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Travel to Cuba - Organic Farming

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Organic Farming in Cuba

By Loly García de León and Yunior Crespo

In 2014 Tripadvisor included Cuba among the first 10 places of major increase as world tourist destination.  Moreover, after the announcements made by US President Barack Obama to lift some of the travelling limitations for American citizens to visit the island, Cuba has boomed in 2015 as a cultural and educational destination.

Due to a world trend for good feeding habits and also as part of the concern for the environment, a culture for ecologic agriculture and consumption of organic produce, mainly vegetables and legumes, is growing in Cuba.

An important precedent of organic farming in Cuba has been the coffee plantations located in the mountains of Guantánamo and Baracoa since 1900, where the Altoserra company grows gourmet quality coffee exported mainly to Japan and some European countries.

Among the attractions offered by the major companies especialized in educational and cultural people-to-people trips are the guided visits to the ecological farms “La Yoandra” in Havana and “Paraiso” in Viñales.

 

A countryside within the city of Havana

Marco Deluca and Yoandra Álvarez form a beautiful family united by love to the soil, to history and culture.  In 2000 they applied to the municipal agricultural department for a swampy land to plant fruit trees from all over the country.  They embarked in such noble mission in order to perpetuate the exotic and endemic species, many of which are endangered.

They had to work hard to recover the soil, apply topsoil, grow grass, drain the soil and plant the first trees.  They received the support of the Tropical Fruitculture Institute and the National Institute of Tropical Agricultural Fundamental Research.

Today the farm has over 120 fruit varieties like Zapote Negro, Rolínea, Carambola, Pomarrosa de Malaca, Caimito, Canistel, among others, as well as vegetable and legume organic gardens, fruit trees nurseries, ornamental plants nurseries and condimental and medical herbs.

This nature supporter and caretaker couple, continues to work every day to improve farming techniques and to develop an ecological and sustainable urban agriculture.  Their dream is to show the visitors and the community the advances they have made and to make them aware of the need to care for the environment, making special emphasis on sensitizing children and youngsters with this challenge.

This place that is close to Ernest Hemingway´s house has been acknowledged by the state authorities as Cuarta Corona Excelencia Nacional de la Agricultura Urbana, Agroecological Seal and Provincial Botanical Garden of fruit trees, the only one in the capital of Cuba bearing such category.

The farm, with an area of 7.5 acres approximately, has an organic garden growing vegetales and legumes without chemical fertilizers.  They use natural manure including locally-produced worm humus.  There is also a nursery of ornamental plants with over 20 species of orchids and a wide variety of tropical flora.  As part of the ecological process, La Yoandra also has beehives with Melipona bees (or soil bees) that help in the polinization and flowering of the plants.

Care and preservation of the farm is in the hands of a team of persons headed by Juvenal, Doctor in Agricultural Sciences, retired from his state job and who has found in this place a way to support his family and to share with the visitors his knowledge about agronomy.

In arriving at La Yoandra, Juvenal and Julio guide the visitors to the different areas.  Here you may learn about the tropical pests and the types of plants used for their control, the flowering periods of Cuban endemic plants and even about some typical recipes with herbs and seeds.

And as part of the tour, a succulent lunch is served at “El Divino” restaurant in the family house, where you may taste delicious dishes made with locally grown vegetables and legumes.

This beautiful place, just 25 minutes away from the center of Havana, has become a cultural attractions center and community project where this family has created “The Farmer´s House” that welcomes 20 elderly persons every week to provide them with food and recreation free of charge.  This is a project which the owners and workers feel very proud of.

A Paradise in Viñales Lands

Viñales Valley is located in Pinar del Río, the westernmost province of Cuba.  Declared a Cultural Heritage of Mankind by UNESCO in 1997, the beauty of its mountains in mound forms, agriculture based on tobacco growing, and kind and hospitable people has made of this site a place of extreme interest for travellers from all over the world.

The first time I met Rachel in a restaurant 5 minutes away from the center of Viñales, she sized me up and said, “Come on, bend down and pick up 4 bunches of lettuce for lunch.”  Actually, we came to visit this place as part of a guided lunch.  And what a lunch!  More than 21 different dishes!  All were delicious.  The vegetables were especially good: sweet tomatoes and juicy eggplants.  Later we learned that all were grown in the family house yard, which has now expanded and turned into the Finca Paradiso.

