By Emma Castleberry
In partnership with Food First, Organic Growers School (OGS) has opened registration for a nine-day Cuba Agroecology Tour starting on January 7. This is the second time OGS and Food First have hosted this tour, which focuses on Cuba’s sustainable agriculture practices.
Cindy Trisler learned about the 2018 tour from her husband Rod Bowling, who works for OGS. Trisler had never been drawn to a group travel setting like this one, but trusted OGS to plan an intimate and engaging experience—and they delivered. “Going to Cuba and talking with farmers there, face to face, while walking their farms and seeing their responses to various challenges, can open your mind to new ways of thinking,” she says. “It opens up new creative solutions. We all need to think outside the box.”
Olivia Sanders also participated in the 2018 tour. “It seemed like such a compelling opportunity to get to see a place that was actually practicing organic agriculture at a scale that’s hard to imagine in the US,” she says. “I gained a real appreciation for Cuban culture and the mindset of collectivism.”
In Cuba, state support makes organic farming a viable option for farmers through subsidized organic research, land access, market access and supply chains. Witnessing this firsthand led Sanders to believe that large-scale change is needed to make the transition to organic in the US. “We need to envision the future goal in order to work toward it,” she says. “Seeing how Cuban agriculture actually made the transition to organic agriculture helped me realize that it is possible to have an organic food system.”
But there is more to this tour than just the learning component. Trisler’s descriptions of her time in Cuba—velveteen oxen working rich soil, melt-in-your-mouth backstrap pork, a mid-morning Cuban coffee laced with rum, hailing a horse-drawn cart to purchase a coconut—are enough to give even the most rooted homebody a twinge of wanderlust. “I gained a deep respect for the organic farmers in Cuba,” she says. “I learned what you can do if you need to, and how passion can produce miracles.”
Registration for the tour is open until November 1, but space is limited. For more information or to register, visit OrganicGrowersSchool.org/events/Travel-to- Cuba or email firstname.lastname@example.org