My Cuban Agroecology Tour Summarized

January 2020 OGS Cuba Trip Group

In January 2020 I was part of a group tour of Cuban farming organized by the Organic Growers School. In 9 days we visited 9 farms, had several speakers address aspects of life (and particularly farming and environmental issues) in Cuba, had a couple of walking tours, ate many delicious farm-to-table type dinners and still had time for a salsa lesson.

When I got home I planned to follow up with a public slideshow, but instead we got the Covid pandemic. I made a series of blogposts, which you can revisit:

My Cuba farming trip. 1/20/20

A Cuban Bean Seed Bank 3/17/20

Finca Marta Agroecological Farm, Cuba 4/28/20

Cuban AgroEcology Tour: La Palma Farm, Pinar del Rio Province 8/4/20

Cuban Agriculture: Finca L’Armonia (Permaculture Farm), Viñales 9/29/20

Cuban Agroecology Tour: Finca Agroecológica El Paraiso, Viñales 10/27/20

Cuba Agroecology: Patio Pelegrin organoponico in Pinar del Rio, Cuba 12/15/20

Cuban Agriculture, Las Terrazas Ecovillage, Artemisa 1/13/21

Cuban Agriculture, French coffee plantation Cafetal Buenavista 3/03/21

Cuban Agroecology: FANJ and La Felicidad Permaculture Garden 3/31/21

Cuban Agriculture, Dinner at the Garden of Miracles restaurant with Rafael Betancourt 4/28/21

The roof garden at the Garden of Miracles Restaurant.
Pam Dawling

And now at last I have completed my slideshow, after begging photos from a couple of my tour group, to cover the gaps in my collection.

You can view the slideshow here:

Cuba Agroecology Tour 2020

Your Chance to go to Cuba

And now I hope I’ve inspired you to consider going on one of the Organic Growers School Cuba Trips in early 2023

https://organicgrowersschool.org/events/travel-cuba/ This link includes a YouTube of testimonials

January 3-12, 2023

April 4-13, 2023

“This 9-day tour of Cuba’s sustainable farms, community gardens, and historical centers provides a rare opportunity to learn about the Cuban food system and learn about alternatives to corporatized agriculture. Participants will have the chance to:

  • Learn from farmers and food activists about Cuba’s transition to agroecological farming practices and its national policies that prioritize sustainable farming and hunger remediation.

  • Connect with farmers, consumers, activists, NGOs, policymakers, and experts working to transform the global food system.

  • Acquire the knowledge and strategies to create just, sustainable, local, and healthy food systems in your own communities.”

Check out the linked presentation for a summary of the January 2022 tour and for a sneak peek of the types of activities involved in the tour. OGS successfully operated a tour group in January 2022. No-one got Covid. OGS brought the first educational trip from the United States to Cuba since the beginning of COVID

Finca Paraiso, Vinales, Cuba. Lettuce bed. Photo Pam Dawling

Please see the OGS website for more information.

On the website you can get your most likely questions answered: legal, financial and health requirements, sample itinerary, reasons to visit Cuba, reasons to go with OGS, reasons to value agroecology, and a one-hour Info session video. The trip includes bus transportation within Cuba, a minimum of 2 meals each day, 9 nights in casas particulares accommodation, a very good ag-knowledgeable tour guide and tour manager, and entry fees to various sight-seeing exhibitions.

Farmer Fernando Funes Monzote showing us the vegetable beds, terraced on contour, at Finca Marta, Artemisa, Cuba
Photo by Pam Dawling

Cuban Agriculture, Las Terrazas Ecovillage, Artemisa

The view from the top of Las Terrazas.
Photo Pam Dawling

Las Terrazas Ecovillage, Artemisa, Cuba

This is the continuing journal of my Agroecology Tour of Cuba with Organic Growers School in January 2020. For other posts in the series, click the category “Cuban Agriculture” Our visit to Las Terrazas was on day 6 of our trip.

Las Terrazas is located in Pinar del Rio, in the Sierra del Rosario mountain range, Artemisa, Cuba.

