FAQs

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

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.

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

The trip will take place from Monday, Jan. 14 to Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019. Please plan on arriving no later than noon in Havana on January 14th to meet up with the group.

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 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 are the legal considerations when traveling to Cuba?

Travel to Cuba for tourist activities remains prohibited. 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 falls under the category “people-to-people exchanges”—interacting and learning from Cuban people are built in to each tour. 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.

Why travel with Organic Growers School?

Organic Growers School has been providing to organic education 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. We led a wonderful tour to Cuba in March of 2018 with 14 Southern Appalachian agriculture farmers and academics. 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.

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.

How will you prepare me for the tour?

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. The Food First Tour Coordinator and the Organic Growers School representative—Sera Deva, farmer-programs@organicgrowersschool.org—will be in open communication with you in the months leading up to the tour.

What does the trip cost and what are my options for payment?

The cost for the tour is $2,900. 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. Payments are due in full no later than November 1, 2019.

We will work with you to create an installment plan that works for your budget ($800 installments are preferred). Please contact rod@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

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.

What does the tuition cover?

  • 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 $250.
  • 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 to bring $10 per person per day for this fee (totaling at $100).

Who will participate in the tour?

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.

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 Program page.

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