Valaam monks gather first grain harvest in seventy-seven years

Valaam, September 12, 2016


Monks of Valaam Monastery (on the largest island of the Valaam archipelago in the northern section of Lake Ladoga in the Republic of Karelia, north-western Russia) have gathered their grain harvest for the first time since 1939. The harvested grain will be used as fodder for the monastery farm and as food for the poultry farm, the monastery’s steward Monk Ephraim (Mukhin) reported to the TASS agency on Tuesday.

“This autumn we have reaped the first crops of barley in the past seventy-seven years at the monastery: it was some thirty-five metric centners per hectare which is a good yield for the north-western region of Russia. All the grain will be used as fodder in the monastery farm which will enable us to reduce feed purchases and, most importantly, to cut the monastery farm’s production costs. Our farm produces three varieties of cheese: monastic (hard), caciotta (semi-hard), and ricotta (soft). Our cheese is sold in the shop on Valaam island and the day's supply usually lasts an hour or two – everything sells out,” the agency’s interviewee stated.

According to monastery agronomist Nikolai Anokhin, moose were a great threat to the grain yield.

“Moose were a real hazard to the crops; obviously young barley suited their taste, so we repeatedly had to drive them away from the fields. Raids by these ‘island natives’ are indicative of the return of husbandry to Valaam,” the agronomist explained.

From 1939 on Valaam’s arable land was overgrown with tall weeds and underbrush. Fifteen years ago the restoration of monastic farming and the methodical reclamation of land on Valaam began. Specialists were found in neighboring Finland where the conditions are similar and lighter technical equipment is produced which is suitable for the waterlogged fields of the island.

To date, some eighty hectares of land have been developed (of them nineteen hectares were sown with barley this year alone), while another sixty – eighty hectares of reclaimed area are needed. The stony fields are typically prepared for agricultural use within the span of two years, with machinery obtained with funds donated by benefactors and members of the Council for Valaam Monastery's Restoration. “Oats, barley and rye were formerly sown on Valaam. First of all, we plan to regulate the planting of barley on the island and stop purchasing feed from the mainland,” the monastery’s press service reported.

Potatoes, beetroots, carrots, apples and various permanent grasses are grown on the monastic island annually. Valaam monks also attempted to grow cabbages, though unsuccessfully because of local hares which quickly eat up young shoots. Volunteers who come to this protected island are also involved in farming, thus helping the monks. All annual crops are used by Valaam Monastery.

Translated by Dmitry Lapa


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