Farming Practices, Food, and Food Shortages Caused by Inept Governments

As we see dozens of food warehouses going up in flames recently around the U.S., one wonders, would our fast-becoming socialist country eventually starve its citizens, or might they have to fight for limited sources of food like we had to do in the 1


I was watching in fascination a documentary about monastic farm practices in Tudor England.  A historian and two archeologists introduced the viewers and the visitors to farming methods, tools, food, clothing, and customs from 500 years ago by actually tilling the soil, planting crops, harvesting them, building tools from that period, cooking, burning crockery, churning butter, raising sheep, pigs, and chicken, hunting, fishing, and living, at least on screen, like the monks had done during the fifteenth century.

What Life Was Like In The Tudor Era | Tudor Monastery | Absolute History

What was fascinating to me was the fact that many of the implements and practices from the Tudor period looked familiar because I had seen, experienced, and used them on my grandfather’s “private” small farm as a child growing up in socialist Romania.

The wooden butter churn was quite recognizable and so was the wooden plow pulled by oxen. Grandpa used to cut hay by hand with a scythe, gather the hay in piles with a home-made wooden rake, and then used a wooden pitchfork to move the hay unto a cart and then to the dry loft for use during the winter.

The family planted the garden in straight rows with deep separation ditches between the seed line (the seeds were spaced out enough to allow for plant growth) to enable water flooding from the creek when rain was scarce, and irrigation became necessary to keep the plants alive.

When the Colorado beetles started devouring every plant in their small gardens, they used powdered DDT to kill them as directed by the government that sold it. No amount of picking the bugs off the plants made any difference in the infestation. The fruit trees were attacked by fruit flies. There were so many open outhouses in the village.

The dirt had to be prepared by hand, using a metal # and hard labor to cut the hard-crusted topsoil and make it crumble enough for seeding. All this backbreaking work had to be done in their spare time as each villager owed a certain number of work hours per week to the cooperative farm “owned” collectively by the villagers.

Each peasant home raised a pig for slaughter at Christmas, chickens, ducks, geese, and the occasional rabbits. Some even had a milking cow, and many had sheep. The village shepherd, an actual paid position in the kolkhoz, took the cooperative farm’s cows each day to graze outside the village and returned them in the evening. These cows had either been confiscated by the cooperative farm or were in the ownership of a specific peasant who still had to make produce donations to make up for the cow that they were allowed to keep.

Inhabitants were forced to toil and put in the crops and harvest them. They had no choice as the Bolsheviks confiscated most of their lands and forced them into a collective farm. This collective farm or kolkhoz as the Russians called it, had to be tended to collectively by all villagers. They were left with enough land for the home they lived in, a yard, and a plot for a small garden.

The peasants in the kolkhoz were paid as salaried employees based on quality and quantity of labor contributed. The left describes the kolkhoz as a voluntary union of peasants, but it was hardly voluntary when their land was confiscated by the state authorities in power and, to survive and eat, they had to work for the state-controlled kolkhoz.

Land had been expropriated from the peasants in 1929 in the Soviet Union and later in Romania (there were state farms as early as 1945), after the king abdicated and the monarchy ended in 1948. The royal family’s thousands of acres of agricultural land, forests, several castles, and palaces were confiscated by the communist regime.  A king’s inheritance: The properties of the Romanian royal family | Romania Insider (romania-insider.com)

According to Romanian agricultural sources, 75 percent of all arable land belonged to cooperative farms and 17 percent were state farms which were formed as early as 1945. The rest (8%) were small private farms which brought their harvest to the government-sanctioned markets for sale. In mountainous regions where cooperative farms were not feasible to organize, locals grew food for their own extended families.

State farms were a socialist enterprise

State farms were a socialist enterprise. They received the best land from the state and were allowed to use the state’s machines, chemicals, and irrigation water. Such advantage increased their crop yield when compared to cooperative farms. The communist government told the state farms how to operate, peasants were paid a fixed wage for their labor and had no rights to a private plot of land for their own gardens.

Cooperative farms also took their production orders from the socialist government, but they technically “owned” the land and basic equipment. “The cooperatives were told what crops to grow, how to grow them, and how much to deliver to the state.” The peasants were forced to work at least 300 days per year on the cooperative and, if the cooperative had no work for them, they could be transferred to other farms or to construction and lumber work sites. These cooperative “farmers” earned an income of only 60 percent when compared to others and had much smaller pensions. It is safe to say that income equality meant misery equality.

