Organic Farming ~ Learning from the Best ~ Cuba.

Before we left for Cuba, Peta was trying to score some greens.  Let’s explain:  Our prior experience was that Cubanos are carnivores.  Intellectually, we know that is not true, because we have read about Cuba’s pro-active policy to create food production capability close to and within urban communities, so as to lessen dependency on far off food supply chains.  But our first trip to Cuba was not a vegetarian’s idea of a desirable destination.  This time, Peta thought she would reach out through Facebook to anyone with knowledge about permaculture in Cuba. No useful leads came from that attempt.
We arrive at Habana airport, but planned on immediately traveling on to the province.  We change airport for domestic flight and have 2 hours in between flights.  Miraculously, Ben, spots what seems to be a community vegetable garden, minutes from the airport.  We walk, luggage in tow, to a small rusty gate beyond which we find “lechuga” (lettuce).
Rows and rows of lechuga.

We ask if we can look around and the cuidador gives us a proud tour of the grounds.  There are rows of lettuce, chives, bokchoy, swiss chard.  Understand that this is hard to get stuff in the land of pork sandwiches. So we are thrilled that we can leave with an armful of greens.  We use these greens over the next few days to complement our Cuban pizza, our morning eggs, and the disappointing dinner at one casa particular.

Near the end of the trip, we have a similar experience.  In Remedios, we stroll down the colonial streets and wind up at the municipal organic gardens where everyone gets their greens.  The cuidador is quite happy to show us what he has, and we leave with arms full of goodies.  The cuidador explains that they sell 100% of their production to local consumers who just come, as we do, and pick out their veggies right out of the soil.  We had local “national” money, so we could buy at Cuban prices, not inflated foreigner money, CUCs.

And in the spirit of exchange, Peta contributes a ginger root from her own garden, which this nursery does not have, so that they can start producing fresh ginger.

For a superb assessment of Cuba’s ground breaking approach to urban farming, see this BBC short video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRz34Dee7XY

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