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Organic Agriculture in Cuba

cuba_communitygarden

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.

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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.

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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!

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15 Responses to “Organic Agriculture in Cuba”

  1. 1
    Meghan Says:

    Really amazing photos!

  2. 2
    Katherine Says:

    Only last week I was watching on TV a program called “80 gardens around the world” and it was made by a British company and presented by Monty (something). I know it was shown in Australia but with the internet you maybe able to down load it somewhere.

  3. 3
    MA Says:

    thanks so much for sharing that with us, Willi!

  4. 4
    Lelo Says:

    Beautiful. I love seeing gardens from other parts of the world. I think we in the US are relearning a lot of this and the photos are lovely.

  5. 5
    East of Main Says:

    If only we could all go back to that!

  6. 6
    Sandy Says:

    I’ve read about these community gardens in Cuba before. Great to see some wonderful pictures. Thanks for sharing!

    Oh, I can’t tell from the pics. What are they using to support the soil in the raised beds? Definitely not wood siding. Maybe rock or concrete?

  7. 7
    Kate Says:

    Wow. I’d really like to try this method of growing pole beans up my corn stalks. Do I just put a pole bean seed at the base of every corn stalk?

  8. 8
    Jennifer Says:

    Has anyone tried a Three Sisters planting? (corn beans squash)

    I’ve always thought it interesting but I really don’t have enough space to grow corn, and the one year I did either a rat or a raccoon mowed down every single plant.

  9. 9
    homesNgardens Says:

    Beautiful garden!

  10. 10
    Nicole aka Gidget Says:

    Fascinating! I totally want to go to Cuba!

  11. 11
    Kim Says:

    Are there any books or extended articles abut this topic? I’m very curious to learn about their process of transformation. What kind of leadership emerged? Is it still strong and working in other sectors of the community? Also wold love to see if they keep it all up when it isn’t’ so necessary,ie trade embargo lifted and sanction gone. It all seems so wonderfully Utopian and I would hate to see it dissolve in the face of western food and consumption habits (ie mcdonalds!)

  12. 12
    Willi Says:

    Kim–I just ordered a DVD and a book from the organization called Food First. The book is called Sustainable Agriculture and Resistance: Transforming Food Production in Cuba:
    http://www.foodfirst.org/en/store/book/Sustainable_Agriculture_and_Resistance

    The Greening of Cuba is a DVD about how Cuba restructured their food system following the fall of the Soviet Union
    http://www.foodfirst.org/en/store/dvds/the_greening_of_cuba_dvd

    I can’t wait for them to arrive. Also, my neighbor recommended the move the Power of Community:
    http://www.powerofcommunity.org/cm/index.php

  13. 13
    Kim Says:

    thanks willi this is exactly what i am looking for.

  14. 14
    David Scoggins Says:

    Awesome pics and awesome story. Thanks for sharing.
    .-= David Scoggins´s last blog ..The March of the Armyworm =-.

  15. 15
    Will Says:

    I guess when you are hungry and can’t buy much of your own food you’ll grow it even if you don’t want to.

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