The Russian Dacha and the Dachnik movement have been around for more than 100 years and the home garden for more than 1,000. The Dacha is typically a one-room cottage perched on one hectare of land—large enough to grow fruits and vegetables to support a single family via intense, mostly manual labour.
35 million Dachniks (which is another word for ‘gardener’) saved the people of Russia—during 80 years of Communist rule, they produced more than half of the nation’s agricultural output. The productivity of their land was far higher than the industrial farms organized as massive collectives under Stalin.
The Dachnik movement is an exportable model of a sustainable form of agriculture—localized, (mostly) organic and built on an economic model of social norms rather than market norms (see: Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational, Harper Perennial, 2010 for an in-depth discussion of these norms.)
Social norms in this context mean that Dachniks help each other or trade with each other without money exchange. Ariely shows that, in a gift economy, many people will willingly work harderthan if they are paid. Lawyers asked to work legal aid cases, for example, won’t do any for a discounted wage of, say, $30 per hour but willingly line up to perform work on a pure volunteer basis.
So Dachniks needing extra labour for a short period, another shovel, advice on a weed or pest infestation can expect to get help for nothing—or, at least, no monetary exchange. Of course, their neighbours will anticipate the same consideration in return one day.
In addition to being more self-reliant, enjoying the company provided by a community of like-minded people and eating food of known provenance, Dachniks also benefit from Japanese-style forest bathing or shinrin-yoku.
The Japanese believe and the evidence suggests that humans regularly exposed to the scent and sight of trees and plants have improved health—both mental and physical. For more about forest therapy refer to: http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20080502f1.html.
Imagine the effects on Dachniks who spend an average of 17 hours each week during the season working their gardens*.
Read more here.