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    Posted January 12, 2013 by
    Alamar, Cuba

    A Small Farm with a Big Impact: Urban Farming in Cuba

    On the outskirts of Havana is every agriculturist's dream. Vivero Alamar Organiponico Cooperative is a lush, 25 acre urban farm that provides fresh produce year-round to the residents and restaurants of Havana. Despite its urban setting, Vivero Alamar is both fully sustainable and organic. Nothing is wasted here and everything goes back to the productivity of the farm.

    Vivero Alamar, and other urban farms like it, are products of the "Special Period" in the early 90s when the majority of Cubans were starving as the government struggled to cope with the fall of the Soviet Union--from whom they imported most of their oil and pesticides. Unable to feed the country with government run farms, Cubans were allowed to create cooperative gardens. Vivero Alamar is the most successful of these and today employing over 150 people and producing enough fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat products to feed a small army. In fact, they are currently in negotiations with the Cuban military to provide fresh produce for several military bases. In addition to the fresh foods, medicinal herbs, and ornamental plants that the farm sells at their small market, Vivero Alamar also produces home made sauces bottled in recycled beer bottles.

    This ingenuity is ingrained in the Cuban lifestyle. At the farm, bisected water bottles are used to create uniform holes to plant seedlings, goldfish swim in the open irrigation reservoir to eat mosquito larvae, and the workshop stays busy making tools out of a variety of scrap metal. Biopesticides of every kind are used on the farm in lieu of other more invasive methods. These can range from planting marigolds (a natural bug repellant) at the ends of every row, to intermingling crops with plants that disrupt the chemoreceptors of insects. Feral cats and wild dogs help keep the rodent population low.

    Although it is still difficult for Americans to visit Cuba, the farm is a huge draw for those who can make the trip. Recently, students and professors from Elon University, Harvard University, Antioch College, and Johns Hopkins University all visited the farm to study both the culture and the unique brand of farming that Vivero Alamar practices. Forced to quickly adapt to a world with out pesticides and oil, Vivero Alamar can provide a clear path to a world that may be facing those same challenges in the near future.

    Photo Credits: Alexandra Porter
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