The man who doesn’t buy
Leonid, 66, lives in Koziatyn, Vinnytsia region, Ukraine. His family never buys meat, eggs, vegetables or fruits. He owns a farm which provide his family with food.
Before the retirement the man was a train driver. But he always had the farm. For instance, he had had his rabbits before he had got kids.
“Leonid had bred many rabbits, we had dispatched them and sold the meat and fur. For this money we bought cement. That was our first contribution to our common house”, says Valentina, Leonid’s wife.
He keeps them until now, 24 mature rabbits and 12 bunnies. He narrates, that for 1 rabbit’s fur you can get about 20 hryvnas ($0.75), so there is no option to build a house for this amount of money. And in order to sell the meat he has to get a bunch of permits, so he prefers to eat it on his own or give to his children. He calls this meat “special” and “aristocratic”, because rabbits are very pernickety to care. They require regular vaccination and choice grass or hay.
You can’t say the same about pigs. The meals for them should be regular, but not importantly selected. In order to feed two pigs and one piglet Leonid boil three kilos of small potatoes, add there shredded boiled wheat and ground fodder beet. The man mixes it up with his hand in old massive bowls. As soon as pigs feel the familiar smell they start squealing. It takes about 9–12 month to grow a pig.
“They usually sell pork made from pigs grown with biofeed for a couple of months. I don’t do that. I only have organic pork!” Leonid insists.
Years ago, the man claims, he had used to call his pigs by names, but lately he stopped treating them like pets. Now he treat them as the smartest money investment. In fact this hypothesis is quite doubtful. For the average 180-kilos pig Leonid can raise about 4,8 thousand hryvnas ($180), when the average price for the meat of this pig at the market is about 12 thousand ($450). So it doesn’t really work as business, but works perfectly for subsistence. That is why Leonid rarely uses the slaughterhouse service, only when the family needs money urgently. Pig breeding fully provides Leonid’s family with meat for several months, this is important because meat usually takes the biggest part of family budget.
“When we kill the pig, our neighbors come to us and ask to sell some pork or lard. We sell cheaper than at the market, even though our product is better” Valentina says.
Ten years ago the family also had a cow. Valentina remembers that times with a pleased smile, but is happy they are gone at the same time. She says that was the hardest work of her life, because she had to milk a cow, but also she had to bring milk, cheese, sour cream and bryndza to the market every morning.
“It didn’t matter what time of the year it was — winter or summer. Every day I rode the bicycle to the market to sell. In return I could buy something tasty and special for my kids” the woman says.
The neighbors also trusted the quality of their milk products. But after the cow got sick the family had to sell it. Valentina recalls the tears of the cow on the way to the butcher’s car. After that she didn’t want to have a cow anymore.
Instead the household started breeding bulls. To Leonid’s mind, the require less attention, but benefit twice as much as a cow. One adult bull costs around 10–12 thousand hryvnas ($380-$450). Their food is fodder beets and wheat or corn haul, shredded in a special way. Now the man owns one calf he bough for 2 thousand hryvnas ($75), he expects to sell it in a year and a half.
100-percent profit Leonid raises on chicken. He has about 40 of them. It’s about 25 eggs, which equals 50 hryvnas ($2) of wage daily. He doesn’t sell them separately, but with fruits or berries in summer he also trade eggs. The family usually has chicken meat in fall, Leoid chops all the old chicken, sparing the young ones.
Leonid is mostly prod of his garden, an acre of the area. He spends there most of his time and leave most of the efforts. He always tries to plant it the first among his neighbors, as well as harvest it. The biggest part of the garden is potatoes, selected sorts only. Leonid doesn’t use any chemicals for it and regularly remove the weeds by hand.
Last year the man harvested 1.5 tonnes of potatoes. It’s several times more his family and farm need. That is why last fall Leonid sold it for a wholesale price — 2.5 hryvnas ($0.10) per kilo. This summer he sold another tonne for a better price — 3 hryvnas ($0.12). He keeps the leftovers at the cellar and plans to use it before the next harvest.
Every year, in order to plant the garden, Leonid invites neighbors, friends and relatives. He also visit their gardens to help, because he has a small benefit to other village citizens — a horse.
Valentina narrates, that her husband dreamed about the horse all his life, but only got it 8 years ago, after his daughter’s marriage. The new son-in-law had moved to their house and brought the animal. Leonid started to use it right away to plant and harvest potatoes. It’s a special and old technique, when you harness the animal and it follows you step-by-step. Doing so the horse excavate the ground right at the place where you can plant the potato, or vice-versa. It significantly simplify the process with such complicated process. The man save the money on this procedure, because renting the machines for such goals can cost about 1.5 thousand hryvnas ($60).
In order to feed the animals Leonid also grow fodder beets, corn and pumpkins.
“He likes it, he live it! The farm is his stream” shares his wife while her man waters tomatoes.
Leonid arranged mini-greenhouse for it, as soon as the weather will be warmer he will replant it in an ordinary one. It’s one of the most demanding vegetables, others are more easy-to-work-with.
However, Leonid knows what he works for — every summer day he harvest several kilos of tomatoes. His daughter conserve most of it, the same she does with cucumbers, strawberries, cherries, currants. The family has more preserved fruits & veges in winter than fresh ones in summer.
Every day Leonid wakes up at 5 a.m. in favor of his farm. He has no day-offs and he doesn’t earn salary, his family almost doesn’t buy anything at the markets.
Olesya Bida, Vlad Krylevskyi