Has anyone else seen this video? I watched it recently and I was wondering what other people thought about it. Some of you all might have actually been there at the 2007 conference in Hawaii.
I am pretty skeptical about all of it at this point. The graphs shown in the presentation seem a little unbelievable. They state that the Russian Monoculture system produces 43% of the Russian agricultural output on 83% of Russia's agricultural land. They also state that the Russian home gardeners produce 51% of the Russian agricultural output on 7% of Russia's agricultural land. I haven't been able to find any sources to actually back up these claims. I don't doubt that a polyculture system can produce more food than a monoculture system. It just seems the claims are overinflated.
Then, there are claims that the main subject of the books, Anastasia, comes from an ancient Vedic tradition living in Siberia and has the local "wild" creatures bring her nuts and mushrooms so she doesn't have to worry about food. This also has me a little skeptical. Any thoughts?
Here is a link to their website.
I agree with Jeni that sometimes there are more true messages for us in myths--spiritual or not--than there are in facts, so I think it works to take the stories however suits you best.
What I have seen reported as fact, however, is that Russians do grow a significantly large percentage of their own food on small lots.
At the risk of being tacky, I'm quoting myself from this permies resources forum thread.
Just today, I ran across an article reporting about food crops in Russia.
It reports this about Russia's main staple food (starch/grain):
Russian households (inclusive of both urban and rural) collectively grow 92% of country's potatoes on their garden-plots, the size of which is typically 600 square meters [0.15 acres] for urban households, and typically no more than 2500 square meters [0.62 acres] for rural households
So yes, that's a quote within a quote. The word "article" in the quote is a hyperlink that is still valid though in checking it now, I do see it's a blog quoting another blog and I haven't researched the actual source, a scientific publication.
If someone has a more formal source of how much of Russian food crops are produced on the household level, that might answer one piece of your question. And I do think a polyculture, organic, permaculture system can ultimately be much, much more productive than big ag monoculture. Literally in pounds or calories per acre, not just in terms of health value of food.
The spiritual piece of permaculture is something I personally shy away from, because my spirituality is very private, pragmatic (is that an oxymoron?!) and eclectic. Care of the people does involve care of the spirit in my mind, though each person's spiritual views are SO widely varied that I would prefer leaving it to each individual. As Jeni said,
So see if the ideas put forth resonate with you, you are the only one who can know what is true for you.
His basic notion is that people aren't as prepared for a hypothetical US economic/political collapse as they were for the Soviet one, because the US is better at inspiring confidence and people haven't worked hard enough to make other arrangements, among other reasons.
They state that the Russian Monoculture system produces 43% of the Russian agricultural output on 83% of Russia's agricultural land. They also state that the Russian home gardeners produce 51% of the Russian agricultural output on 7% of Russia's agricultural land. I haven't been able to find any sources to actually back up these claims. I don't doubt that a polyculture system can produce more food than a monoculture system. It just seems the claims are overinflated.
I saw similar figures for the old USSR, and the explanation was economic and political - people working on the large state farms really didn't care too much about production, but the small private plots got a lot of TLC ... so the yield per acre was much higher, and it made up a significant component of the old nation's diet. I think for wheat, private plots were not so important, but for vegetables, they were very important. There were stories about private gardeners who would hop on a train with two suitcases of tomatoes and sell them in Moscow on the black market, and they could make a few months salary per trip.
Jonathan_Byron wrote:private gardeners...would hop on a train with two suitcases of tomatoes and sell them in Moscow on the black market, and they could make a few months salary per trip.
That reminds me of the Cuban surgeons who make the bulk of their income butchering black-market chickens. I guess that's one way to keep your skills sharp.
Seriously, though, most sources I know of say industrial ag produces more food per unit labor, but less per unit land.
It's hard to explain just how awful and wretched the people were and still are in a place that had ostensibly collectivist rule for 3-4 generations. What we would call corruption and graft are the normal methods of business there. This is a place where teenagers go to mass burial sites from WWII to snort cocaine and prostitution is considered a glamour profession for young women.
The incredible inefficiencies in such a system pretty much guarantee the results like what is claimed.
Here's a tale of imaginary farm Ivan:
Ivan is a farmer that grows winter wheat in a plot. He only grows winter wheat. If he didn't grow only winter wheat, he could be sent to the gulags (inefficiency #1). He gets paid the same whether he plants a lot or plants a little. So Ivan, not seeing any advantage in working harder, plants the least he can get away with (#2). Come harvest time, Ivan gets the 50 year old tractor that sometimes works. He can't get new parts for it, so it spills as much as it harvest (#3). He puts the harvested wheat in sacks, and waits for the state run trucks to come pick up the wheat. The trucks break down and there aren't enough of them anyways (#4). While waiting, some of the wheat spoils (#5). The wheat that makes it on to the trucks is partially stolen by the truck driver (#6). The remaining wheat is then taken to the rail yard. The rail supervisor steals some of the wheat (#7) and puts the rest on the train. No one bothers to make sure the door is closed properly and the wind carries off some more wheat (#. The train stops before reaching the city because the tracks are damaged and more grain spoils (#9). The train finally gets to the city, and the party official in charge of distributing the wheat around the city to the party bakeries steals some for himself (#10). The wheat arrives at the bakery, and the baker puts a little aside for his own family and the special breads that he will need in the future to bribe the party officials later in time (#11). The ovens are old and don't work quite right, so some of the loaves don't rise properly (#12). The loaves are then available, but people aren't getting paid today, so the loaves sit there getting stale and moldy until people get paid and can go to the bakery (#13). There aren't enough bakeries to satisfy demand so there are long lines. By the time the last loaves are sold, more have gone bad (#14).
The particulars may be a bit different, but the general result is the same. This is what happens any time a group tries to centrally plan an economy.
Mollison says that prior to railroads, all the food to feed the million or so city dwellers in New York city at the time came from within seven miles, so that's (I think) a comparable figure.
While it is true that any meat or vegetables would have been harvested within a few miles of a city, they would have imported many tons of dried grain from far away. They would have also eaten quite a bit of salt- preserved meat from outlying areas.
Cities will probably never be self sufficient on their staple carbohydrates, but I think that everything else should be locally produced.