We recently went on a trip to Cuba for a vacation with Leah (our Daughter - it was her 18th B-Day!). While there we visited a couple of
farms....just had to.... It was a very interesting adventure! We asked a taxi driver (driving a 56 Chevy with a very smokey diesel engine) if he could take us to see some farms.....I`m not sure he understood what we were looking for because as we drove by this particular farm and I screamed stop! Right here! He pulled into the market that was in front of the farm. This farm was right in the city of Veredaro. It was about an acre and a half of raised beds fenced in. There were sidewalks right beside it, streets, buses, cars...everything a city
would have but a farm in the middle of it. The farmer who worked this land was happy to let us walk through his fields while he tended to his market. There was a restaurant right beside his farm which apparently he supplied with fresh produce. Nice ay! He had pretty much all of the same veggies we plant in these raised beds; leaf lettuce, beans, greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, etc. at
various stages of growth. He grew for this restaurant next door, his family and local community. What a concept! A hint of sarcasm! The raised beds were made out of recycled concrete blocks. We saw no tractor; he did this all by hand. The one thing we learned while visiting these farms is: SUSTAINABILITY. They reused and recycled everything! They used very little farming equipment and a lot of manual labor! This farmer filled these raised beds with a shovel and wagon. Planted, weeded and harvested everything by hand! The irrigation system was very primitive as well. Rubber tubes with holes at various distances placed in the middle of the bed. This was hooked up to shut off valve. To stop the flow; they just pinched the hoes with an elastic band.
The second farm was a little farther away. It also had a market in the front of the farm. There were two people running this particular market. This farm was a bigger operation; about 5-6 acres of raised beds. There was a crew of 6 men who worked these fields and only one spoke English and was the head worker. He was again very happy to show us the fields. Very proud of what they accomplished....and so they should be; all done by hand; using only hand tools and some wagons! Their carbon footprint.......very small!!!! On this farm; they grew for their families, local community and for some of the resorts close by. Both farms DID NOT use any chemicals, pesticides or fertilizer other than compost which they made on their farms from the produce they grew. When I mentioned `"Organic", he did not know what that meant. They just farmed! In Canada, saying you are an organic farmer means something! I thought farmers in Canada worked hard....but after seeing what they had to work with....I had a whole new appreciation for these people! Something you would see thrown out in the garbage here, was recycled and reused in another way. EX: Wheels from some old machine was reused to make a wagon. Wood that we would consider throwing out was stored in a specific location on the farm and reused to build a fence, a wagon, a raised bed or even a storage hut, etc. Old steel from buildings that were torn down was hammered out to straighten it and reused again to build or fix up another building. All preparation of the soil, planting, weeding and harvesting was done by hand. Seed saving was very valuable to them. While on the second farm, the head worker picked some plantains growing on the farm and we got to taste a fresh pick plantain (small bananas). It gave me a whole new appreciation of the work that went into the buffet at the resort!!!!!! The second farm had fresh herbs that they grew for the resorts, like, mint (for thedrinks) and fresh oregano; t I have to tell you that visiting the farms was one of the highlights of my trip! They were VERY happy to talk to us knowing we were farmers as well! They asked us
questions of how’s and what’s as much as we did. I am very happy to have had that experience and will go into this growing season with a whole new perspective. Being sustainable CAN be reality!!!! We have posted some pictures and videos of this experience on our face book page. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did! Til next time!