At the end of 1989, Cuba’s trade relationship with the Socialist Bloc crumbled, and as a result all the mechanized and chemical inputs necessary to operate their industrial agriculture system were no longer available. Thankfully, Cubans are ingenious people. They rapidly adapted their agricultural model to solve a very real crisis of food scarcity, and in doing so ended their dependence on foreign markets. Looking to the past, to the strategies developed by the campesinos - Cuba’s original farmers - presented a legitimate alternative.
The campesinos knew that growing food was about creating a relationship with the land, contrary to the Western philosophy that everything’s maximum potential for growth can be achieved through industrializing. Cuba’s people and government - prioritizing a fairer distribution of wealth, increased entrepreneurial control, and disseminative education - have embraced the potential a sustainable agricultural system has to lead a wholly equitable socioeconomic ecosystem.
I took on the project rather organically. In the semester previous to my study abroad, I had somewhat of a political awakening, and because of that and my love for "nature", I quickly invested myself in our global environmental crisis. During my three months in Cuba in the spring of 2015, I spent a lot of time familiarizing myself with the agricultural system, approaching it from various perspectives. At first I was just amazed by how fresh and delicious all the fruits and vegetables were at the markets, as well as in the variety of unfamiliar sizes and shapes I was seeing them in.
I followed the chain of production from market to source, shooting a small market, the larger market where one cooperative of farms sold in wholesale to those smaller ones, and then the farms themselves. I was amazed by how short that chain of production was compared to the one we use in the Western World, as well as by the many institutions that exist to facilitate the growth of their system and its ideologies.