“In the late 1980s, the systematization program aimed to subordinate privately owned land and private plots on cooperative farms to the regional agro-industrial councils and thereby tighten central control of private farming. Systematization would eliminate many of the plots, as villages were levelled to create vast fields for socialized farming. This policy directly contradicted the government’s mandate in the 1980s that the population feed itself by cultivating small plots (even lawns and public parks had been converted to vegetable gardens) and breeding poultry and rabbits.” Romania – AGRICULTURE (countrystudies.us)

This period coincided with a period when the Communist Party told all citizens how many calories, they were allowed consume per day according to their profession, how much they should weigh, and shortages of food were quite severe.

The ruling Soviet-style state maintained operational control via “elected” chairmen and political units in the machine-tractor stations which furnished heavy equipment in return for payments of agricultural produce. And the terms were never favorable to the peasants, only to the ruling regime. Often these tractors were not operational for lack of parts or lack of people who could fix them.

Among the many horrible decisions made after the Bolsheviks took power, one stands out. The “agricultural communist planners” ordered the slaughter of thousands of workhorses during the first three decades of communist rule. The horses were replaced by tractors. The number of tractors grew from 13,700 in 1950 to 168,000 in 1983. But in 1986, the regime rulers reversed their management practices through the National Council for Agriculture, Food Industry, Forestry, and Water Management and called for reducing the number of tractors in service by one-third and replace them by horse-drawn equipment. Eighteen to 25 percent of all harvesting and hauling was to be down by horse-drawn equipment by 1990. So much for 500 years of agricultural progress. Romania – AGRICULTURE (countrystudies.us)

Mechanizing agriculture raised the possibility to grow more grain and corn but there were some problems. Much of the workforce left in agriculture were elderly peasants who were not seeking better paying jobs in factories within commuting distance. The elderly did not have the expertise to fix these tractors when they broke down nor did they know how to operate them properly. Often crops rotted in the fields because there was nobody left to harvest them.

Poor crop rotation practices yielded smaller crops and droughts plagued the arable lands that were not connected to irrigation. Additionally, only 34-36 kg of fertilizer were used per acre, an inadequate amount.

“Furthermore, much of the best farmland had been severely damaged by prolonged use of outsized machinery, which had compacted the soil, by unsystematic application of agricultural chemicals, and by extensive erosion.” Romania – AGRICULTURE (countrystudies.us)

Severe food shortages plagued the country

In the 1970s, the socialist regime I grew up under and its “private” farmers, still used agricultural implements that were 500 years old, the same ones used in the monastic Tudor period. Agricultural progress must be slow in socialist regimes.

Not only did a major agricultural country have very thin and gaunt people, some of whom starved to death in winter, but severe food shortages plagued the country in the 1980s while the socialist centralized planners, political and community organizers, were selling the good crops to the west for hard currency, currency which they used to support their lavish lifestyles and to develop impractical and unprofitable industries across the country.

People were employed for meager wages in factories but had to struggle every day to find food, standing in long bread and grocery lines and for other necessities.

Wallachia, the breadbasket of the country, was once a proud producer of cereals in the Bărăgan Plain, a steppe famous for its black soil, perfect for growing grain in general. On a visit in 2015, I noticed the unplanted fields, then occupied by unsightly windmills turning in the wind, none of which, I learned later from an official with the energy ministry, were connected to any power grid. The windmills had been donated by the EU and had been hurriedly placed across The Bărăgan Plain. What happened to the breadbasket of Wallachia?

According to official online sources, Romania, an EU-member since 2007, imported food from the EU in 2006 worth 2.4 billion euros, up 20 percent from the previous year. Romania exports to the EU 64 percent of agri-food products and imports from EU countries 54 percent of food. Romania imports substantial quantities of grain and 2.8 percent of the country’s GDP is derived from agricultural activity.

In the U.S., about 2.7 percent of the population are farmers who grow food and feed the rest of the country. More family farms are being sold to large agri-businesses or are being paid by the government not to farm certain crops, or to burn the yield entirely to manipulate the market price.

As we see dozens of food warehouses going up in flames recently around the U.S., one wonders, would our fast-becoming socialist country eventually starve its citizens, or might they have to fight for limited sources of food like we had to do in the 1970s and 1980s socialist Romania? I hope not.


Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh — Bio and Archives

Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh, Ileana Writes is a freelance writer, author, radio commentator, and speaker. Her books, “Echoes of Communism”, “Liberty on Life Support” and “U.N. Agenda 21: Environmental Piracy,” “Communism 2.0: 25 Years Later” are available at Amazon in paperback and Kindle.

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