Because transportation from rural areas is expensive and trucks are few and far between (one result of the U.S. embargo), the Cuban government is promoting urban agriculture. Our Food First tour group went to a small organic farm and store (Organopónico) in Havana:
The farm grows a wide variety of vegetable crops, some outdoors but some under mesh. The sun is hot.
The farm sells produce to local residents. I watched a steady procession of people coming to shop, only to be disappointed at the scarcity of items available. It’s too hot to grow much this time of year.
The board lists prices in pesos (indicated by $)—$4 to $10 a pound.
Another of the many Cuban contradictions: Cuba has two currencies, pesos and CUCs (Cuban Convertables). A CUC is roughly equivalent to one dollar, or 24 pesos. Salaries are paid in pesos. Markets sell in CUCs or, recently, both. This system, designed to take advantage of tourist dollars, is slated to end soon.
To put vegetable prices in context: the average Cuban salary is about 470 pesos a month, or $20 (but note that Cubans are given free food rations, education, and health care).
We also visited the much larger 25-acre farm in Havana’s Alamar neighborhood.
You can see the surrounding apartments in this photo, but not the next one.
With no money for gas or tractors, plowing gets done with oxen.
This farm also has a store.
I waited on a long line to buy a glass of freshly squeezed sugar cane juice.
This was incredibly delicious and totally worth the wait.
How much sugar is in this? I searched for, but cannot find reliable Nutrition Facts for fresh cane juice. If you happen to know where to find this, please send.*
On Monday, I’ll file the last of these Cuba posts, this one on food availability.
Note: the resumption of diplomatic relations and agreement to reopen embassies yesterday should make travel much easier.
*Answer to query: Thanks to Andy Bellatti and Cara Wilking for sending this link to a Nutrition Facts label for cane juice. No wonder it was so good: 30 grams of sugar in 8 ounces!