"Russia may not be perfect, but in general, I have not found a better place. Thankfully, in Russia, the Orthodox Church is being strengthened and is having a positive impact on the culture."
40-year-old Steve Mitchell from Missouri purchased 217 hectares (542 acres) of land in central Russia, in the Ust-Kalmansky district of Altai. He intends to build a farm near the village of Verkh-Slyudyanka and live on it with his wife and fourteen children.
In the interview below, Steve talks about how he decided to move to Altai, and why he considers Russia to be the best place for his family.
Years ago, Steve was simultaneously attending a university, studying theology, and organizing a grass cutting business. His family grew quickly, and at the time he was also involved in politics, so he left the university. At that time, he began to preach in Protestant churches. He stopped being a preacher nearly a year ago, when his interest in ancient Christianity led him to the Orthodox Church.
Currently, Steve lives in the American midwest. He begins each day at 4:45 A.M., reading the Bible. At seven in the morning, he goes to work at his lawn care business.
His wife, Margot, works diligently with the children, homeschooling eight of them. She also assists with her husband's business. She gladly supports her husband's decision to move.
“She is the best wife, mother and friend in the world,” says Steve.
- Steve, how did you decide to leave America and move to Russia?
- Years ago, I was interested in politics, and even thought I wanted to become a congressman or senator. But about 12 years ago, I began to study the teachings of Jesus, and that helped me to begin focusing on other things: God, family, and others needing help. I had previously believed that the USA is the best country in the world, but then that prejudice was shaken. I began to understand that the US is very imperialistic and selfish, and I became very disappointed with how the United States treats other countries.
Around that time, I noticed how President Putin had turned Russia from a third world country into one of the leading nations with a growing economy. I love watching the progress of Russia from afar, and I have noticed the enormous development of the Russian nation over the past 20 years.
At the same time, the moral level of the United States has declined dramatically. Back when I was a boy, you would never hear the word "homosexual" without embarrassment. Yet in the past 25 years, American culture has arrived at the concept of “transgenderism”. On national radio, I hear stories about transsexuality at least 4–5 times a week. As an Orthodox Christian believer, I would not want to raise children and grandchildren under the influence of such intense immorality.
In America, people are going crazy. The offender is often treated like a victim. And a child in school may be called a "girl" even though he was born as a male and he has a penis. Madness! Meanwhile, I have not heard about anything like this happening in Russia. This is one of the main reasons to move. The moral compass in Russia has not disappeared from human hearts.
- You are unhappy with American imperialism and admire Putin. But he, too, is often reproached for this kind of ambition.
- Look at a world map and see where the US military bases are. You will see that the American military is all over the planet. The presence of the Russian military is not even comparable.
US authorities are not kind. They say they are only trying to help bring "peace", when they actually intend to expand their power and influence, in order to get financial gain. In recent years, I do not think that Russia has behaved in this way.
- Steve, what is your plan? When will you move and what will you do in Altai?
- Everything may change, but so far, this is the plan. I have a Russian business partner named Andrei. This winter, he is getting electricity connected, drilling a well, and getting permission to lay a foundation for the shed. He is also obtaining a lawyer, to help us setup a farm cooperative.
As soon as everything is ready, I hope that my eldest son will be able to come here to build cattle pens. We will also need to build a processing area, and residential premises.
After 4 to 5 years of work, I am hoping to have a working farm with animals. Then we should be ready to relocate with the whole family.
- What kind of farm do you want to build?
- I am planning a small dairy farm for 10–20 cows. We want to make cheese, butter, yogurt, and ice cream, and we want to raise high-quality meat. Then it can be sold to anyone who appreciates eating healthy, organic, fresh farm products.
We also want to sell calves to other farmers, grow a large orchard, and sell canned apples, pears, and cherries during the winter.
- Do you plan to relocate the entire family?
- Only God knows. I would like for all my children — 7 sons and 7 daughters — to come with us. But I think my eldest adopted son may remain in the states. He is 18 years old, and he may decide that he is comfortable staying in the USA. This would be very, very sad for me. But the rest of my children will go with me, if my older daughters have not already married by then.
- What feelings are you experiencing as you prepare for the move?
- We are excited, and we hope that we can move faster than is currently planned. No one is afraid of it. For our children, this is an adventure. For my wife and me, the thought of a new land and language is promising.
- “But you don't know the language at all.”
- True. But I will take classes and learn it. I'll focus on this for the next 2 years. My wife is very clever, and she will quickly learn the language. Our children will easily learn to speak Russian. Already, they have started studying the Russian dictionary and learning phrases.
- How else are you preparing to move to Altai?
- I spend time studying, finding out what things I will need and how much they will cost. I spend a lot of time looking at Avito.ru, getting acquainted with the prices of agricultural equipment and animals. I also research the legal requirements for becoming a permanent resident.
- How many times have you been to Russia, and how did you look for a place for a farm?
- About 3.5 years ago, I decided to search the Internet for Americans who had gone to Russia and engaged in farming. I found a news story about Justus Walker (a.k.a. the “Merry Milkman” - an American known in Russia, who is building a family farm in the Soloneshensky district). We corresponded by email, and he helped answer my questions.
By that time I was ready to buy land in northwest Russia. I had a friend who was going to work with me to purchase it, but then he changed his mind. At that point, I did not know what to do.
Justus invited me to visit, and I arrived at the time when he had just moved from the Krasnoyarsk region to Altai. Nature was so beautiful there, and the people were so good and kind, that I decided to settle nearby. Six months later, In March 2017, I again visited the Justus farm and my decision was strengthened.
In total, I traveled to Russia 5 times. I was in Moscow, Novosibirsk, Barnaul, and in the Siberian wilderness near Justus. This is a very beautiful land, perhaps the most beautiful place I have ever been. This is the land where the people (at least for now) are still quite poor, and so they have not become "fakes", and have not lost their common sense. Nowhere have I seen such hospitality towards me, a complete stranger. In general, Russia is a country with great potential.
- There are a number of Russians who say America is the best place to find "real life".
- I have met such people in Russia. I think they are deceived by the desire for wealth and greatness.
- Do you have farming experience? And generally what are you doing now?
- I have some experience. Back when I was in school, I worked on a large ranch. My wife's family has a dairy farm in South Dakota. Currently, we have three cows ourselves, and our children milk them.
- There may be other countries that also meet your necessary criteria. What made you choose Russia?
- To be honest, I have not found any other country that would fit all the main criteria. Maybe I missed something. But just for example, in EU countries, parents are obliged to send their children to government schools, whereas in Russia we can teach them at home. Unlike Western Europe, Russia does not support the homosexual agenda. Also, immigration legislation in Russia is much better.
Russia may not be perfect, but in general, I have not found a better place. Thankfully, in Russia, the Orthodox Church is being strengthened and is having a positive impact on the culture.