Saturday, April 28, 2012

Foreign Possibilities

It really is a strange old world we live in sometimes. While Melissa and I waited to board our Delta flight to New York a few months ago at Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow I spotted a tall youngish guy in a check shirt and jeans who wore the permanent tan of someone who spends their life outside in the sun in every kind of weather. He was also wearing a baseball cap that advertised a cattle breeding farm in Nebraska. As I checked him out so too he checked me out. When our mutual appraisal was over he gave me a small smile and a short head nod both of which I returned. I thought that was it until after I sat down; the big farmer was sitting directly across the aisle from me.

With ten hours to kill and another farmer close by you can believe we did some talking as the plane crossed the Atlantic. Turns out this guy grew up in Nebraska but was currently the manager for a big 6000 head/30,000 acre Angus breeding farm in Kaluga, Russia a couple of hours south of Moscow. The Russian/American partnership/farm imported all it's genetics from the US and was in the process of setting up a total farm to plate system including a packinghouse and a small feedyard to finish the animals on corn silage. I quizzed him pretty good on climate, soil conditions and local available agricultural infrastructure and as near as I can tell that area of Russia has a climate and soil conditions similar to those found in southwestern Minnesota. The only odd part was that despite vast native grassland resources and a suitable climate for raising huge herds of beef there is no real native beef industry in Russia. I can attest to the extremely high prices of beef at the grocery stores I visited in Moscow and it blew me away that most of the beef I saw was imported from Australia. Russia is a pretty volatile place economically and otherwise but putting two and two together I think this may well be a heck of an opportunity for those who get in on the ground floor. It certainly managed to get the wheels spinning in my head !

Ours really is a world of possibilities. I've heard all my life about the underutilized but extremely fertile chernozem soils found in a broad belt from the Ukraine across southern Russia and into Siberia. What I heard from my farmer friend confirmed much of what I had heard through second hand sources before. If managed properly this region has the potential to become a huge player on the world stage in terms of agricultural production. Maybe one day between now and then I'll get to go back and actually see it with my own eyes !