The following blog post is written by Reality Tours intern Lissa Goldstein, who visited the Alamar Organoponico.

Wondering what sort of people and places you might encounter on a visit to Cuba?  The UBPC (Unidad Básica de Producción Cooperativa or Basic Cooperative Production Unit) Vivero Alamar is one of the places where you will see Cuban charisma and creativity at work.  Located in the eastern part of Havana, it is the largest farm cooperative in the city.  The farm was started by Miguel Salcines in 1997 on a small plot of land that would allow him and his family to fend for themselves in a period of instability and uncertainty.  Today, it has grown to 11 hectares (about 22 acres) and has over 160 members.  The median age of the members is in the 50s which, as Salcines likes to say, makes for a very wise staff.

Alamar Organopónico, Havana, Cuba - Photo by Bryan Weiner

Alamar Organopónico, Havana, Cuba – Photo by Bryan Weiner

Lettuce, eggplant, tomatoes, and carrots and other vegetables provide much of the farm’s income.  They sell ornamental plants and fruit trees, worm compost produced on the farm, and value-added farm products such as spices and pickles.  The cooperative uses innovative organic farming methods and is a model for what sustainable medium-scale production can look like.  The farm’s social structure is innovative too, particularly when compared to most farms in North America.  As a cooperative, 30% of the farm’s income goes back into the farm expenditures and the rest is divided among the members according to seniority, in addition to a monthly wage.  Some of the job perks include two meals a day, a monthly haircut or manicure, and flexible scheduling.

Salcines talking with a recent RT group.

Salcines talking with a recent RT group.

 

Salcines, his wife, and their daughter, Isis, are at the center of the operation.   Upon meeting them, it’s easy to see why this cooperative has been so successful.  They are smart, funny, charismatic, and have a great deal of valuable information to offer visitors to the farm. After walking all around the farm and hearing the stories and insights of the members of the cooperative, visitors can sit down to what is easily one of the best meals in Cuba. Fresh organic ingredients, a plethora of vegetables and salads (which can often be a luxury in Cuba) and fantastic traditional recipes are served in an outdoor, covered dining area right next to the gardens.

So even if you’re not a farmer or food activist, this is the type of place where a visit is bound to be enlightening, inspiring and delicious!

Global Exchange is proud to announce a partnership with NEEM (Natural Ecological Environmental Management). Learn more about NEEM sustainability tours to Cuba.

As we start the final month of Summer, now is the time to plan your meaningful, socially responsible travel experiences for the rest of the year and beyond. Many of our travelers like to plan for their Reality Tours at least four to six months in advance, so, with that in mind, we’ve highlighted some of our staff picks to help you choose where to go next. Where will you be this Fall?

Reality Tour participant with women students in Afghanistan. - Photo by Zarah Patriana

Reality Tour participant with women students in Afghanistan.

October 1-10, 2013. Afghanistan: Women Making Change. Join us on this inspiring delegation to meet with Afghan women activists and grassroots organizations working for change. Visit with recently opened girls schools, vocational training centers, literacy programs, and more. Read former participants stories.

GX.DiaDeLosMuertos25thLogo_colorOct. 30-Nov. 7, 2013. Celebrate Day of the Dead in Oaxaca with Global Exchange! Help us celebrate Global Exchange’s 25th anniversary with our special Reality Tour celebrating Day of the Dead. Highlights of the trip will include meeting with indigenous leaders and community organizers, artists, healers, and participating in Day of the Dead ceremonies.

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Nov. 1-Nov. 11, 2013. India: Rights of Nature with Dr. Vandana ShivaWe are proud to offer this one of a kind opportunity to learn from and visit with one of the world’s leading pioneers in the ecological sustainability movement, Dr. Vandana Shiva. Join Dr. Vandana Shiva and Global Exchange’s Shannon Biggs, Director of the Community Rights program, to explore India’s sacred seed saving work. Highlights will include spending four days on Dr. Vandana Shiva’s farm in Dehradun, cooking a meal of ancient “forgotten foods” together, participating in a sacred water ceremony on the banks of the Ganges, visiting seed banks, food co-ops, and more. Join us for this rare opportunity.

Pachamama_small

Indigenous group in Ecuador

Dec. 27 -Jan. 4, 2013-2014. Ecuador: New Year’s on the Equator. Spend this coming New Year’s on the equator learning about and celebrating the work of indigenous leaders, healers and activists building ecologically and socially-sustainable alternatives to the corporate global economy. Visit with indigenous leaders and healers in the Amazon, rural communities working towards self-sustainability in the high Andes, and hike through protected lowland cloud forest to visit coffee cooperatives.

Venezuela

Venezuela

November 16-26, 2013 Venezuela Vive: Community Development and Popular MovementParticipants will have the opportunity to travel to Venezuela with Global Exchange to dig past the headlines and explore the changes occurring in Venezuela, Latin America and the hemisphere as a whole. On a Global Exchange tour to Venezuela the delegation will meet with human rights activists, rural agricultural workers, labor unions, community activists, journalists, and government officials and opposition figures, giving participants the opportunity to see for themselves the unprecedented social change that is occurring at this historic time in Venezuela and the region. There will be additional delegations to Venezuela in January, March, May and November of next year.

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