Today I am so excited to share photos from organic gardens and farms taken by Seattle-based photographer Jennifer Stanton in the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba. I’ve long been fascinated in Cuba’s transformation from an import dependent, cash crop, industrialized agricultural system to a sustainable, localized food system. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba saw its farm, food, and petroleum (including petrochemical) subsidies vanish. Coupled with the US trade embargo, Cuba faced a severe food crisis that forced the development of a new system that relies on traditional agricultural methods and a vast network of mainly small scale urban and rural organic farms. Jennifer told me that in Havana she saw community gardens all over the place:
They had very, very extensive raised bed systems in the middle of the city. At the time of year that we were there they were growing tons of greens, flowers, carrots.
On her 2007 trip, she also traveled through the more rural parts of Cuba, where she ran across this bean farmer winnowing dry black beans from their pods:
In Cuba, they follow old agricultural practices. Their corn fields are built everywhere and they plant beans right at the base of the corn plants. The beans are dried in the field. You could pick a pod that was dry and open up the pod and there would be red or black beans.
I’d been considering growing beans up my popcorn stalks this summer, but Jennifer’s beautiful pictures sealed the deal. They also created an enormous amount of curiosity on my part about Cuba. I’d love to have the chance to travel there and see how their food system works, especially in urban areas, and bring those lessons home. I hope you all enjoy the photos. Thanks so much for sharing, Jennifer!