Letter of Invitation


from Wendy Holm, Leader
Canada Cuba Farmer to Farmer Project


As a Canadian Agrologist (Ret.d), I very much welcome your interest in this very special Program!

This program offers Canadian farmers the opportunity to see and experience first hand how a small country can achieve what the rest of the world is trying to accomplish in a vibrant and engaging farmer-to-farmer context.

Since 1999, Canada-Cuba Farmer to Farmer Project has been bringing farmers together to share knowledge and experience in the areas of sustainable agriculture.   Cuba is a world leader in the rapid adoption of sustainable farming practices, the replacement of farm chemicals with natural, biological controls and state support for urban, organic agriculture and measures to stimulate peri-urban agriculture.  Canada is a world leader in best farm management practices, farm cooperatives and the development of farmer-led marketing initiatives.  Together, we have more answers than we have apart.    The Project objectives are to create cooperative capacity building in support of sustainable agriculture in both countries.

When the Soviet Union collapsed, all of Cuba’s sectors were forced to adapt to a new reality.  In agriculture the challenge was particularly severe:  Cuba had to move overnight from a monoculture farm economy based on sugar to a nation that could feed its population – 80 percent of which are in the cities - from a diversified production base.   This, without the benefit of farm inputs, machinery, gasoline, fertilizers, pesticides, or feed.   To accomplish this, the State looked to Cuba’s traditional farm cooperatives for the model.

•    Massive state farms were broken up and the land redistributed into smaller, worker-owned cooperatives. 

•    Traditional farming methods were adopted, such as the use of oxen to work the land.  Cuba’s research institutes were tasked with the responsibility of finding ways to replace chemicals with natural fertilizers, integrated pest management and biological controls.

•    Small labs to produce the products needed by the farmers in each area (Centers for the Reproduction of Entomopathogens and Entomophagos) were set up across the countryside.

•    Special incentives were created to encourage peri-urban agriculture.

•    Vacant land in the cities was put to work (incentives), and urban agriculture flourished.

•    In 1998, Cuba won the Swedish Parliament’s Right Livelihood Award for global leadership in organic agriculture.

•   The Accidental Revolution,  David Suzuki’s two part special on Cuba highlighted Cuba’s accomplishments in sustainable farming methods. 

•    In 2010,  Cuba was named the only country in the world to reach national sustainability by the World Wildlife Fund.

•    In  2007, our project Enhancing Sustainable Dairy Production Capacity in Cuba (a farmer to farmer dairy project we have been leading through the Canadian NGO International Centre for Sustainable Cities; we will visit this project as part of our tour) won the prestigious Sustainable Development of Natural Resources or Protection of the Environment Award, as part of the 15th Annual Canadian Awards for International Cooperation.

The Program is 14 days in length.  Days one, two and three are spent in orientation meetings in Varadero, The next 8 days are spent days in four Cuban provinces — Artemesa, Cienfuegos, Ciego De Avila, Camaguey -   visiting farms, agri-processing facilities, research stations and intensive urban agriculture cooperatives (Organoponicos) and meeting with and exchanging experiences with Cuban farmers.  We end our tour in Santiago de Cuba at the 5 star Melia Santiago.  On day 12 we travel to Havana, where we rest for a weekend prior to returning home.

Over 600 farmers have traveled to Cuba with this Program since 1999. 

It has been said that Cuba is both far behind us and way ahead of us.   Of course, not all of Cuba’s approaches are transferable.  Different climate, Different labour costs.  Different farm economy.  But surprisingly, many are. 

In 2006, I brought a group of Canadian entomologists to Cuba to learn how a relatively poor country like Cuba has achieved world leadership in the production of biological controls.  They were impressed.

In 2011, I brought a gropu of cooperators from the academic and practitioner sectors to examine Cuba's visiion for a more cooperative, people-centred econmy.  They were impressed, and we are now working together on a 3 year project with ANAP to support farmer cooperatives.    A second cooperative conference was organized by me for Saint Mary's University in February 2015.

Since 2005, I have had the pleasure of teachin a 3-week university course for Canadian students (UBC LFS 302a International Field Studies in Sustainable Agriculture: Cuba http://ctlt.ubc.ca/distance-learning/courses/lfs/lfs302a).  At the end of the course, they must answer the questions “What is happening in this country, what factors have influenced this, and what lessons, if any, does Cuba’s experience offer the rest of the world.  With permission, the essay of one student is attached.

The cost to participate in our 2016 Program is $3,750 USD plus airfare.  This includes all accommodation, all meals (excluding beverages, 3 lunches and 2 dinners in Havana), tips, transportation in Cuba, translation, and airport transfers in Cuba.   Additional costs incurred may include airport parking, airport accommodation in Canada (for flights departing or returning late at night or in the early morning hours), the cost of connecting flights in Canada and incidental expenses.

If you are a farmer, we would be very pleased to have you and your family members join us.   This trip is deductible as a business expense for farmers.

Please feel free to contact me for any further information!

Warm regards

Wendy Holm, P.Ag.