Russia’s small-scale organic agriculture model may hold the key to feeding the world

Imagine living in a country where having the freedom to cultivate your own land, tax-free and without government interference, is not only common but also encouraged for the purpose of promoting individual sovereignty and strong, healthy communities.

Now imagine that in this same country, nearly all of your neighbors also cultivate their own land as part of a vast network of decentralized, self-sustaining, independent “eco-villages” that produce more than enough food to feed the entire country.

You might be thinking this sounds like some kind of utopian interpretation of historical America, but the country actually being described here is modern-day Russia.

It turns out that Russia’s current agricultural model is one that thrives as a result of the millions of small-scale, family-owned and -operated, organically-cultivated farms that together produce the vast majority of the food consumed throughout the country.

Russia organic farm

Do Russians have more food freedom, independence than Americans?

A far cry from the unsustainable, chemical-dependent, industrialized agriculture system that dominates the American landscape today, Russia’s agricultural system, which is not technically a system at all, is run by the people and for the people. Thanks to government policies there that actually encourage autonomous family farming, rather than cater to the greed of chemical and biotechnology companies like they do here in the states, the vast majority of Russians are able and willing to grow their own food on privately-owned family plots known as “dachas.”

According to The Bovine, Russia’s Private Garden Plot Act, which was signed into law back in 2003, entitles every Russian citizen to a private plot of land, free of charge, ranging in size from 2.2 acres to 6.8 acres. Each plot can be used for growing food, or for simply vacationing or relaxing, and the government has agreed not to tax this land. And the result of this effort has been phenomenal, as Russian families collectively grow practically all the food they need.

“Essentially, what Russian gardeners do 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,” writes Leonid Sharashkin, editor of the English version of the The Ringing Cedars series, a book collection that explains the history behind this effort to reconnect people with the earth and nature. (

Backyard garden

Most food in Russia comes from backyard gardens

Back in 1999, it was estimated that 35 million small family plots throughout Russia, operated by 105 million people, or 71 percent of the Russian population, were producing about 50 percent of the nation’s milk supply, 60 percent of its meat supply, 87 percent of its berry and fruit supply, 77 percent of its vegetable supply, and an astounding 92 percent of its potato supply. The average Russian citizen, in other words, is fully empowered under this model to grow his own food, and meet the needs of his family and local community.

“Bear in mind that Russia only has 110 days of growing season per year — so in the U.S., for example, gardeners’ output could be substantially greater. Today; however, the area taken up by lawns in the U.S. is two times greater than that of Russia’s gardens — and it produces nothing but a multi-billion-dollar lawn care industry.”

The backyard gardening model is so effective throughout Russia that total output represents more than 50 percent of the nation’s entire agricultural output. Based on 2004 figures, the collective value of all the backyard produce grown in Russia is $14 billion, or 2.3 percent of Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) — and this number only continues to increase as more and more Russians join the eco-village movement.


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  1. MOA had Dr. Leo Leonid Sharashkin, editor of the English version of the The Ringing Cedars series, speak at the 2013 MOA Annual Organic Conference. Dr. Leo is an amazing person and speaker, and brought several of his books to sell and donated one, “Growing Vegetables with a Smile”, written by Nikolay Kurdyumov and edited by Dr Leo to the benefit auction which helps offset the cost of the conference. I purchased the book and used the methods outlined in the book in my small hoophouse which has 6 planting beds that are 3′ X 8′ long each or total of 144 sq ft growing space. In those beds, I planted 8 plants of potatoes, beets, bok choy, lettuce blends, basil, 4 cucumber plants, strawberries, garlic, carrots, kohlrabi, 3 tomato plants. I produced 50 pounds of potatoes, enough lettuce, beets, carrots and kohlrabi to last all spring, ate cucumbers until I was begging to know what to do with them and canned 12 qts of pickles, ate tomatoes until I finally stared producing the outdoors ones and pulled the vines to plant swiss chart, lettuces, etc all over again. It was amazing the amount of food produced in such a small space. I wholeheartedly recommend everyone purchasing and implementing the methods outlined in this book. The Russians are light years ahead of US in knowledge and reverence for the land and Mother Nature and in understanding how the interaction of many different types of plants planted as a group interact to produced more than the same amount of plants that have been planted singularly in rows as our modern agriculture promotes.

  2. Kuba, it’s a big fuss because at one time, America did the same thing, but we have been forced under an industrial agriculture model. The freedoms that you Czechs and Russians, and others in the former USSR, were once the same freedoms that we had here in America. But it is no more. We have done a complete 180 degree turn towards Communism, whereas you folks have done a complete 180 degree towards being Republics. I no longer want to be an American citizen, if I cannot live as my grandparents did… free to do what they wanted on their 600-acre wheat farm they homesteaded here in North Dakota, USA. I think a lot of people here in the USA feel the same as I do, and want out, or a revolution is coming to fight back for what has been taken away from us. We don’t have the privilege of consuming raw milk, or milk products. If anyone sells it to us, they go to jail. Here in North Dakota, dairy farmers can sell raw milk to people, but it is stipulated that it go to feed our animals, not us humans who would get more benefit from it. I raise my own chickens, and collect the eggs, but I wonder for how much longer I’ll be allowed to do it. I want to have my own backyard garden, such as you do, on your dachas, but I’m fearful of the state coming to confiscate and destroy it, as they have done to others here.

  3. In most communities, other than a few big cities, the overwhelming majority of Americans live in houses with yards. While many communities limit what can be done in the front yard, few regulate the back yard (which is often enclosed by a high fence anyway). In short, while Americans may not individually have enough land to grow crops to completely feed themselves, Americans could grow much more produce than they do now. Why don’t they? Because they find it more economically advantageous to pay someone else to do it for them. They prefer to spent their time on other things. In other words, government handouts of land in the US would result in places for homes and yards, not gardens.

  4. This is amazing! Being from the states, this is just about the opposite of what’s encouraged. This is only my personal perspective, but because special interest groups have so much financial influence over politicians they have them pass laws that promote factory farming and discourage self-sustainable practices. Now we have a problem in America where so many people are now dependent upon this system and its so corrupt that people are starving in the streets and our carbon footprint has multiplied exponentially. Just the other day I was reading about a city ordinance in a location not far from where I live where a couple was being fined for growing vegetables in their backyard. Apparently the city forbids growing ‘obstructive vegetation’ which applies to whatever they decide at the moment. This couple is taking the city to court over the ordeal and they should! How can we Americans not see that our limited vision with trying to make EVERYTHING about money is destroying not only ourselves but the world. Big props to the Russian people for making this a priority.

  5. I´m Czech and I can assure you this is widely spred not only in Russia but all over the “eastern” Europe and the western as well… don´t know what the fuzz is about :-)

    • The fuzz is because here in America, we can’t. Government is destroying private farmers products and banning gardens in yards. Such a shame.. Bravo to those countries that have this civil right…

  6. I am presently studying in Russia. I can assure you that you are 100% right ! You can easily buy natural products like raw milk products which are absolutely fantastic ! And what incredible taste ! A lot of Russians, that remember hard times, have a small datcha with a small garden to cultivate staples foods like potatoes, carrots, cabbadge and fruits. Its a wondeful tradtion because the food is imcomparably fresh, healthy and tasty.

  7. Wow! Now that’s inspirational! Great article!

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