Join the Organic Growers School Trip to Cuba

Organic Revolution: A 9-Day Cuban Experience

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Curious about traveling to Cuba with Organic Growers School? Read below on FAQs pertaining to Cuban travel and the specifics on the March 2018 trip.

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.

As Cuba’s government increasingly opens up to a volatile international economic system, the nation is likely on the verge of dramatic social, economic, and political changes. It is not yet clear how these changes will affect the Cuban food system or the gains made by small farmers in sustainable agriculture and national food security. Whatever the course of these developments, they will undoubtedly bring new lessons and insights for the development of sustainable food systems worldwide. What is clear is that now is an important and fascinating time to visit, and we hope to bear witness  to the changes at hand and engage in deeper dialogue about these changes with you during our time in Cuba.

Want to learn more about the Cuban Sustainable Agriculture Revolution? Watch this YouTube Video!

Read “The Land is Our Life” by Cuban Revolutionary Leonor Hurtado.

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.

Watch this YouTube video on Five Things to Consider When Traveling to Cuba.

Why travel with Organic Growers School?

Organic Growers School is dedicated to organic education, supporting you to Get Growing! We have worked hard with our partners Food First and Altruvistas to offer a streamlined tour that takes all the legal considerations of travel to Cuba into account, as well as create a curriculum that is appropriate for growers and food enthusiasts in the Southern Appalachians. Representatives from all three organizations will be present during the trip.

Food First and Altruvistas have been offering Food Sovereignty Tours (which this trip’s curriculum is based on) 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. Every tour seeks to establish people-to-people ties by introducing you to individuals and communities that most travelers would never meet on their own. Through both formal and informal interactions, participants come away with an enriched understanding of the hopes, struggles and accomplishments of the people we meet.

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.

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.

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 $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:

  • We will bill you securely through our Quickbooks System on the 1st of every month until the remaining balance is paid; if you prefer they are billed on a different date, please let us know. If you register after December 31, 2017 we will bill you on the 1st and 15th of every month to complete your payments by March 1, 2018.
  • $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.

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. Please email farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org for more information.

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, students, activist and foodies. Prior experience or knowledge of food sovereignty is not required.

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

What can I expect to experience on the tour?

This tour will be structured with very full days of travel, meetings and activities. This requires that travelers be disciplined about wake-up and meeting times, and respect the itinerary so as not to disrupt the group schedule. 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.

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.

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.

A full itinerary will be posted on the Organic Growers School website by December 15, 2017.

How will you prepare participants for the tour?

Prior to departure on every tour, participants receive an Orientation Packet detailing airport logistics, packing lists, health updates, weather conditions and cultural traditions within the country. We will have a conference call three weeks prior to the trip to answer any questions or concerns regarding the itinerary and logistics. In addition, participants receive a Food First tour-specific “Reader” consisting of educational materials that give a foundation of the history, culture and politics of Cuba. Participants also have 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. These materials, along with communication with the Tour Coordinator, are meant to help prepare participants for all aspects of their trip.

How can I get more information?

Organic Growers School in conjunction with Food First will be holding a forum on Cuban Agriculture and the specifics of this trip in January of 2018. Details TBD, and will be posted on the website no later than December 15, 2017.

Any direct inquiries, please contact:

Sera Deva
farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org
828.208.0220

Questions about this program? Contact Sera, Farmer Programs Associate, at farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org.