I have been waiting for a rainy day to work on more posts. Needless to say, it’s been dry here in Georgia! Not a good thing for the farming life or for more posts from our March trip.
Last summer, someone asked us whether our farm was ‘sustainable.’ I wasn’t quite sure how to answer–sustainable monetarily? sustainable as far as producing what we need for day-to-day living? sustainable as far as environmental practices? sustainable concerning animal welfare? …so many ways to interpret that question!
The answer to any of those questions in Cuba is “yes!” The farms that we observed were small. Outside of the city, almost all homes had small gardens. All seemed to have a menagerie of animals about the property; oxen were common, but cows were not.
Cuban farms rely on oxen. The animals provide the power for field prep–slow and hard work for the farmer and the oxen. Some farms appear devoted to only one crop, but even those were made up of parcels of small fields worked with oxen. These animals have to be precious commodities for the farmers! When not in the fields, the oxen graze on fallow fields or on the sides of the road. We did not see any fields devoted to livestock.
We saw tractors used as transport vehicles pulling small trailers, but only saw oxen in the fields.
One of our planned cultural experiences was visiting a tobacco farm. The farmer explained how tobacco was grown, then we toured his tobacco drying barn. Their tobacco barns are bigger than the Georgia tobacco barns that I remember. The farmer told us that the government gives them a production quota. He said the government takes eighty percent of the crop and the farmers are allowed to keep and sell twenty percent.
In western Cuba, we saw tobacco crops, along with sugar cane, mango, guava, rice, yucca, coffee, bananas, cabbage, and corn (grown for animals).
As we toured across the countryside, we frequently saw animals, but the animals were never in herds or flocks.
When we visited the country home of our guide David’s family, we got to see the family’s goats, turkeys, and chickens. This young relative wanted us to see the baby goats!
When people talk about going back to the ‘good old days,’ they should take a trip to Cuba. It’s not a bad way of life, but is so very different from the way we are accustomed. Nothing is quick and nothing is easy. My guess is that those who think they want that way of life, may not really want it when they realize the intensity of the labor that is required.