Map of Cuba showing location of Artemisa, where Las Terrazas is located.
Map of the Pinar del Rio area of Cuba
Map of Las Terrazas

Also see https://www.lasterrazas.cu/en/

Talk by Juan and a tour of some of Las Terrazas

We sat in their outdoor classroom for a presentation before the tour.

Las Terrazas Welcome Sign

Las Terrazas, an Ecovillage and Intentional Community, covers 5000 hectares in the Sierra del Rosario Biosphere Reserve. They started with 100 people living there in 1971, and now there are 1400 people (about 273 families), a vegetarian restaurant, a hotel, a hospital, a university, schools and jobs for everyone there. Membership is “frozen” and very few people leave. The housing is government-owned and can be passed down in the family but not sold.

Housing built for the original Las Terrazas ecocomunidad residents, and still in use

The life expectancy of the residents is 79 years and infant mortality has been zero for at least ten years. Las Terrazas has a young population, with an economically active population of 629 people, of whom 62% work in tourism, 30% in community services and 8% in forestry.

More recent housing at Las Terrazas Ecovillage

The land was once coffee plantations and charcoal production sites worked by enslaved people. The soil was not right for coffee, and reforestation was started in 1968. There are now 6 million hardwood trees of 22 species, including native ones as well as mahogany, tea, eucalyptus.

There is an additional 25,000-hectare park (Biosphere Reserve and Eco Station).

1793-1804 saw the immigration of French landowners who started coffee plantations in the area of Artemisa. They left archeological treasures, including 6 coffee plantations which have been “rescued”. (We visit the restored one next. It will be my next Cuban Agriculture post.) Up until 1968, the land was eroded. The slopes were treeless because they had been logged for export, for charcoal production and for ship-building. In 1968 a special comprehensive plan was made and reforestation started all across Cuba. In the Biosphere Park 1500 km of terraces were built to prevent erosion, enable transportation through the mountains, and grow a good forest. The reforestation project took 20 years.

Homes at Las Terrazas Community

In 1985 the 250,000 km2 site (Sierra del Rosario) became a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve (Reserva del Biosfera). It is a protected area of managed resources. It has three parts: El Salón for research and public use; a natural reserve with shrubs; and an evergreen pine forest. It receives 2000 mm (79”) of rain each year. It is driest in December, wettest in May and June, with an average temperature of 24.4C (75F). A drainage system was installed. There are 889 plant species, 608 land species [flowering species?] and 281 fungi, mosses and lichens, and 126 bird species, currently. The ecology of bird species is evolving, as shown by official counts. They measure water and soil pollution. Invasive trees (locust) are converted to charcoal for export to the US, by private businesses. They are working to control invasive aliens, such as The Giant African Snail. The government employs people to eliminate the snail and volunteers help, there are Public Service Announcements on TV (their TV has no ads).

There is also a community Seed Bank (a SNAP cooperative) in the Ecovida Sierra del Rosario, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve .

In 1990, tourists were introduced, and are now a major source of income.

Lunch in Las Terrazas at the vegetarian Restaurant El Romero and visit to artist, Ariel.

Quilted floor mat at restaurant El Romero in Las Terrazas.
Photo Pam Dawling
Tree Leaf Quilt at El Romero restaurant, Las Terrazas.
Photo Pam Dawling

Our lunch included lots of vegetables, with delicious good sized portions. It was nice not to have big piles of meat. There were quilts on display in the restaurant, including the one above, showing leaves of various tree species.

Later we visited the workshop of an artist in recycled paper, Ariel. I bought 5 small cards and 1 big one. They have beautiful paintings of flowers and birds.

Beautiful hand-painted cards by artist Ariel, on hand-made recycled paper at Las Terrazas.
Photo Pam Dawling

Search YouTube for Franny Travels to Cuba 8 videos. Franny was in my travel group, so she saw what I saw!

See this intro: Top 5 Things to Know When Traveling to Cuba

YouTubes about Las Terrazas include

Las Terrazas, Pinar del Río. Cuba

Las Terrazas – Cuba – YouTube

And here is a Cuba Unbound blog post

Lots of photos here

Las Terrazas comunidad