Join OGS for a Tour of Cuba’s Sustainable Farms

 

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.

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Everything You Need to Know About the Cuba Tour

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. To learn more, visit our Resources page or visit Food First’s website.

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. To learn more, visit our Resources page or visit Food First’s website.

What is Agroecology?

Agroecology is the study of ecological systems as they apply to agriculture. It is a science, a movement, and a practice. At OGS, we like to think of the farm as a system and observe nature as the ideal model of sustainable production.

Agroecological practices strive to incorporate all elements of an agricultural ecosystem (water, nutrients, soil, plants, and animals) to maximize production and minimize impact. Agroecological methods include the following:

  • silvopasture = animals in the woods!
  • agroforestry = forest farming
  • permaculture = systems designed to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

Of course, each of these methods has been practiced on every continent since humans have existed, though they are just recently being named and defined by the modern sustainable agriculture community.

During this trip, we will participate in and observe how the Cuban agricultural community has embraced agroecology in all of its forms and learn why Cuba is considered one of the leading global experts in agroecological methods.

The Union of Concerned Scientists provides a succinct and informative overview of Agroecology in “The ABCD’s of Agroecology: What Is It All About?”.

Sources

  • Agroecology as a science, a movement or a practice. A review. Agronomy for Sustainable Development (published online)
  • Sustainable Agriculture & Resistance in Cuba by Fernando Funes

What can I expect on the tour?

This tour will be structured with 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 time relaxing, shopping, visiting museums, etc. We are happy to extend your accommodations at your own expense: Cuban travel restrictions will only allow you to stay in the country two days before and two days after the tour dates.

You will have the opportunity to meet and forge solidarity with people and organizations that are working to solve food insecurity in their communities using local resources.

Trip Activities:

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

What COVID-19 precautions should we be aware of for the 2023 tours and what happens if I get sick in Cuba?

COVID Entry Requirements & Legal Travel Updates as of October 2022 

  • Cuba has waived their COVID-related travel restrictions – there will be NO requirement of proof of vaccine or negative test to enter Cuba or the United States (upon our return). The Cuban government maintains their right to conduct spot testing at the airport upon arrival, but this appears to be a very rare occurrence. OGS recommends that, for your safety, the safety of the group, and ease of travel, you bring your COVID-19 vaccination record with you if applicable, that you self-test before departure, and that you ‘soft quarantine’ for a week prior to travel. OGS will be bringing some self-tests with us, and recommend that you do the same if available. We also strongly recommend purchasing travel insurance as OGS will not be able to provide refunds for cancellations within 6 weeks of the trip.
  • The Cuba restrictions implemented by the Trump administration (which are still in place under the current administration) have not affected our travel plans; we will be traveling under the Support for the Cuban People license. Read more about the legal logistics of traveling to Cuba on our blog.
  • You may or may not be aware, but Cuba has one of the most robust public healthcare systems in the world. They will have very stringent policies regarding testing before departure and after arrival into Cuba. At the current time, we expect to be able to travel in June safely with our group.
  • We’ll be hosting a webinar for tour participants about regulations and precautions to lead a safe trip, as well as creating expectations regarding health and safety with our travel group in January and April, at which point we’ll have information regarding Cuba‘s expectations of international travelers. We will share this recording with the public when it becomes available.

What if the current requirements for travelers to Cuba from the United States change?

We will be monitoring the requirements with our Cuban hosts and the CDC monthly and are committed to keeping you informed. For more information on travel requirements, please visit: https://cu.usembassy.gov/covid-19-information/. Participants are responsible for fulfilling these requirements prior to travel. Travel insurance that covers COVID and other diseases is recommended.

What happens if I get sick on the trip? 

If you do get sick, please know that Cuba has excellent medical infrastructure. Despite the free healthcare that Cuba gives to its people and some allied countries, Cuban medicine is also an important income source for the country’s economy. The Cuban government receives around $11 billion USD for its medical services annually. Most of this money comes from contracts that Cuba has with other countries: the government sends Cuban doctors to work abroad, and the governments of these countries pay the Cuban government for these doctor’s labor.

In 2010, Cuba started requiring and built in Cuban Health Insurance into the cost of most airline tickets. This is for emergency health needs in Cuba, not for pre-existing medical needs. If you do get sick or have any accident, first you will be assessed by our local Cuban guide that has emergency training, then you will be brought to the closest health facility depending upon the location of where we are during the day and itinerary.  Emergency attention is provided free, however pharmaceuticals are not. You will have to travel with some emergency cash just in case. Emergency Medical Evacuation is not included in this health insurance so this is why we do recommend this line item for those so interested in adding to their travel policy. 

