[permaculture] [permaculture-99] Dacha Movement: History and Effects In Russia

Toby Hemenway toby at patternliteracy.com
Tue Aug 7 16:09:06 EDT 2012

Good points, Lawrence. I'm just trying to point out, and counter, the instinctive assumption, in this individualist culture, that the only safe way to get your food is to grow it yourself. This seems the least flexible, lowest-common-denominator response to a complex issue, although in some cases it is the right answer. I get the sense that for many people "I have to grow all my own" is not a solution they arrived at via good design methods, but one that we default to out of fear, habit, and prior assumptions as though there is no safe alternative. But I think we need to throw out that assumption and start with the core issue. The goal is to meet our food needs in a sustainable, affordable, healthy way, and that can be done many ways. Obviously we need millions more farmers, at many scales. But I think it's very important, and a good stacking of functions, to create food systems that operate mainly at the neighborhood, community, and bioregional level, instead of a food "system" (which it would not be, as system requires interconnection) consisting of people mainly providing for themselves. 100 people taking care of each other is far stronger than 100 people each on their own. Again, doing a critical function like food in just one way--all by yourself--is not good permaculture.

The permaculture zone system applies well here. Zone 1 is, sure, grow as much of your food as is appropriate given your circumstances (but see below). Zone 2 is to use community gardens and local CSAs to get the food you can't grow yourself. Zone 3 is locally-owned stores and farmers markets for most of what's left. Anything you can't get in those inner zones, and that shouldn't leave much, get at bigger stores while they exist, but only rarely. Ideally this would be paid for by a LETS or hours bank, not  just with money.  This builds a resilient food network, a community rather than a bunker, and a local economy. 

Community activists that I talk to complain that while a lot of fairly privileged folks like most of us here are growing food and gaining new skills for self-reliance, the urban and suburban poor, in their huge numbers, are struggling at jobs that use all of their time, taking care of their families the rest of the time, and don't have time, skills, energy, land, or money to start a garden. These are the people for whom "just grow your own food" is not remotely a solution. I think a coordinated local food system that networks backyard and community gardens, CSAs, local farms and markets, and even some commodity foods for as long as they exist (I'm not real keen on raising all my grains) can generate a surplus that can help feed those who aren't able, or for whom it makes no sense, like skilled workers in critical roles, to grow their own. 

This is one of my favorite topics because it shows how we default to our assumptions, and gives us a chance to look at how we make decisions, figure out the real goals and needs, and solve them using all the tools at our disposal. 


On Aug 7, 2012, at 11:28 AM, venaurafarm wrote:

> On 8/7/2012 10:02 AM, Toby Hemenway wrote:
>>> If we want to survive . . . each and every family as much as
>>> possible needs to be able to produce it's own food for itself, and
>>> as many other people as possible.
> Right on and thumbs up, onward relentless, let nothing stand in your way.
>> I don't need to grow my own food.
> But there are millions of others who do need to grow their own food in 
> order to have a healthy diet, involve themselves in very worthwhile 
> activities as practitioners and learners. Many need to do this to put 
> food on their tables as they try to weather the poor economy, job loss, 
> keep their homes and land, keep transportation or seek working 
> alternatives (bus, bicycle, carpool), have adequate healthcare, etc.
>> I need to be part of a healthy
>> network that does.
> Those networks, if they exist, are not necessarily available to millions 
> of people and for a varieties or reasons. Let's hear more about your 
> networks. Who forms them, who is part of them and who keeps them going 
> and functionsl?
> The LL plan for America includes a computer/web/internet-based product 
> and services production, marketing and distribution network, PSPMDN.
> It could be created and made to work and serve everyone participating, 
> no matter how small, as consumer or seller, barter, trade, donate, have 
> its own currency and be compatible and cooperative with the IRS.
>> While I'd love it if everyone gardened, a
>> coordinated community food system
> Where are they and how many are there; what is the projected future for 
> this resource?
>> is more resilient and allows more
>> diversity than individual dachas, and fits better with American
>> culture and land ownership patterns. The US has a very different
>> history from Russia.
> Not so. At all. You're conception of this is too fixed and limited
> and too limited to the past.
>> And most yards are too small to produce "all our
>> own food."
> Straw man argument. They need to produce as much of their food needs as 
> possible, themselves. This can be done in pots or windowsills in 
> apartments, urban or suburban homes, rural homes and homesteads and 
> farms. How many thousands of books have been written encouraging people 
> to grow their own for table fare and health, and to share or sell. How 
> many tens of thousands of videos exist on YouTube demonstrating every 
> aspect of home food production and renewable energy, and cottage 
> industry possibilities. We need 21st Century Victory Gardeners 
> Practicing Permaculture. We need a nation of them. Think of the savings 
> in energy, materials and equipment.
> Its a mass movement already, a happening thing, thank providence.
> This is what permaculture is really all about down to its core set of 
> principles.
>> A single 18th-Century farmer could feed 50 people. Making the
>> household, instead of the farm, the neighborhood or even the town,
>> the core unit of a food system atomizes the community.  Let's not
>> default to "go it alone." It reduces the many options for reaching a
>> goal--meeting our food needs--to a single tactic: grow it all
>> yourself. It means that this critical function is done only one way,
>> with all the attendant hazards (what if you get hurt?) and reduces
>> most people to serfs farming for a banker. It's part of the mix, but
>> not the solution.
>> The dachas are well worth looking at.  But severe food and economic
>> disruptions tend to be brief in developed countries (see Argentina,
>> Iceland, Weimar Germany, Mexico, etc.), stabilizing soon at a
>> simplified level. So to redesign as though the unstable period will
>> be permanent is unwise.
>> While Russians were busy farming their 2.5 acre dachas all day, the
>> oligarchs were seizing control of everything else. They still have
>> it. Let's learn from that. We need to organize at a higher level than
>> the household.
> And the oligarchs, the cabal, corporations, etc. are not doing this now? 
> Stealing their investments, causing profound inflation and profiteering 
> from price rises (charge what the market will bear, law of supply and 
> demand), sending most American jobs overseas and not creating a 
> significant number of new ones to replace those lost, largely factory 
> and small local businesses ceasing operation in the face of competition 
> from chain stores selling imported goods (at inflated prices). And 
> people do not need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, reorganize 
> their lives and livelihoods, seek self sufficiency, independence, 
> personal sovereignty, freedom, liberty, family security and access to 
> the basic necessities of live? Of course they do, now as much as ever, 
> including during the Great Depression.
>> Toby http://patternliteracy.com
> This is a good thread, keep it going.
> Are you reading, Koreen and Bob Waldrop?
> LL
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