Wilfredo García, the owner of the farm and father of Rachel, is an enthusiast of agriculture.  You can always see him with a plant or seeds in hand looking for a better place to plant them.  He did not surrender to hurricane Sandy when all the plantations were devastated, but began from scratch with the idea to create an organic garden from which he feeds not only his family but all the visitors who go to his “Paladar.”

The Paradiso farm project is based on respect for the environment and service to the community.  About 10% of the production of vegetables and legumes is selflessly donated to day care centers, the municipal hospital and pregnant women health centers.

Along the years, Wilfredo and his collaborators have improved the planting, irrigation and farming techniques.  Presently, they receive the support and recognition of international organizations such as UNDP and GREEN PEACE.  Likewise, Cuban state institutions have helped them with educational and promotional materials.

Our second visit to the farm was with the purpose of learning more about their techniques, although our stomachs and our minds were fixedly set in those 21 delicious dishes.  Adrian and Tony revealed the secrets of flowers, smells and colors that keep away the pests.  They took us to the lagoon where they produce fertilizers with food leftovers and we walked through the Viñales Valley admiring one of the most spectacular views of Cuban landscapes.

Then Rachel reappeared to tell me that I seemed stressed.  She prepared an anti-stress coctail with different herbs of the region and we all returned to Havana sedated and curious to know the secret recipe of “Rachel Paradiso” cocktail..

Tags: countryside food cuba, travel to cuba, organic farming cuba

Articles Gallery

  • Can I Travel to Cuba?
  • Travel to Cuba - All Inclusive Tours
  • Travel to Cuba - General Information
  • Travel to Cuba - Private home stay
  • Travel to Cuba - Faces
  • Travel to Cuba - Organic Farming

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Can I visit Cuba?

Yes, you can visit Cuba legally under one of 12 categories authorized by the US Department of the Treasury, although tourism in Cuba remains forbidden for Americans.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) lifted some of the travel restrictions to Cuba after January 2015. There are several tour organizers and Non Profit Organizations operating travel to Cuba under general License for People to People contact.  

In Touch Travel has been licensed to organize trips to Cuba since 2012. We have granted the specific license to travel to Cuba for certain educational exchanges not involving academic study pursuant to a degree program – 31 C.F.R. § 515.565(b)(2) from OFAC...

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Our packages to Cuba are all inclusive. Unlike other tour organizers, we include hotel, tours, meals...  You only need to bring your willingness to have a wonderful time when you travel to Cuba. 

The  Cuban Visa and the Departure Fee are payable to the charter are an extra charge of $85 and $25 respectively. 

Please note one or two drinks are included during lunch and dinner, depending on the venue. Extra drinks are on your own. Price for water is 1CUC, beers, mojitos, sodas, juices range from 1.5 to 3CUC. 

All prices, fees and deposits are per person and based in double occupancy. Depending on the tour, there is a single supplement for solo travelers 

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In Touch Travel Services has been licensed by The U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) authorizing us to organize and operate People to People programs to Cuba.

All programs under this license include a full-time schedule of educational exchange activities designed to promote meaningful interactions between Americans and Cubans. People to people travel is not tourist-oriented or self-directed but is a great experience to get in touch with real people, living how they live, visiting a wide scope of organizations, institutions, and community projects that provide a better understanding of the Cuban people. 

A few years ago the US Government implemented people-to-people educational travel, an initiative that allows Americans to travel to Cuba, using a specific license, issued by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s OFAC. Today it is possible to travel legally to Cuba under 12 categories of general licenses. In order to comply with OFAC rules for visiting Cuba, travelers should keep a travel journal as a record of the trip. This journal will serve as proof that you have traveled to Cuba for educational purposes and should be kept for a period of five years as proof of the educational nature of your trip. 

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Your home away from home – Private lodging in Cuba

By Laura Álvarez 

Here is a Caribbean island that is constantly reinventing itself, a place where its impressive sun can blaze, and yet, nurture.  Most foreign destinations wish to emulate our dazzling glow.  In Cuba, the course of events runs at an incredible speed; and like in other parts of the world, its economy permeates its social dynamics.  Private business initiative has sprung in an unusual, and at times, troubling fashion.  The public mindset, however, is still struggling with its memories of the ban on private property that was imposed many years ago.  Notwithstanding, the economic crisis that befell Cuba in the nineties accelerated a shift in favor of private enterprise as a way to satisfy household shortages.  In this context, informal home rentals to foreigners began to proliferate.  But this business model was also helping to foster a sort of “sex tourism,” since the formal hotel sector was out of bounds for locals.  Up until then, international tourism had not been promoted, but the growing numbers of foreign visitors that followed the collapse of the Eastern European socialist community encouraged an increasing number of Cubans to rent their homes as a means to bolster their personal income.          