When will the trip take place and how long can I be in Cuba?

The trip will take place from Tuesday, Jan. 3 to Thursday, Jan. 12, 2022. There will also be a tour offered on April 3 to April 13, 2022. 

Visa restrictions will only allow you to be in the country two days before and two days after the tour dates. Accommodations for additional days can be arranged at your own expense.

What are the legal considerations when traveling to Cuba and how will OGS prepare me for the tour?

Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited for US Citizens. However, there are 12 categories of authorized travel. The Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has issued general licenses in all 12 categories of authorized travel, subject to appropriate conditions. This organized trip has in the past fallen under the category “Support for the Cuban people”—interacting and learning from Cuban people, and supporting local businesses, are built in to each tour. Read more about this on our blog post, Travel to Cuba Legally! It can be 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.

You will receive 1) an orientation packet detailing airport logistics, packing lists, health updates, weather conditions, and cultural traditions within the country; and 2) a Food First tour-specific “reader” consisting of educational materials that provides a foundation of the history, culture, and politics of Cuba. A conference call will be scheduled one month prior to departure to discuss logistics about traveling to Cuba. and the tour coordinator, Sera Deva, farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org, will be in open communication with you in the months leading up to the tour.

We encourage you to check out our resources page for additional reading.

What does the tuition cost, what does it cover, and what are my options for payment?

The cost for the tour is $3,250. A non-refundable $500 deposit, paid by credit card or check, is required to secure your place on the trip. Payments for the remaining balance can be made in full or installments. Payments are due in full no later than November 15, 2022 for the January 2023 tour. 

We will work with you to create an installment plan that works for your budget. Please contact mike@organicgrowersschool.org to discuss payment plan options.

Please mail deposit checks to:
Organic Growers School
c/o Cuba Trip Organizer
PO Box 17804
Asheville, NC 28816

Price includes:

  • 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.
  • Tour leader.
  • 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: Flights are often very reasonable, and direct flights are available from Charlotte for as little as $300.
  • Tourist Visa: Visas are purchased through your airline and range from $50 to $100.
  • Mandatory Cuban health insurance and airline taxes: most commercial airlines include taxes and health insurance in the cost of your ticket. Please double check with your airline.
  • Gratuity for the on-the-ground guide, translation, and driving services. We recommend you bring $15 per person daily for this fee (totaling $150). Please bring this IN CASH. The Tour Coordinator will collect this on-site at the end of the trip and give it to the on-the-ground guide and driver.
  • Extra drinks, 1 meal/day, extracurricular (non-planned) activities, and any souvenirs you would like to bring home.

The Cuba Agroecology Tour is a fundraiser for Organic Growers School, a 501c3 nonprofit organization that’s been providing organic education in the Southern Appalachians for 25 years. Our program costs don’t cover our operating expenses, and it’s through community support that we’ve been able to sustain our educational programming for a quarter century.

By participating in the Cuba Agroecology Tour, you are helping fund our programming and fulfill our mission: to educate, inspire, and support our community to farm, garden, and live sustainably.

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 visit our Scholarship Page.

Read more info about the cost here.

Why travel with Organic Growers School?

Organic Growers School has been providing to organic education to farmers, gardeners, and food enthusiasts for over 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. We have led two tours of Cuba in March of 2018 with 14 participants, and a second one in January 2021, which was a sold out trip with 18 participants. Read and watch our traveler testimonials here.

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 from Food First about participants’ experiences on previous tours with food first.

Collectively, we aim to 1) enhance your understanding of the global food system and the way people around the world are working to make it more democratic and sustainable, 2) provide an opportunity for you to view U.S. foreign policy and the corporate food regime from the perspective of Cuban farmers, and 3) learn from Cuba’s agroecological methods.

Organic Growers School is committed to creating an equitable learning culture, and we seek to cultivate a learning culture of respectful and reciprocal learning that is non-judgemental and engaging of all people.

This public, educational tour is open to anyone who has an interest in learning about agroecology and 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.

View a sample itinerary

Below is a sample itinerary. You’ll receive your full, detailed itinerary for your trip at least one month in advance. In the meantime, view our 2022 itinerary (PDF).

Day 1: Arrival, Welcome Dinner
Arrive in Havana.
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm — Check-in to casas Particulares. Reservation details and locations will be sent a month before departure.
4:00 pm – 6:30 pm — Welcome Address & Trip Goals. Introduction to Organic Growers School, Altruvistas.
7:00 pm — Welcome dinner.

