We drove north from Volgograd along a bumpy road, turning in to the yard of a former cooperative farm. This was the farm office, now the local centre for the company ‘Krasnodonsky’ that succeeded its Soviet ancestor. The company has pigs, chickens and arable crops in land parcels spread out across a vast area. Despite being the main office many pig sheds were also located here and the air was rich with the scent of them. The boss of the operation, like the operation itself was typical of many across the former Soviet Union. He wore a suit, had a very high opinion of himself and liked to think that his importance meant he could tell us how to go about our job. When we politely told him what we needed to film, he was initially hostile to any access at all (funny, I thought we’d surmounted that hurdle when we arranged to come all this way) but to his credit he eventually gave in and even let us see something rather unconventional on a Russian farm.
|Emus, in Russia. Who would have thought?|
But he's not wearing a mortar board as emu professor, it's the top of the shed.
|Nina Markina had grown used to working with the big birds,|
but didn't want her children following her.
|Anastasia Ivanova thought working on a farm wasn't bad,|
but there aren't so many like her in Russia.
We arrived next to a chicken farm about an hour’s drive away. It looked and worked much like its European counterparts. Rows of chicken sheds housed thousands of birds at different stages of growth running around on the floors of the specially environmentally controlled spaces. But as well as the modern set up, it was also here that we met some of the young Russians who are bucking the trend of leaving the countryside. Anastasia Ivanova was twenty four. But as she explained, working for Krasnodonsky’s chicken farm seemed a sensible option. “They train us in vetinary science and pay us a reasonable wage,” she said. “I trained as a vet for this kind of work, there would be no use for me in the city.” Anastasia also had her complaints though. She wanted more government support for Russian farm staff. “They could give us some subsidy for rural housing for a start. It’s very difficult to live here otherwise.” President Medvedev and Prime Minister Putin have often talked about agriculture as one the Russian government’s big priorities. But despite the rhetoric and considerable flows of money, Russia’s agricultural storage facilities and transport networks are falling apart, and there still aren’t the incentives to create enough Anastasias to run the sector in the future.