Summary of Summer 2002 Culture/Eco-Ag Tour to Russia
Biointensive for Russia's late July and early August, 2002 seminars in Russia were the first to be taught by Steve
Moore, a certified GROW BIOINTENSIVE basic-level teacher and successful commercial Biointensive farmer from
SE Pennsylvania. Participation in the 5-day seminar held by the Educational Methods Center (EMC) in
Novo-Sin'kovo (near Moscow), therefore, will count as equivalent to Ecology Action 3-day workshops in its
basic-level teacher certification program. Steve also taught a one-day seminar on passive solar greenhouse design
at the EMC, as well as one-day seminars on both BI and greenhouse design at a Ministry of Agriculture state farm
technicum in Novgorod and at the "Alive Earth" Young Naturalist teaching center in St. Petersburg. Steve's
evolution from horse-drawn plowman -- for 26 years -- to BI mini-farmer and from using fossil fuels to solar to heat
his greenhouse, enabled him to be an outstanding presenter for both seminar topics.
During the two-week main tour, ecotourists John Bartz, Abby Youngblood, Steve Moore, and I, in varying
degrees, toured museums and magnificent architectural sites and attended musical and ballet performances in
Moscow, Suzdal, Sergiev Posad, Abramtsevo, Novgorod, and St. Petersburg. Later, Abby Youngblood, Elena
Gogoleva (from San Francisco), Abby's friend Kseniya from St. Petersburg, and I spent 3 days visiting the Obruch
family at Nevo-Ecoville in Karelia. Andrei and Elena Obruch and Andrei's mother Rimma, with four natural and three
adopted children, live in close harmony with nature. (They grow much of the family food and all of their honey, which
they also barter with their neighbors. They were very pleased to meet me, as the Russian translation of HOW TO
GROW MORE VEGETABLE... strongly influenced their gardening practices, as also did books on Permaculture
and Fukuoka culture.) I was also fortunate to visit old friends and BfR colleagues Volodya Shestakov, Natasha
Krestiankina, and Albina Kochegina and their families at their dachas in Karelia and near St. Petersburg, and Larissa and Alexandr Avrorin in their new
home in Moscow.
The workshop tour, including all seminar and travel costs, was funded by small grants of $200-$1200 from the two
ecotourists, the Crail-Johnson Foundation, Andrew Crowley, John Vesecky, Shoshana Billik, and the late Dr. Gersh
Yadukh, as well as by many smaller BfR member donations.
The participants in the main workshop in Novo-Sin'kovo were drawn from Russian Ministry of Agriculture technicums
and colleges in 16 provincial towns in as many oblasts of Western Russia, with names like Poshekhonye, Shatsk,
Yeisk, Bogoroditsk, and Trubchevsk. Our own network in the FSU was also well represented by Irina Kim of
Chirchik and Bakhtiyar Jollibekov of Nukus who flew in from Uzbekistan, Vera Korsakova who rode the
trans-Siberian railway from Novosibirsk, and three participants from the NGO Viola in Bryansk: Director Ludmila
Zhirina, school principal Oleg Zavarzin and schoolteacher Natalya Koryagina. Vladislav Terentyev of the Kitezh
Children's Community in west-central Russia also participated, sponsored by Abby Youngblood who had
previously volunteered at the community. Abby also attended many of the sessions, and we had visits from two
journalists from the Rodale-sponsored gardening/ag magazine in Moscow, an agronomist from Kamyshin (near
Volgograd), and Aleksandr Avrorin, recently having moved to Moscow to join Larissa, who has been living and
working there already for a year.
Steve Moore was a big hit with the participants, who adopted him as an honorary Russian, much of his heritage
being Swedish. After all, Swedes allegedly were the original Viking "Rus" who founded the Russian state in and
around Kiev, more than a eleven hundred years ago. His lectures were clear and easy to understand, especially as
superbly interpreted by Nailya Minazhetdinova and Paul Voytinsky, and illustrated well by his slides. The
participants were extremely attentive and asked good questions. Camaraderie was further inspired by a great
shindig of a farewell evening, locally organized with live music and party games and contests. Steve gamely
stayed up late more than once to enjoy the technicum teachers harmonizing in Russian folk song, then rose in time to
hold forth at the 8:30 daily morning workshop opening.
An evening was devoted to reports by our network of experienced GB practitioners on their experiments and
teaching experience. Irina Kim talked about the need for public environmental education and her work over five years
teaching Biointensive in remote Uzbek nature reserves, and the drastic climate change in Uzbekistan. Dr. Bakhtiyar
Jollibekov described the saline soils in Karakalpakstan and the problem of the shrinking Aral Sea, which now
contains 60 grams per liter of mineral salts, six times the level before 1960, and where fish can no longer survive.
Dr. Ludmila Zhirina discussed the situation in the Bryansk oblast, 30% of which was contaminated by radiation from
the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Families can no longer go fishing or berry and mushroom gathering; many people
have gone bald. Viola has tried to help by publishing a book on what people themselves can do to reduce the
danger of illness due to radiation exposure.
During other evenings, Steve and Nailya visited a biodynamic farm nearby, and the whole group was led on foot
by EMC staff members Evgeny Shmelev and Viktor Voronkov to fine dacha gardens of the technicum's and
EMC's senior and retired staff members, including that of EMC Director Ivan Zakharovich Antiushin, who attended
an EA workshop in Willits in 1996. Each had 700 sq.m. of area, fully planted in the many typical Russian
vegetables and fruits: cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes in the greenhouses; squash, cabbage, potatoes, beets,
strawberries, gooseberries, raspberries, apples, oblepikha (sea buckthorn), mountain ash, etc. in the open ground.
One gardener joked that the Colorado potato beetle prefers Russian potatoes to American varieties. We were
interested to see a small wind-driven noisemaker that drives moles away, and recalled that garden catalogs here
offer something similar for gophers.
Before departing for home, the seminar participants (technicum teachers) talked with Ludmila Zhirina about their need
for curriculum materials for teaching Biointensive, which we had not provided for them. Ludmila promised to copy
and send the materials Bryansk teachers have been using already for years. Now she is inspired to disseminate
them all around the country, to all the administrative divisions save Chechnya where there's war going on, that is 89
less 1 equals 88. (But, we have friends who will enable them to be sent there.) And the EMC has encouraged her
to send them to all the 285 colleges and technicums in the Ministry of Agriculture network.
Postage and xeroxing costs money of course, and Ludmila and her co-director Igor Prokofiev have personally been
footing the bill. As of this posting (early December 2002) I have sent $600 from BfR via a traveler to Moscow and
via Western Union; Ludmila traveled by train so she could meet the traveler in Moscow to collect the money. Soon
there will also be a need for printing the Russian translations of The Sustainable Vegetable Garden and the Teacher
Certification Booklet. Donations to Ecology Action for the work of Biointensive for Russia will be gratefully
accepted! Just send them to me (checks made out to Ecology Action), c/o BfR, 831 Marshall Drive, Palo Alto CA
94303. For more information on the summer trip and on a possible future Culture/Eco-Ag tour, write to me at
firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me at 650 856-9751.