The New Revolution--Urban Agriculture in Cuba

By Julie Madsen
June 19, 2002
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The New Revolution--Urban Agriculture in Cuba, Spring Gillard, Urban Agriculture Notes
When an urban agriculturalist and a sidekick visit the urban farms of Cuba for a "working vacation," they are initially disappointed. "They say the Revolution has failed in three ways: breakfast, lunch and dinner. And they weren't kidding," writes Spring Gillard in Urban Agricultural Notes and cityfarmer.org. After landing in Varadero, Gillard and partner Barry find the Cuban diet to consist mostly of chicken and pork, and see no signs of Cuba's reputation as a "utopian model of urban agriculture." Their hopes rise in Havana, where they find many mercados agropecuarios (farmer's vegetable markets) and organiponicos (high-yield urban market farms.) The writer traces Havana's recovery from food shortages during the fall of the Soviet Union (one-time provider of 80 percent of Cuba's imports): "The city became a focal point in the food recovery plan. Large areas of land around Havana were converted from export crops to food crops; vacant land along roadsides was cultivated; and vegetable gardens sprouted on boulevards, highway medians, rooftops, and balconies. Currently, there are an estimated 5,000 'people's plots' being tended by over 26,000 gardeners."
--Julie Madsen
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