Redesigning

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Our Visit to a Cuban Tobacco Farm

April 20, 2016
By Stephen Thomforde
In the tobacco drying hut, we see and smell the various grades of tobacco leaves.

Note: this one in a series of posts about our trip to Cuba; please see our other posts about the trip.

On our first day on the island, we visited a tobacco farm. While there, we heard about the many challenges that tobacco farmers in today's Cuba must face. Growing tobacco is, in and of itself, a meticulous process which requires precise care and multiple steps between harvesting the leaves, drying them, processing them, and rolling them into cigars.

As if the actual job of producing cigars were not enough, we also learned that cubano farmers (of all kinds--not just those who grow tobacco) are met with a difficult set of business circumstances. For example, they are required to sell 90% of their harvest to the Cuban government at a fixed price. They are allowed individually to sell the remaining 10%, which they use to make their own cigars (they call them, simply, “tobaccos”). They are not allowed to put any sort of branding on those cigars, however--that is reserved for cigars made by the government.

We witness the art of rolling a cigar under the watchful eye of Che.

It was quite an illuminating first day, and it set the tone for the rest of our discussions with Cuban entrepreneurs over the rest of the week we were there. We'll dive deeper into the challenging--but changing--business environment in Cuba a bit deeper in our next post.