Who said the western media was biased towards Russians, here is actually a postivie and nice article about it!

(не нашел в иносми ссылку)

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/31/world ... ?ref=world

A Soviet Agricultural Success: Vast Greenhouse Complex

Published: January 31, 2007

MOSCOW, Jan. 29 — In a city starved for winter light, little could seem more out of a place than this: on a day dimmed to gray by a canopy of clouds, Russian workers in short sleeves picking green lettuce and fresh herbs, all while illuminated by brilliant light.

A worker picked oyster mushrooms in January, which normally grow in Russia in early spring.

This is the strange late-January scene at Agrikombinat Moskovsky, a maze of greenhouses at Moscow’s southwestern edge conceived by the Communist Party under Leonid I. Brezhnev in 1969.

Warmed by gas and lighted by almost uncountable electric lights, the sprawling complex once fed the party elite, keeping the Kremlin stocked with mushrooms and greens no matter the winters swirling outside.

Now, nearly four decades on, it has survived the turbulence of post-Soviet transition to undercut common perceptions of Russian agriculture and life and to become a measure, in its way, of Russia’s change.

Much of the country’s agricultural infrastructure is in disrepair, and across many rural regions farm production and labor are in disarray. The government has made reviving the agricultural sector one of its so-called national projects, a target for investment and recovery.

But the sights in Agrikombinat Moskovsky show that such problems are not universal. The business, now privatized, claims to have registered more than $75 million in sales in 2006. Its managers point to the crowded produce shelves in Moscow’s supermarkets and dare an unlikely boast.

“People remember when it was hard to find greens in Moscow, but today you can find them in every single decent supermarket,” said Yevgeny G. Sidorov, the general director. “Moscow has the freshest green plants in the world.”

That last claim, unverifiable, is nonetheless no longer absurd.

Moscow’s food stores, formerly famed for bare shelves and long lines, are now kept stocked with fresh champignons and greens — even in the freeze a year ago that almost paralyzed much of the capital, with temperatures from 6 below zero to 22 below for more than a week.

One reason can be seen here in the nearly 300 acres under glass, a midwinter microclimate where workers roam semiautomated greenhouses, surrounded by a continuous spring.

As many as 1,700 people work in the business, from delivery truck drivers to those who breed and raise the predacious insects that are released, instead of pesticides, to keep the plant-eating insect population in check. The sights and smells that surround them seem far out of place.

In several greenhouses small pots with lettuce seedlings are arranged on long plastic trays and then placed atop a moving frame that looks like an elevated and elongated soccer field. The holders are packed tight and move slowly by automation to the greenhouse’s far end, watered along the way.

When the full-grown plants reach the opposite end they are plucked from the pots, bagged by hand and wheeled off on carts, bound for any of the 800 Moscow markets that the complex supplies. Under the company’s rules, all of the produce that does not sell within three days is retrieved and thrown away.

Behind the freshly picked greens, more are coming, an assembly line that continues past the seedlings to an automated seeding machine where the process begins.

The oyster mushroom rooms are even stranger: huge, cold, silent chambers where the spores are cultivated in thigh-high bags of wheat straw mixed with water and chicken manure. Mushrooms sprout through slots in the bags, and the workers cut them away by hand, harvesting repeated crops over the course of several months.

Cultivating mushrooms this far north comes with inviolable local requirements, including that the temperature never falls below 43 degrees, the warmth required to melt snow quickly. “Otherwise the roof could collapse,” said Aleksandr V. Zimenko, a sales director and specialist in mushroom cultivation.

Agricultural resourcefulness aside, the complex now also serves as a marker of the evolution of business and Moscow’s landscape since Soviet times.

It was established by the Central Committee of the Communist Party, and with the intensity that often accompanied Soviet mandates, it was swiftly created on idle land, reaching nearly half its current size within two years. About 150 acres were added in the 1980s, when the party ordered an expansion.

With the greenhouses came the accompaniments of Soviet life: blocks of housing for the workers and schools for their children. It was an agri-city on the capital’s edge, demonstrating Soviet science and progress.

Its longtime workers look back on the achievement fondly; here was an investment that worked. “One has to pay tribute to the leadership of the country,” said Mr. Sidorov, who began here in 1983 as an engineer working on the boilers.

Today the complex sits beside the expanding Vnukovo Airport, where more flights come and go than could have been imagined back then. Travelers flying into Vnukovo in the evening see the complex’s brightness, which often sets a swath of the cloud deck aglow on the approach.

The Kievskoye Highway, which passes by the greenhouses, is crowded with foreign cars, which have replaced most of the Zhigulis and Volgas.

The grounds themselves have also changed. The company invested $30 million in new greenhouses that opened last fall for the city’s expanded flower market. The plants are tended in part by a robot that rides through the complex on rails.

Beside those new glass buildings, the large single-family homes of Moscow’s expanding upper middle class have crept to the boundaries of the property, just as long ago happened in the farmland outside New York.

As his black Mercedes waited outside, Mr. Sidorov shook his head at the change in a city rapidly remaking itself and spreading beyond its old footprint. “All of this was once bare field,” he said. “There was nothing there.”