On 1 August, Republic of Buryatia and the Zabaikalsky Territory were officially included in the Far Eastern Hectare programme, the Agency for the Development of Human Capital in the Far East (ADHC FE) programme that was launched three years ago. Around 750 applications were submitted in just one day. A total of 76,000 Russian citizens have taken advantage of this programme and received 50,000 hectares of land. That is an area equal to 70,000 football fields, the Principality of Andorra, or three Lichtensteins.
Currently, the average recipient of a hectare is a young (ranging from 25 to 45 years old) male residing in the Russian Far East, or, more rarely, in Moscow, St. Petersburg, or their regions. He plans to stay on that hectare for the long run, start a business, and build a house.
31-year-old Khabarovsk resident Mikhail Utrobin fits this description to a T. He left his job as a top manager at a large federal chain of sports goods stores and got involved in agriculture.
«Three years ago, I had the idea to build a house, but then I realized the land needs to help me make a living», said Mikhail Utrobin in a conversation with EEF Magazine. «Statistics played a part in my decision. I found out only at most 8 to 10% of the dairy products consumed in this territory are produced here. So, I turned to agriculture. When choosing a plot of land, I kept five criteria in mind: it needed to be not too far from Khabarovsk, so that we would have light, water, good roads, and of course, a beautiful view. My wife and I got in the car and started looking for such a hectare.
In the beginning, I got a lot of help from the regional programme run by the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation. The agency gave me 3 million roubles, which I used to build roads, work on land amelioration, extend the power lines, and build a cowshed and houses for personnel. Moreover, the government gave me back part of the money I used to buy cattle through a special programme. In December of last year my cows calved and we got milk. With time we started to expand our line of products and now offer more than 20 options: from heavy cream and cottage cheese to ice cream.
For the majority of farmers, finding buyers for their products is the most difficult issue. But I dont have that problem. I run ads on my Instagram, so the majority of my customers are local residents that come in with their entire families. Since I dont have to pay middlemen such as shops or large retailers, my prices are lower than those of my competitors.»
For more on Far Eastern Hectare owners, read The great land giveaway in EEF 2019 Magazine.