In 1997, the lease of private homes was legalized; however, excessive taxation drove many of the initial micro entrepreneurs to bankruptcy, and only the most established operations managed to stay in business.   This result was also attributed to a lack of expertise and experience among these proprietors, as well as a poor foresight by the Cuban State that had failed to develop an infrastructure in support of its private sector as a sustainable source of living for Cubans and a steady generator of foreign-exchange streams.

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Faces of Cuba Today

by Gary Topper

Born and raised in Los Angeles, I first started traveling with camera in hand at the age of 21, on a 7 month solo journey around the world. This was in the early 60’s when tourism had not really reached most of the planet.  The opportunity to see a multitude of cultures sparked a lifelong interest in travel and photography, documenting a mysterious world few had seen.  The passion to find places both spiritual and secular led to years of continuous travel, including this recent journey to Cuba in January 2015.  

Several years ago I joined the Marin Photo Club, where I met a community of wonderful photographers, who were open to sharing their knowledge and expertise.  The stimulation of exploring a shared interest with like-minded colleagues has continued to refine my “shutter eye”.   Recently awarded the Best Color Photograph at the 2015 Marin County Fair and Best in Show photograph by the Mill Valley photography studio, The Image Flow, my enthusiasm and excitement for photography has fueled a driving passion to capture “moments in time” in a rapidly changing world.

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Organic Farming in Cuba

By Loly García de León and Yunior Crespo

In 2014 Tripadvisor included Cuba among the first 10 places of major increase as world tourist destination.  Moreover, after the announcements made by US President Barack Obama to lift some of the travelling limitations for American citizens to visit the island, Cuba has boomed in 2015 as a cultural and educational destination.

Due to a world trend for good feeding habits and also as part of the concern for the environment, a culture for ecologic agriculture and consumption of organic produce, mainly vegetables and legumes, is growing in Cuba.

An important precedent of organic farming in Cuba has been the coffee plantations located in the mountains of Guantánamo and Baracoa since 1900, where the Altoserra company grows gourmet quality coffee exported mainly to Japan and some European countries.

Among the attractions offered by the major companies especialized in educational and cultural people-to-people trips are the guided visits to the ecological farms “La Yoandra” in Havana and “Paraiso” in Viñales.

Read More

Why to Travel In Touch with Cuba?

  • Americans can visit Cuba legally
  • Licensed people to people tours
  • Experience the real Cuban People
  • In Touch Travel is based in Miami, FL
  • Tours departing every Thursday
  • Check in assistance at Miami Airport
  • Professional Tour Directors in Cuba
  • It's Fun and Legal to Travel to Cuba 
  • Delicious Cuban food 
  • Best restaurants in Havana  
  • Fantastic party with a Cuban family
  • Lot of fun and cultural activities
  • Visit the countryside of Cuba
  • Exclusive educational activities
  • Learn about UNESCO World Heritage
  • More than 4 years of experience
  • Weekend tours in Havana
  • 9 days tours in 4 cities
  • Tours for professional photographers
  • Luxury tours in private planes
  • Customized trips for artists 
  • Special tours for colleges 
  • Experts in Cuban topics
  • Real support to the Cuban people

About us

In Touch Travel was founded in 2012 in Hartford, CT by Elme Castillo who is actually the president and one of the tour directors of the company.

We have been licensed by OFAC Department of Treasury to organize trips to Cuba under the people to people program and we have brought lot of Americans to visit the big island during 4 years. Our Cuban tour leaders, expertise, relations and contacts in Cuba make us an unrivaled tour company to count on when planning your trip.

In 2016 we have opened our new office in Miami where you are welcome to visit us.

Contact us

Polimita Cuba Travel LLC
dba In Touch Travel

4401 W Flagler Street. Suite 2 

Coral Gables - FL - 33143

+1 855.546.2822

+1 860.819.3737

Mon-Fri: 9:00AM - 6.00PM
Sat:       9:30AM - 1:00PM

Downloads

> Required Paperwork

> OFAC General License 

> FAQs on Cuban Topics

> Application for Travel Insurance

> Itinerary 90 Miles Weekend

> Itinerary Soul of Havana

> Itinerary Colonial Heritage

POLIMITA CUBA TRAVEL LLC dba IN TOUCH TRAVEL is Registered with the State of Florida as a Seller of Travel. Registration No. ST40093.