we’d have the same standard of living on 20 hour work weeks. Instead, in this post industrial age, we have people struggling to hold three jobs because labor is no longer required to support our essential needs.

    There’s no reason we can’t have dachas and comfortable technology at the same time.

    We spend a lot of our time learning competing technology with brief life spans and poor interconnectivity. For 70 years you could plug any turntable into any amp. Now one has to make sure that hardware, peripherals, and operating system are all within three years of each other. French Citroën car engineers, and now the Chinese computer/phone engineers have a better system, agree on one technolgy standard to suit the next five to 20 years, then save ideas for the next generation of ground up redesign.

    I had a co-worker from Russia much intrigued by me and my interests in such things as Rennaissance Faires. By his reckoning, american culture was a band of clones, all predictably watching the SuperBowl, in contrast to the local folk diversity he was familiar with.

    I live in LA,CA (not for long), where the dacha concept would require a much different means. Here we would have to rip out every other boulevard to have any farmable land. I had many supllementing ideas including bike paths, solar pre-heating, and tidal generator desalinators running along the boulevards, but one part is for certain, it would require massive infrastructure replacement. For those with property already, the dacha life makes very good sense.

  4. […] Dacha with Home GardenBy Randy Smith: http://transitionlummiisland.com/dachnik […]

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