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"The most stunning     urban farm I     have ever seen"
"The most stunning     urban farm I     have ever seen"
The mission and vision of Organopónico Vivero Alamar is to be a cooperative farm, focusing on agricultural production and services. Dedicated to professionalism, honesty, immediacy, discipline, hospitality and the shared values of commitment to the country and to the individual, Vivero Alamar strives to be a national and global leader in sustainable agriculture.
Organopónico Vivero Alamar contributes to the needs of people, offering a wide range of vegetables, ornamental and medicinal plants, and other food products. Vivero Alamar also provides community services, applies innovations in science and technology to the farm, and provides technical assistance and training to those interested at the local, national, and international level.
Vivero Alamar is a farm located in Alamar, a large barrio (public housing project) just outside of Havana, Cuba. Founded in 1997 by Miguel Salcines, a former agronomist for the Ministry of Agriculture, along with three others, the farm developed as a way to feed the surrounding neighborhood. Vivero Alamar is just one of many organopónicos (organic urban farms) that have emerged since the early 1990s. It has become one of the most well-known such farms, both in Cuba and around the world. Originally an 800 square meter (8611 square foot) vegetable garden, the farm has grown to over 25 acres and includes animals, fruits, herbs and value-added products like vinegars and spices. It also employs over 160 people.
Vivero Alamar sells its produce to nearly 50,000 people every year. Prior to its existence, fresh produce was much more difficult to obtain. Today, the farm plants three million seedlings and harvests 300 tons of vegetables annually.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Cuba’s primary economic partner, the country struggled to reinvent itself. Without an outside source to provide farm equipment, tools, fertilizer or chemicals, the country’s farms became organic by default. Cubans embraced this new way of farming. Today, organopónicos like Vivero Alamar are completely sustainable and organic. They are constantly innovating and finding ways to nurture and harvest crops to provide nutritious, fresh food to their communities. Very little Vivero Alamar does is outsourced, and the farm takes recycling and reusing seriously, with everything having a specific purpose. The world is starting to take notice, and it is looking to Cuba for the future of farming and food.
Click on each of the stars in this map of the farm to learn about Vivero Alamar's farming practices.
Ninety percent of their plants, or three million seedlings each year, are started in greenhouses. The seedlings grow for 30 to 45 days before the burgeoning vegetables are transferred to the field. Greenhouses conserve water, labor, and nutrients because they use less space.
Since Vivero Alamar is completely organic, the farm does not use any chemicals or synthetic fertilizer to grow crops. Bulls and oxen are essential to the farm because they plow the fields and provide manure.
Vermiculture is the process of using worms in composting. Manure from the rabbits and bulls is layered with California earthworms to produce humus, organic fertilizer that is added to soil for nutrient and moisture retention. Four hundred tons of humus are produced annually at Vivero Alamar.
The farm practices polyculture, which is growing multiple crops alongside each other to reduce susceptibility to disease and ward off pests. Oil pressed from neem tree seeds is often sprayed on plants as an insecticide.
The farm also cultivates ornamental and aromatic plants, herbs, fruits, trees and tubers. Many of these are used in other products they make, like vinegars and seasonings.
One of Vivero Alamar's most innovative practices is using mycorrhizal fungi. Mycorrhizal fungi live in plant roots and help absorb water and nutrients, making them drought tolerant. The farm makes powder out of mycorrhizal fungi, spreading it on soil or dipping seeds or plants in it.
Grafting is the process of taking the stems, leaves or other parts of a plant and connecting it to the roots of another to speed growth. This is primarily used for fruit trees.
The animals the farm hosts are all meant to further vegetable production. Both rabbits and bulls are raised for their manure.
Plants are grown in separate sections and rows of taller trees and plants are interspersed among shorter ones, protecting them from the wind. This reduces erosion, water loss and migration of insects.
Cuba's tropical climate enables Vivero Alamar to produce year-round, hosting over 150 species of plants. Crops are rotated eight times a year. Rotating crops helps prevent disease and keeps the soil healthy, with a balance of nutrients and microorganisms.
Vivero Alamar is not just a farm, but an innovative cooperative.
Employees at Vivero Alamar all share in the profits, and each member has a say in the running of the farm. They work less hours than government employees, yet have higher wages than the average Cuban. Most employees also live nearby.
Living sustainably is a way of life for Cubans, especially for the employees of Vivero Alamar. The farm employs workers of all ages and backgrounds--there are specialists and professionals alongside laborers and cooks. The farm hires both women and men, young and old. Employees speak of their high quality of life, the beauty of seeing things grow, the satisfaction of feeding the community with fresh food, and the opportunities for learning the farm provides. View the slideshow below to learn more about Vivero Alamar.