DACHA

I firmly believe that a collective culture of urban gardening can change the world. Think of the global impact of more people eating food that has not been transported, has not grown in a ploughed field that has been treated with and sprayed with chemicals.

We know that our earth cannot indefinitely support the increasing demand for food, we know that arable land is being destroyed by chemical fertilisers and millions of acres of farmland are now desert. We know that our earth is being stripped of its finite supply of minerals to create the fertiliser that ultimately destroys our land. We know that more than 40% of food grown commercially is wasted before it even gets to our homes. Surely small scale sustainable agriculture is the only solution to this catastrophic landslide that we are on?

So it all sounds amazing – grow food at home and save the world..but can it really happen? Is it feasible? I believe that it is, and there is a country – a very big country with the most unfavourable weather conditions to boot – that supports my belief and their results are astounding!

May I introduce Russia and something called Dacha. This is an urban gardening culture on a whole new level. 35 million Russian families, that’s about 105 million citizens, work a Dacha garden, this is a nationwide collective in the true sense of the word.

Here are some of the stats:

Only 3% of arable land in Russia comprises Dacha gardens, yet they produce over 50% of the country’s food. We are talking 50% of all food here, the fresh food numbers are astounding – 92% of the country’s potatoes, 87% of the berries and fruit, 77% of the vegetables, 59% of the meat and 49% of the milk are produced in Dacha gardens…those are some pretty impressive numbers.

There is clearly something to be learned here. This shows that highly decentralised small scale food production is not only possible, but practical; and that when practiced on a national scale it can drastically change the food industry in a country.

I am inspired by these facts, I can see the hint of a world where we are not all tied to the cycle of food shopping every three days at most.

Where and how does the change happen? In some cases, such as Russia and Cuba, a nationwide shift to sustainability is forced by an economic crisis, but we do not have to wait for that day to come. It starts with a change in conciousness, with careful consideration of where our food comes from, the quality of our food, and the cost to our earth of producing that food.

I often wonder about my ability to change the world, about how much impact my small efforts make in the grand scale of a mostly uncaring world, about whether my not using straws is going to make a global difference. But the point really is mindset – we need to rethink the idea that our earth is a bottomless pit of resources for us to exploit and start acting like what we do matters. Change in the philosophy of cultures always starts with individuals – individuals changing their hearts and minds. Isn’t that what grassroots action is?

I know that my food garden doesn’t change the face of commercial food producion; that my compost heap does not empty landfills, but my changed heart and mind may influence others and my hope is that that could spread and change the world….