Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ukraine Wheat harvest

Last weekend we drove out to the village where my Step Daughter in Law, Lena, grew up and where her mother still lives. It is about 2 hours east of Dnipropetrovs'k while we are two hours west. Saw a lot of new country. Winter wheat harvest is almost complete and much of the land is already worked in preparation for reseeding in early Sept. Corn crop is elephant-eye high and even and sunflowers are everywhere (like canola in Sask in mid 90’s the year it (almost?) overtook wheat as the big dollar generator). Lena says wheat ran about 6t/ha (88 bu/ac) and as high as 8t/ha.

Lena and her mom have 27 hectares (includes her grandmothers share) of the old collective farm where her mom worked. They lease it out to a private farmer. Their crop share is 7 tonnes for the 27 ha but they pay no land taxes or crop expenses. Wheat was 1000 UAH ($230 CAD) in spring and is now 600 UAH ($138 CAD). They sold 3 t for cash and will store 4 t in their garage/storage shed. Grain is still pretty much flat stored except on the new more modern and better financed farms and for small quantities like Lena’s crop share, it is bagged.

Lena’s village used to have about 1500 people but there are fewer than 700 there now. Anyone who can leave has left. There are abandoned homes and apartments everywhere. It is well off the beaten track and far from both Dnipropetrovs'k and Donetsk so residential property has no value. At some point they may sell their farm land but for now it has not enough value to buy a home in the city so they will keep it.

We visited friends of Lena and Roman’s at another village. A young couple, with a couple of kids, struggling to make it work. He works for a private farm. A scooter provides transportation. They build a new house and converted the old house into sheds and stables. They have a couple of cows, some pigs, the usual chickens and geese and a big kitchen garden. Anyone longing for the good old days of small farms and "pure" food is likely welcome to change places with them.

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