Note: this is the latest in a series of posts about our trip to Cuba in April; please see our other posts about the trip.
On our final day in Cuba, we visited an organic farm that pioneered many new techniques, both horticultural and political. Vivero Alamar is located outside of Havana in a large barrio (public housing project). They began in 1997 and have grown from an 8500 square foot garden into over 25 acres. They produce over 300 tons of vegetables a year, but also have animals, fruits, and herbs.
Our guide Isis was very friendly and knowledgeable. She clearly loved both her work on the farm, but also sharing this passion with visitors like ourselves.
Although Viveros Alimar’s organic style of farming was partially born of necessity (Cuba doesn’t have access to the wide array of chemical fertilizers we have in the States) they have embraced this methodology and are working with many different techniques to protect their crops.
One such technique is to plant a variety of crops. If there’s a ring of corn around all the pepper plants, bugs will be attracted to the corn and leave the peppers be. Another technique they use stakes with different colors painted on. Over this layer, they then put a sticky resin. Bugs are attacted to the colors (like flowers) and get caught in the resin.
Another fascinating fruit that we found was Noni. It looked like a gray lump and tasted like bleu cheese. It was awful. Cubans used to eat them all the time because it’s loaded with antioxidants. In order to stomach them, they had to mix them with...well...pretty much anything else.
One of the final stops on the tour was to look at the work board for the farm. On it, Isis pointed out that each days profits are calculated. Each worker gets a share based on how long he’s been at the farm. As Isis explained, since the workers have a financial interest in the farm being successful, they work hard and find it satisfying.