Issue 02/15

The consumption of local produce is a sound environmental practice that providing us with quality food and ensuring sustainable production models.

‘ […] An elder sister came to visit her younger sister in the country. The elder was married to a tradesman from the city, the younger to a peasant in the village. As the sisters sat over their tea talking, the elder began to boast of the advantages of town life: saying how comfortably they lived there, how well they dressed, what fine clothes her children wore, what good things they ate and drank, and how she went to the theatre, promenades, and entertainments.’


Ilya Repin: Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy in the ploughland, 1887. Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

‘The younger sister was piqued, and in turn disparaged the life of a tradesman, and stood up for that of a peasant.

‘“I wouldn’t change my way of life for yours,” said she. “We may live roughly, but at least we are free from anxiety. You live in better style than we do, but though you often earn more than you need, you are very likely to lose all you have. You know the proverb, Loss and gain are brothers twain. It often happens that people who are wealthy one day are begging their bread the next. Our way is safer. Though a peasant’s life is not a fat one, it is a long one. We shall never grow rich, but we shall always have enough to eat.” […] ’

How Much Land Does A Man Need?, Leo Tolstoy, 1886


Mikhail Vasilyevich Nestorov: Leo Tolstoy in Yásnaia Poliana, 1907. The Tolstoy Museum, Moscow

Apparently, the city/country debate isn’t exclusive to our days. Tolstoy experienced the dilemma intensely throughout his life, and even gave up the privileges of his lineage to mix with peasants and live as they did.

Who hasn’t at some point expressed a wish to retire to the country, to enjoy a contemplative life in communion with nature, or even to cultivate the land and return to the old crafts tied to rural environments? To the eyes of any city dweller, the country has become the new Eden, the promised land that guarantees a healthy life without which town life is difficult to envisage, as most of us escape to the country sometimes, just as some fish need to come up to the surface to get a little pure air.


llya Repin: The unexpected visitors, 1888. Tretyakov State Gallery, Moscow

This brief yet necessary contact with the rural environment has promoted the messages that have become increasingly important over the years in protecting and caring for the environment. Today our individual responsibility in preserving nature seems unquestionable. What isn’t taken so much for granted perhaps is that the country is a reality that provides many people with the means to earn a living, people like Tolstoy who either decided not to leave or else to return forever. And the country we city dwellers enjoy in our free time is the result of the daily work of farmers, stockbreeders and other rural producers.

So, to protect the countryside means to support the trades that make it productive, and ultimately, to consume its produce, which is the phase in which we can contribute more actively from cities. The consumption of local produce is a sound environmental practice, that moreover has the advantage of providing us with quality food and ensuring sustainable production models.