December 01, 2013

Permaculture and Farms in Vinales

Oxen preparing the soil.
Typical Vinales horse cart heading to town from the countryside.
We had our first experience on a permaculture farm in Cuba when we were staying in Vinales. Vinales is reportedly home to some of the world’s best tobacco farms but we were more interested in the fields of black beans, corn, rice, and wheat. The farms cover every inch of the valley floor butting right up against the dramatic jungle topped Mogotes. The town pulsed with farming life. Farmers in cowboy hats and rubber boots pedaled their old single speed bicycles along main street. Horse carts and oxen competed for road space with tractors and tour buses. Somehow despite the huge amount of tourism passing through this quiet valley the locals carry on with their lives.

It was on one of our long wanders through the countryside that we came across La Chiquitica Organic Farm. Miguel Veliz Collazo welcomed us in for a tour of his permaculture gardens and food forests. With Meghan as a translator we learned that he has been teaching and farming for 25 years and that he works with kids and has hosted UBC students. He took us to feed his pigs that lived alongside turkeys and chickens in a forest of banana and citrus. And then with great enthusiasm explained his HuManure composting system! I was bursting with things that I wanted to say but poor Meghan could only translate so fast. Our tour moved on to his herbal compost tea concoction for combating against pests. We left with mouths agape and hands filled with bananas and citrus. In exchange all he wanted was for help share what he does online.

We met anything fascinating farmer while wandering near Vinales. Raul Reyes has an organic farm on the path to the Cueva Vacca at the base of a dramatic jungle covered Mogote Mesa. Which also happens to be an amazing rock climbing crag. Raul was a weathered old man that you could tell was really proud of his farm and what he grew. He had bananas, pineapples, peanuts, wild honey, home roasted coffee, handmade cigars, and fresh squeezed unsweetened juices. His produce was far fresher than what we’d find on the produce carts in town and we’d always come away with a few freebie bananas.

Cows are protected in Cuba. Killing one could land a Cuban 7-12 years in jail! 

Everywhere we went we saw Cubans in clean crisp clothing. I love this photo. The red dirt road, dog, baby clothes, and trimmed grass. 
Miguel the farmer, philosopher, and teacher. I'm holding the fruit he gave us in exchange for sharing his info online. 

Feeding the pigs in the food forest. I like food forests that include animals for meat :)

Noisily chowing down on some soaked banana (grown overhead). A chicken awaits scraps. 

On one of epic country walks near Vinales. Off the tourist path you see the life unfold. Moments later we watched as a frustrated young man tried to drive his oxen down to the water hole and got stuck in a rut. 

Our smiles hide our weariness from hours under the hot sun…lesson learned. Bring two broad brimmed hats!

Finca Raul Reyes market stand. The best place to stop for a juice after a day climbing in the mountains surrounding Raul's fields.

A caballero and his horse.