Organic Revolution: A 9-Day Trip to Cuba with Organic Growers School

Why Cuba?
With rising global fuel prices and increased awareness of the harm caused by industrial agriculture, Cuba began establishing research centers to focus on organic production in the 1970s. The gradual shift away from high input farming methods in the 70s and 80s, however, was insufficient to address the crisis that befell Cuba in 1989. With the collapse of the Soviet Union came an abrupt end to Cuba’s primary trade relationship. Its access to agricultural inputs ended overnight, propelling Cuba into what is now known as the “Special Period.” Imports plummeted and hunger escalated. To combat the crisis, the nation embarked on a massive and rapid conversion to agroecological agriculture in an attempt to simultaneously reduce inputs (petroleum and agrochemicals) and boost food production that continues today.

Find more resources on Cuban Agriculture on our Additional Resources page.

When will the trip take place and how long can I be in Cuba?
The 9-day trip will take place from March 26 – April 3, 2018. Spots are limited, so please plan to register as soon as possible.

Visa restrictions will only allow you to be in the country two days prior and two days post these dates (March 24 – April 5, 2018). Accommodations for additional days can be arranged at your own expense.

I can't attend; how else can I be involved?
We’re so happy to have such amazing support for this project and are excited to have you on board!

This trip is currently a one-time program.

What can I expect to experience on the tour?
This tour will be structured with very full days of travel, meetings and activities. Some free time is scheduled on each tour, but we recommend travelers arrive early or stay later than the tour dates if they hope to spend a lot of time relaxing, shopping, visiting museums, etc. We are happy to extend your accommodations for two days on either side of the tour, at your own expense. Please keep in mind Cuban travel restrictions will only allow you to stay in the country two days prior and two days post tour dates.

Trip Activities Include:

  • Farm tours
  • Farm service/work time (optional)
  • Walking/hiking
  • Leisurely free time
  • Food sovereignty discussions
  • Lectures/panels

This tour is not about providing charity or food donations. The cost of the tour includes compensation for the people we meet with, and often a donation to their organization or group. However, our purpose is not to offer paternalistic solutions. Rather, this tour will allow you to meet and forge solidarity with people and organizations that are working to solve food insecurity in their communities using local resources.

Read the full trip itinerary here.

Find more resources on Cuban Agriculture on our Additional Resources page. Read Food Sovereignty Tour Participant testimonials on our Traveler Testimonials page.

What are the legal considerations when traveling to Cuba?
Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited. There are, however, 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This organized trip falls under the category “people-to-people exchanges”, meaning that interacting and learning from Cuban people is built in to each tour. It can be very difficult to obtain a visa to travel in Cuba without knowing the ins and outs of these licenses, which is why traveling with an organized tour is highly recommended and may in fact be the only way in which you can visit in the country.

Find more resources on traveling to Cuba on the Additional Resources page.

Why travel with Organic Growers School?
Organic Growers School has been dedicated to organic education work for 25 years. We have worked hard to create a tour curriculum that is appropriate for growers and food enthusiasts in the Southern Appalachians and beyond. Our partners, Food First and Altruvistas, have been offering Food Sovereignty Tours for over 20 years and are very well connected in Cuba. Watch videos about people’s experiences on the Food First Tours on their website.

This trip will endow participants with a new vantage point from which to view US foreign policy and understand the corporate food regime. We aim to contribute to an enhanced understanding of the global food system—and the way people around the world are working to make it more democratic and sustainable—to bring back to our community, families and workplaces.

We’ve worked hard to keep the trip affordable, and believe you will find it competitive with the price point of trips offered by other organizations.

How will you prepare participants for the tour?
  • Participants receive an Orientation Packet detailing airport logistics, packing lists, health updates, weather conditions and cultural traditions within the country.
  • A conference call for registered participants will be held on on Saturday, Feb. 17th, Saturday @ 1:00 pm (EST), 10:00 am (PST) to discuss logistics about traveling to Cuba.
    • Please Call-in: 1-712-775-8963
    • When prompted, enter the Conference Code: 905123#
  • Participants receive a Food First tour-specific “Reader” consisting of educational materials that give a foundation of the history, culture and politics of Cuba.
  • Open communication with their Food First Tour Coordinator and the Organic Growers School representative (farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org) in the months leading up to the tour.
What does the trip cost and what are my options for payment?
The cost for the full 9-day tour is $2,900. Read “What does tuition cover?” to see more details on what the trip includes.

