Sunday, May 19, 2013

From Collective Farm to Real Dairy Business

Grand Circle Travel likes its guests to meet real people in the countries they visit. With that in mind, Sunday we visited the dairy farm of "Villo" for lunch and a tour. Villo's story was most interesting.

Public records of the farm date back to the 19th century. Then it consisted of 2 acres of farmed land, 15 acres of forest and two horses. (He points out that he now has 350 horses powering his Massey Ferguson tractor.)

In 1940, when the Russians made Estonia a part of the USSR, the farm had grown to 200 acres, 7 cows and 2 horses. All were "nationalized." The family was assigned 1.5 acres of land where they could raise vegetables, apples, pigs, sheep and keep 2 cows.

In the late 1980's rules were relaxed and they were allowed to sell a portion of their produce directly to consumers. With this money they could afford vodka with which to bribe the collective farm tractor operator to work their field. What a great system!

Villo attended an agricultural academy and received a mechanical engineering degree in 1981. In 1989 he began running the farm. When Estonia gained independence, in 1991, he was able to begin running a real and most efficient farm.

Property was returned to those it was "stolen" from in 1940; he got his 200 acres back. He now owns 500 acres and leases another 700 where he grows crops for silage and hay to sell to another business. He employs five people, runs 170 head of cattle (half dairy and half beef) and produces 300 tons of milk annually which he sells as milk, yogurt and cheese.

He is the only family member working on the farm. His wife is a dentist, daughter a caterer and son a banker.

I tell this story because I find the Soviet and post Soviet story so striking. Living in the U. S. A. we really didn't fully appreciate the stifling effects of Communism on a people that had no choice. They have a choice now and are thriving.

The farm visit reminded me of an old political joke that distinquished the differences between various 'isms....

Socialism: You have two cows. The government takes one and gives it to your neighbor.
Communism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then gives you some milk.
Fascism: You have two cows. You give them to the Government, and the Government then sells you some milk.
Capitalism: You have two cows. You sell one and buy a bull.
Nazism: You have two cows. The Government takes both and shoots you.
New Dealism: You have two cows. The Government takes both, shoots one, buys milk from the other cow, then pours the milk down the drain

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