Dacha Gardens, by Sara Pool
Russia has an amazing model for urban agriculture, obtaining over 50% agricultural products from family garden plots. The backyard gardening model uses around 3% arable land, and accounts for roughly 92% of all Russian potatoes, 87% of all fruit 77% vegetables, and 59% all Russian meat according to the Russian Federal State Statistic Service.
The term Dacha comes from the term “landed estate,” and generally refers to an urban garden. Dacha gardens have been around since the Bolshevik Revolution, and have been feeding Russians for over 1,000 years. Since these urban plots are too small for farm machinery, all these gardens are hand tilled, often using crop rotation and solely organic methods, and are ‘intensive’ out of necessity.
This model is not just meant for feeding one family, but is an important part of the local market economy both rurally and in urban areas. 31% of rural gardeners reported their garden was their major source of income. This percentage is lower in urban areas, where excess food is often bartered or traded for services and cannot be accounted in simple economic terms, though is not less valuable. Remaining produce is simply given to neighbors and friends out of a sense of abundance, and accounts for a national sense of food security.
Another advantage of neighborhood food production is the impact it has on lowering inflation for food prices, since large scale agriculture is competing with a local food market. Farm subsidies, food importation, and pesticide/antibiotic use is also lowered with this method, not to mention the social impacts backyard gardening provides to Russians. For more information, check out this comprehensive report on Russian Dacha Gardening.
Welcome blog writer, Sara Pool to the fold!
Sara Pool’s parents swear she was born under a cabbage patch, and has spent most of her life in the garden or wandering around in the woods. A former journalist and landscaper turned mushroom hunter and forager, Sara continues to raise rabbits and grow vegetables wherever she can. She moved from Idaho to form her own company in 2008 with a few packets of seeds and a dream. She has since designed and built what feels like a zillion gardens, conducted workshops, and led tours all over the West Coast. Sara also served on the Portland Multnomah Food Policy Council and co-chaired the Wild Foods Work Group.