A NON-REFUNDABLE $500 deposit, paid by credit card or check, is required to secure your place on the trip. Payments for the remaining $2,400 can be made in full or installments that work for you, but the final payment is due no later then March 1, 2018.

We will work with you to create an installment plan that works for your budget. $800 installments are preferred, however if they need to be lower and more frequent we can work out a payment schedule that works for you. Please contact rod@organicgrowersschool.org to discuss payment plan options.

Deposit checks can be mailed to:

Organic Growers School
c/o Cuba Trip Organizer
PO Box 17804
Asheville, NC 28816

What does the tuition cover?
Tuition includes the following:

  • All in-country transportation during the tour including airport transfer to and from Havana airport
  • Shared rooms in casas particulares (the Cuban equivalent of AirBNBs) for all of the nights on the tour. Private rooms can be arranged at an additional cost.
  • 2 meals per day, plus bottled water to refill your water bottles
  • OFAC approved People-to-People License provided by Altruvistas
  • Food First trip leader and Organic Growers School representative
  • Local guides, drivers, guest speaker honorarium
  • Translation of all program activities into English
  • Preparatory reading materials (Cuba Tour Reader) and Tour Orientation Packet
  • All scheduled program activities, presentations and workshops

Price will NOT include:

  • Airfare to Cuba: Airfare to Cuba is often very reasonable, and direct flights are available from Charlotte for as little as $250.
  • Tourist Visa: Visas are purchased through your airline and range from $50-$100.
  • Mandatory Cuban health insurance & airline taxes: Most commercial airlines include taxes and health insurance in the cost of your ticket. Please double check with your airline.

Please note we have a limited number of partial scholarships available for practicing farmers and food activists from the Southern Appalachians. Check out the Scholarship Information page for more information and to donate.

Who will participate in the tour?
This public, educational tour is open to anyone who has a genuine interest in learning about food sovereignty in Cuba, and who demonstrates adaptability and sensitivity toward different cultural realities. We will work to recruit a diverse group of travelers, including professionals, teachers, farmers, students, activists and foodies.

Please keep in mind that we have a limited number of partial scholarships available to those who are active farmers or food activists in Southern Appalachia. If you’d like to apply or want to donate to our scholarship fund to support those who would not be able to participate without financial assistance, please email farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org

Is this a culinary tour?
This is not a culinary tour. Generally speaking, we will not eat at fine dining restaurants, though there are often free evenings when participants can explore these options on their own. Rather, many of the meals will be prepared by local people, proudly sharing their most valued local dishes. In poorer areas, these foods may be very simple and require us to be gracious and open-minded. In some cases, vegetarian options may be limited, though tour personnel will always advocate on your behalf to obtain a vegetarian or vegan option—keep in mind, however, that this may not always be the most pleasing or diverse dish, as vegetarianism is not practiced or well-understood in Cuba. We recommend bringing non-perishable snacks with you or purchasing food as we travel just in case.
How can I get more information?
  • Find more resources on Cuban Agriculture, History & Culture, Food Sovereignty and traveling to Cuba on our Additional Resources page.
  • Learn more about our journey — a conference call for registered participants will be held on on Saturday, Feb. 17th, Saturday @ 1:00 pm (EST), 10:00 am (PST).

Please Call-in: 1-712-775-8963
When prompted, enter the Conference Code: 905123#

Any direct inquiries, please contact: Sera Deva farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org 828.208.0220

If you have any questions, please email Sera at farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org.

Sera Deva

Sera Deva

Sera Deva has a B.S. in Microbiology and Agroecology from The Evergreen State College. She was hired at OGS as the Farmer Programs Associate in 2016, and as the Conference Coordinator in 2017. When she’s not geeking out over genetics, systems theory or soil hydrology, she spends her time working for farmers, homesteading, and river jumping in the South Toe Valley.