In the 1990's, the Russian dacha remained a major food supplier: in 1997, at least 38 percent of Russians supplied themselves with food grown on their dacha plots. The relative prosperity of the Putin-inspired hydrocarbon decade lulled many Russians into a false sense of security. They started viewing their dachas as a real country place of rest, and took to growing flowers for enjoyment. In the current economic crisis this trend has witnessed a sudden reversal. Yuri Alekseyev, the director of Semko-Junior, a major Russian seed trader, said that currently some 90 percent of Russian potatoes and 75 percent of its vegetables are produced on dacha plots (www.news.ru, March 20).Tumanov expects seed sales to grow further, as "not everyone has woken up yet." He estimates Russia's annual seed and plant market at no less than $1 billion. "Unfortunately," he lamented, "the land that is legally privately owned does not amount to more than a fraction of one percent. It is these fractions that help feed the country" (www.news.ru, March 20).American workers have also recently rediscovered the option of growing their own food. On June 16, First Lady Michelle Obama, aided by local schoolchildren harvested a crop of shell peas and spinach from her vegetable garden on the south lawn, which she had planted on March 20. It is the first White House vegetable garden since World War II. The first lady is growing 55 types of vegetable in the 1,100-square-foot garden, to set an example to the nation. That hardly seems to compare with Russia's crisis homegrown food market -perhaps the only Russian industry that is second to none in the world.Americans do not have to supply their country's food market from tiny plots that account for only a small fraction of privately owned land: nor do they face the prospect of this self-supply in extremis developing into a perennial and chronic national phenomenon.
I wonder - are we safe? Is owning a small plot and learning how to grow food a good investment?