Rodina Agribusiness LLC is known all over Kazakhstan. It features smooth asphalted streets lined with new neat cottage-style homes, a modern dairy and livestock complex, and well-tended fields stretching around. Other farms send livestock breeders and technologists to adopt its practices, workers are queuing to get a job here, and journalists cover all successful activities carried out by the agribusiness.
The European order and community-based regimen have intricately intertwined in this village. A neighborhood community with strong family ties is working hard to the benefit of its common asset — the Rodina Agribusiness Company — being cautious about outsiders. The residents of Rodina know firsthand how difficult it was to set up the farm and keep it running.
How it all started
It all started in 1987 when the farm was the Rodina State Farm. A young 28-year-old specialist Ivan Sauer headed the farm. Before that, Ivan Sauer had been the chief engineer of the Krasnyi Flag State Farm for several years.
“…After college graduation, I was directed to the Krasnyi Flag State Farm. It was just an aul back then. It was in ruins. It was not considered the leading farm, and it seemed the end of the universe to me after Malinovka. When I arrived here in the village of Rodina, I was shocked. No asphalted streets, no lighting, no water supply system in any house, even in the director’s one, no sewage system, and even no central heating,” Ivan Sauer remembers his first acquaintance with the village of Rodina.
Today, the village of Rodina has 7.2 km of internal asphalted streets, a water supply network with 3 clean water storage tanks, a central heating system, a wind generator, a new kindergarten, a canteen for workers in the village center, and more.
Of course, it would not have been possible to transform a backward state farm into the country’s leading agricultural business without skillful management. However, as Ivan Sauer reminds, human labor is the basis of everything. He was just trying to make everything possible for people to get a decent reward for their work.
A difficult period of the 1990s passed in hard work. Large state farms were privatized and sold. Good managers who had relatives in Germany, Russia, and Ukraine were leaving. The residents of Rodina expected Ivan Sauer to leave as well, but he stayed on.
Ivan Sauer took farm control in his own hands and, with the President’s permission, headed virtually the first private agricultural farm in the country. He bought out 20% of the business, and after several years of successful work, he was allowed to buy another 31%. Most of the shareholders are residents of Rodina village. Today, about 450 people own farm shares. They are the people who work for the benefit of the farm.
Back then, in the chaos of the 1990s, when other farms cut and sold their livestock, residents of Rodina village not only managed to save what they had but also purchased equipment to set up a small dairy plant.
Already in 2007, a dairy and stock breeding complex was established in the village. Currently, Rodina Agribusiness daily supplies Astana with 45 tons of dairy products produced from its own raw milk by 60%. The product range includes kefir, fermented baked milk, cream, cheese, butter.
The farm’s several cowsheds, where Holstein-Friesian high-yielding cattle breeds imported from Canada are kept, include a carousel-type milking parlor for about 50 cows, a maternity barn with a preventative room and an outdoor area… All this is arranged at the highest automation level. Manure is cleaned automatically, the combs installed are electrically driven, and the computer monitors the health of each animal. After milking, the milk accumulates in tanks. Then, avoiding light, it is directed through the milk pipeline and supplied to the dairy plant. Here, it is quality-checked, processed, and packed. The next morning, it becomes the finished dairy product and appears on the shelves of Astana supermarkets.
Rodina managed to do something that other large and rich state farms were unable to achieve. The secret of success is actually very simple and is hidden in the words of the farm’s unchanging leader. There is no need to hide from problems. You can and have to do something each day!
People are the main agribusiness’s asset
Livestock products constitute just 50% of the total agricultural production. Rodina is also an elite seed farm and English thoroughbred racing horse breeding farm. The company is also engaged in construction materials production and sales. The local shop sells bread, milk, vegetables, meat, and berries of the farm’s own production.
During the years of joint work, the villagers have formed a high work ethic and earnest attitude towards the common cause. They feel suspicious about strangers who have been seduced by the beautiful scenery. After all, people are the main asset of the agribusiness, and an outsider will not fit in here.
“If we employ someone… We look at a person during the interview and check the documents. We see them fit for the work here. But then, we start verifying other things like where the person lives, how he or she lives and with what neighbors, how they get along with their neighbors, what children they have, and even their children’s success at school. Finally, if everything is alright with them, we say, ‘Well, we can hire you,’” tells Ivan Sauer.
This recruiting approach is explained by the fact that Rodina is actually a family business. For three decades, local family members have worked to the benefit of the agribusiness, putting their soul and strength into the common cause. It is not just a job for them. The company sponsors all social projects, as well as sports and cultural events in the region. The agribusiness owns and runs its kindergarten, school, hockey court, shop, sewing shop, sauna, and hair studio. The average salary at the farm is 150 thousand tenges ($400), and additional 130 thousand tenges are provided to cover the needs of each employee. The company encourages employee’s training and their children’s higher education.
This is exactly why local workers deeply care for their common cause. It would be difficult to expect this attitude from an outsider. Locals are sometimes upset with those who move to the city after they have got their education. However, Ivan Sauer always gladly welcomes them when they return. After all, all the employees and their relatives are one big family for him and it is not good to hold grudges in a friendly family.
So, what is Rodina Agribusiness LLC? Is it a modern high-tech enterprise or family farm? There is no single answer to this question.
“We are still far from building capitalist relations. At the moment, we have just ownership rights that can be called capitalist. Unfortunately, everything else is still socialist,” says Ivan Sauer.