[permaculture] The Ringing Cedars, was Re: "We've got suicidal idiots in charge."

yarrow at sfo.com yarrow at sfo.com
Mon Jul 2 01:19:29 EDT 2007

At 3:02 PM +1000 7/2/07, Linda Shewan wrote:
...>In Russia a book called Anastasia was written by a ex-merchant called
>Vladimir Megre.

The following report appears in 'Agroforestry News,' Vol 14 Number 4,
August 2006.

The ringing cedars: trees for self-reliance

Micro scale farming is widespread in Russia where dacha gardens" are
responsible for 40% of the country's agricultural output. One of the
leading advocates of micro scale farming is Russian entrepreneur
Vladimir Megre who over the last decade has published eight books in
a series entitled The Ringing Cedars. The books advocate a return to
the land and rural living as consistent with Russia's traditional
millennia-old lifestyle and the economic, social, cultural, and
spiritual needs of human nature. They also promote greater
environmental awareness and a realization of the significance of
trees and nontimber tree products to achieving the goals of those
returning to the land.

The Ringing Cedars present a holistic philosophy of a harmonious
relationship between humanity and nature and propose a model of
economic organization based on a decentralized national economy
comprised of sustainable rural settlements that are in turn composed
of individual family-owned homesteads ("kin estates," rodovoe
pomest'e). The Ringing Cedars books have sold more than 10 million
copies in Russia, and have been met with a powerful societal response
and sparked a fast-growing ecovillage movement by the same name.

The ecovillage movement, while growing out of the dacha movement and
sharing many of its traits, is also different in a number of
important characteristics. For example, while the typical size of a
dacha plot is 0.06 ha, and the maximum size of a subsidiary plot is
0.5 ha, in the newly forming ecovillages each family privately owns
at least 1 ha of land. This larger size is warranted by the
participants' aspiration to integrate human habitat with the
agroecosystem, and -by growing a wide variety of crops and trees and
taking advantage of other opportunities such as agritourism-to create
a self-reliant land-based household, approaching self-sufficiency not
only in food, but also in technical crops (e.g., flax, sunflower),
timber, firewood, medicinal plants, and other products. It is also
recognized that maintaining contact with one's own piece of land and
establishing a circular flow of matter, energy, and information
between each family and their kin estate's ecosystem is important for
both physical and psychological well-being of the residents. The
shared goals of ecovillages also include stewardship over local
natural resources and a commitment to creating a social organization
conducive to independent, economically secure, socially rich, and
personally rewarding lifestyles.

Both the Ringing Cedars books and the social movement they have given
rise to place a special emphasis on integrating trees into
agroecosystems. It is recognized that trees provide a wide range of
food and non-food products, plus many other benefits, and are imbued
with a deep symbolic meaning. The latter is especially true for the
Siberian cedar (Siberian pine, Pinus sibirica), which has been
traditionally valued not only as a multipurpose tree producing high
quality timber and pine nuts, but also as a spiritual symbol. In the
vision of Vladimir Megre and the new ecovillage settlers, each kin
estate must be surrounded by a windbreak and represent a multilayer
perennial polyculture system with a wide variety of plants, both
herbaceous and woody. As an example of the potential long-run
sustainability and productivity of such a system, Vladimir Megre
cites 19th century agroforestry practices in central Russia, for
example a 200-year-old system of apple orchards surrounded by
windbreaks Pinus sibirica in the Vladimir region, 250 km east of
Moscow. The local residents reported that with no fertilization or
maintenance these orchards, abandoned shortly after 1917, were still
producing better crops and better-tasting apples than the carefully
tended trees in the nearby villages. The orchards also provided high-
quality hay. The exceptionally cold winter of 1976, which killed most
fruit trees in this region, did no damage to the windbreak-protected

In Megre's vision, a properly designed agroecosystem would be self-
sustaining and productive with minimal inputs of labour and other
resources. Megre was also instrumental in popularizing the economic
potential of nontimber forest products, particularly pine nut oil.

Megre has observed that both dachniks and the new ecovillagers can
derive their livelihood from a combination of subsistence growing and
taking advantage of niche market opportunities.  In a country
traditionally placing very high value on homegrown produce, there are
vast opportunities for direct marketing of these products directly to
the consumer. Megre has described an ever more widespread practice of
wealthy urbanites without a garden contracting with a particular
dachnik or rural resident to grow an organic food supply for them
(including canned food for the winter). This practice is all the more
important given the absence of organic food certification and
labelling in Russia. Apart from growing one's own food supply,
personally knowing the grower may be the best available assurance of
the food quality. As an extension of this practice, Megre suggested
branding the products produced by individual growers. When marketed
through stores and other outlets, the branded products allow the
consumers to express their preferences by choosing a product produced
by a certain family.  Such family-labelled products-notably family-
produced pine nut oil-are already available on the market.

Reference: Sharashkin, L Gold, M & Barham, E: ECOFARMING AND
AGROFORESTRY FOR SELF-RELIANCE: Small-scale, Sustainable Growing
Practices in Russia. Presented at the North American Agroforestry
Conference in MN 2005.

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