US-born farmer Justus Walker, also known as the Merry Milkman, has fulfilled his American dream in Russia’s Altai, a region in western Siberia.
Justus Walker was born in the USA and came to Russia in 1993 along with his parents, who were Protestant missionaries, soon after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His parents went back home in 2000, while Justus stayed.
He founded his first farm in the Krasnoyarsk region, eastern Siberia, where he met his future wife, Rebecca. In 2016, Justus, Rebecca, and their three children moved to the Altai region, famous for its vast grasslands and mountainous landscape.
While speaking about the benefits of farming in Russia, Justus drew attention to the fact that land there is relatively inexpensive. When one starts a farm in the USA, Canada, or elsewhere, the most expensive item is land.
That means that the investment to return ratio is high in Russia when it comes to farming. While it’s not easy to make money in farming, in Russia one can pay back one’s original investment in five to seven years, he pointed out.
That’s absolutely unprecedented compared with farming startups in the USA, Canada, or anywhere else in the industrialized world, per Walker. The Russian state provides assistance to entrepreneurial farmers.
However, one program the Walkers did take advantage of is the Farmer’s House law.
The law, which was adopted two years ago, permits farmers to build a permanent dwelling on their land. Earlier, restrictions with regard to residential houses on arable lands and meadows in Russia were aimed at protecting rural lands from mass housing development.
The 2021 legislation allows a farmer to build a house on rural land, albeit with some limitations. First, the construction of a farm house is allowed only on land owned by the farmer.
Second, the area that can be used for placing a farm house is limited: it should be no more than 0.25% of the land. Third, the size of the house should be no more than 500 square meters.
The other program, mentioned by Justus, is a program for rural electrification: You can get really, really huge discounts, pretty much for free, frankly, to get the power, up to 10 kilometers of power lines, to your land if you are actually a functioning farmer.
When asked what advice he would give to Americans who are considering potentially moving to Russia, Justus responded that one should come on an extended visit first.
So get as long of a visa as you can, he said, adding that one should go to different places, volunteer on a farm or somewhere else, go touring, and go visiting.
Also, one of the things that you really want to compare when you’re comparing countries is not comparing Moscow to New York, because that comparison is like, okay, so you’ve got a major financial capital of the world being compared to a major financial capital of the world.
Of course, those two things are going to look rather homogeneous. But compare the kind of town that you are familiar with in America, like a 5,000-person town, with a 5,000-person town in Russia, stressing that each country has its own specifics.
Per the Merry Milkman – as Russian netizens call him for his sparkling sense of humor and kindness – Russia has the potential to become the world’s agricultural powerhouse, second to none.
While obviously not being some sort of Mediterranean paradise, Russia is no worse than any other country and, what’s important, has a lot more resources than other states.
Sputnik / ABC Flash Point News 2023.