Farm Life in Cuba

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.

Sustainable Farming

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.

Oxen

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.

The farmer must have been taking a break.
The farmer must have been taking a break.
Plowing
Harrowing a field; notice the homemade harrow!
Smoothing a field for planting.
Smoothing a field for planting.
Moving from one field to another with only voice directions.
Moving from one field to another with only voice directions.
Notice the reins dragging on the ground.
Notice the reins dragging on the ground.
Farmer hauling bananas and supplies. Isn't this ox an amazing animal!
Farmer hauling bananas and supplies. Isn’t this ox an amazing animal!
Grazing
Grazing on the side of road.
Yummy grass
Yummy grass on roadside

We saw tractors used as transport vehicles pulling small trailers, but only saw oxen in the fields.

Pigs transported under the shade of branches put over the trailer.
Pigs transported under the shade of branches put over the trailer.
Tractor work
Tractor work

Tobacco

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.

Tobacco farmer showing dried tobacco.
Tobacco farmer showing dried tobacco.
Tobacco drying
Tobacco drying
Young tobacco plants and tobacco barn
Young tobacco plants and tobacco barn
Tobacco fields
Mature tobacco
Picked tobacco drying in the field
Picked tobacco drying in the field
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New tobacco barn construction

Other crops

In western Cuba, we saw tobacco crops, along with sugar cane, mango, guava, rice, yucca, coffee, bananas, cabbage, and corn (grown for animals).

Hauling sugar cane
Hauling sugar cane
Mango trees reminded me of pecan trees.
Mango trees reminded me of pecan trees.
A dry rice field
A dry rice field
Flooded rice field
Flooded rice field
Coffee plant
Coffee plant
Coffee is grown under the shade of other trees.
Coffee is grown under the shade of other trees.
Newly planted yucca
Newly planted yucca with banana trees at the back of the yard.
Small groves of bananas were often planted around houses.
Banana trees are in front of the car.
Cabbage harvest
Cabbage harvest

Farm Animals

As we toured across the countryside, we frequently saw animals, but the animals were never in herds or flocks.

Chickens were everywhere--countryside or city!
Chickens were everywhere–countryside or city!
Pigs feasting on the side of the road.
Pigs feasting on the side of the road.
Goat tied on side of road.
Goat tied on side of road.
Horse grazing
Horse grazing

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!

Capturing a playmate
Capturing a playmate
Such a cute kid!
Such a cute kid!
Turkeys!
Turkeys!
The country home of our guide's family.
The country home of our guide’s family.

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.

Next up, I hope to tell you about housing and the construction practices that we saw. (But, don’t hold your breath!)

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