Day 2: Orientation, History of Cuban Agriculture
9:00 am – 10:30 am — Orientation Meeting
10:30 am – 12:00 pm— The History of Cuban Agriculture
1:00 pm — Lunch at Hemingway’s Bodequita de Medio
2:30 pm – 6:00 pm — Havana: History Food & Architecture (walking tour)

Day 3: Models of Modern Agriculture in Havana
9:00 am – 10:30 am — learn about the power of organic urban farms in Cuba as we visit Alamar, an urban cooperative on the outskirts of Havana.
12:00 pm — Lunch TBD
2:00 pm – 4:00 pm — Briefing with Juan José León, from the Ministry of Agriculture.
4:30 pm – 6:00 pm — Optional Salsa Dancing Lession!
Evening — Dinner and evening free to explore local venues for dinner.

Day 4: Vinales Valley, The Cooperative Systems in Cuba, La Palma Farm Visit
8:00 a.m. — Breakfast and check out of casas. Drive to Vinales Valley.
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. — Exchange with Bertico, President of ¨Republica de Chile¨ Cooperative.
1:00 p.m. — Lunch at the farm.
3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. — Visit a local innovative agriculture Association of Small Farmers (ANAP) project.
Evening — Check-in to your casas particulares in Viñales, free time for dinner and cultural activities.

Day 5: Walking Tour, Free Time in Vinales Valley, Food Sovereignty Discussion
9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m. — Walking Farm Tour of this beautiful valley.
11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. — Exchange with Wilfredo and family about their farm and restaurant.
1:00 p.m. — Lunch at the farm. Please plan to support them at 15-20 CUC per person.
Afternoon — Free time for local ecotourism activities.
7:30 p.m. — Dinner together with Mid-Tour Check-in and Food Sovereignty Discussion.

Day 6: Piinar Del Rio, ANAP Farm Visit, Las Terazzas, Return to Havana
8:30 a.m. — Visit to ANAP Farm which is production-based (requested seed project in Pinar del Rio).
12:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m. — Lunch at the Vegetarian Restaurant El Romero.
2:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. — Visit Las Terrazas Biosphere Reserve, Community, and Eco-Station, discussion with Fidel (owner and operator of El Romero) and walking tour of his organponico.
Evening — Return to Havana and check in to casas. Dinner and cultural activities on your own.

Day 7: Finca Marta in Artemisa, Service Project, Cuban Economy, Cooperatives & Politics
9:00 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. — Leave for the Finca Marta en Artemisa, a wonderful Agroecology farm. Overview of agroecology today in Cuba.
12:30 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. — Lunch at the farm.
2:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. — Continue our exchange — time for service at Finca Marta and exchange with Fernandito Funes.
4:00 p.m. — Depart Artemisa back to Havana and check into your casas.
7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. — Dinner with a presentation by guest Rafael Betancourt – Overview of the Cuban Economy, Cooperatives, and Politics.

Day 8: Exploration of Havana, Current Issues facing Cuba, Service Project, Farewell Dinner
10:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. — Time to shop or explore.
11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. — Visit and wrap up with the Antonio Núñez Jiménez Foundation for Nature and Humanity (FANJ). Dialogue and exchange with staff about important issues facing Cuba today. Learn about environmental education, science, urban agriculture, and food security in Cuba (requested speaker Roberto Perez).
1:00 p.m. — Lunch TBD.
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. — Service project with Yocial and Roberto at FANJ. Details TBD.
4:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. — Debrief discussion with the group and explore Havana on your own.
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. — Farewell dinner — location TBD.

Day 9: Check Out, Departure
Morning — Breakfast at your casas. Check out and transfer to the airport.
Departure home.

Watch our Info Session to learn more about what to expect in Cuba

What trip fees cover

What's included in the Cuba trip

I have a picture of Che posted in my kitchen to remind me to aspire to be brave, persistent, compassionate and adventurous. I will do all I can to learn more about Cuba and the Cuban people's struggles—past and present. Cuba is in a unique position as the only country in the world that has gone so far into organic farming/gardening. We should all treasure that ... Every organic grower, given the opportunity to meet the Cuban growers, would be inspired and strengthened.

—Cindy Trisler, Farmer at Mudluscious Gardens in Madison County, NC

March 2018 Cuba Agroecology Tour Participant

Interested in a future trip to Cuba?

For more information on this program, please contact Avi Li, Programs Coordinator at avi@organicgrowersschool.org

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