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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The Businessman Fanner

There is probably no other city as transitory as Moscow, an urban turnstile that takes in and spews out foreigners on a daily basis. In general, folks are here for defined tours or make several journeys to the city over a number of years, as in "This is my ninth trip, I'll be here for three weeks".


Veteran foreigners (four years plus) wear their own battle stripes proudly, but are in a hard-crust minority that holds court with tales from the 1980s, while thinking about the next trip to Greece.


Many people of this ilk are like the redwoods of California; you can tell how many years they've been here by the number of rings under their eyes. I respect that.


However, the moniker "Being Here" includes both transitory and permanent elements of the populace. Included in the transient faction is Frank Flaman, a businessman-farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada, who is wrapping up a noteworthy three-month project, with plans to spend the whole of 1993 in the hinterlands surrounding Moscow.


Flaman by name, flamboyant by nature, he was in the office the other day talking about the strange, sad fact of life that Russia, vast and fertile though it is, has to import food. FlaMAN ties a lot of it to inadequacies with the grain storage system and says point blank "I'm the guy who will solve this problem".


He has spent his fall and winter in rural Russia, talking to farmers about the collective system and the challenge of making things work at a modern pace.


The sixty-something Flaman has developed high-pressure fans for grain drying and says he has made a lot of money in the process throughout western Canada.


He thinks it's time for agriculturalists here to get with his program and he has found some bureaucrats who agree. Officials in the Yeshim area are giving him a 500-hectare spread to use for demonstration purposes.


"The farmers have been friendly and generally hospitable, but when I talk to about them about my new ideas, you find a little reluctance", he says. "The first move now is to bring people to Canada and teach them my new technology. Then we'll go from there".


Flaman paints a graphic picture of the giant 200-family collective farms and the inadequate output that often plagues such a system.


"It's all a matter of efficiency. With all those people, there's not enough production. When you get an organization that's too big, it may seem like, who cares, who's in charge?


"I saw many combines that were just sitting there in the open weather or just lacked parts. Other places there were tons of potatoes just lying out. Why wasn't the job finished? Why weren't they put inside under good storage? " he barks, building up a good head of steam in the process.


Not surprisingly, Flaman thinks he can have an immediate, substantive impact on the future of Russian agriculture and its farmers.


"Where they're lacking once again is my specialty. Why work so hard to plant the crop, take it off and lose 20 percent? Rather than these people trying to grow more and import more, why not look after the storage problem. It can be done with less investment and also makes more sense for the environment.


"It looks like I am going to do this job single-handedly. I revolutionized the grain-drying situation in western Canada. This may be my last great challenge", Flaman says, while insisting he's in Russia because he wants to make a difference, not a monetary windfall.


"I'm quite comfortable at home. I have a big fancy car, I have my own airplane. Whenever I want, I can buzz off to Mexico", he says. "I can do what I want. This is more of a challenge. If I make a dollar at it fine, if I dont that's O. K. too".


Still, like many new to the Moscow scene, Flaman has been forced to deal with a system that's not tailored to someone with a demanding nature.


"At home I want a job done, I press a few buttons to my generals and the job is done lickety-split", said Flaman, with thoughts of western Canada dancing in his head. "Here I am running around all week and I can't even find someone who sells a 10-horsepower electric motor.


"Back home", he notes, "I would have gotten done more in two hours than I have all week".


This too, Mr. Flaman, is part of being here.