A Glimpse Into a Viable Future

Disintermediation is the process of eliminating intermediaries in your personal supply chain.  Food is the most important area for an individual to disintermediate.  Disintermediation necessarily leads to localized/regional food production.  This implies that we would be reversing the decades long trend of ever larger agribusiness operations.  An inherently daunting challenge made even more so by the fact that the economic power of Big Ag translates to favorable, protectionist policies coming out of DC.

It is within this context that I came across a wonderful piece written by Christopher D. Cook at Craftsmanship.net titled Cuba’s Harvest of Surprises.


Cuba has more than 380,000 urban farms covering roughly 100,000 acres of otherwise unused or marginal land. These farms produce an estimated 1.5 million tons of vegetables each year—roughly 70 percent of what city residents consume. Photo by Noah Friedman-Rudovsky.

In the fall of 1989, a full quarter-century before President Obama normalized US relations with Cuba, the Berlin Wall came tumbling to the ground in a flurry of sledgehammers and concrete dust. Meanwhile, an economic tsunami was brewing on the small Caribbean island. The Soviet Bloc was crumbling fast, sending shock waves across the globe that would plunge Cuba’s food and farming into years of austerity, hunger, and radical overhaul.
Earlier that year, the international socialist market terminated Cuba’s favorable trade rates—abruptly curtailing 85 percent of the tiny nation’s trade. Imports of wheat and other grains dropped by more than half; food rationing set in, and hunger widened. Soviet aid, a pillar of Cuba’s economy, evaporated as U.S. economic sanctions tightened.

The Cuban people found themselves at the brink of starvation.  They were the experiencing the effects of a heavily intermediated agricultural sector.  All their equipment and supplies were part of a chain of dependence that left them vulnerable to disruption.  This is precisely the risk that we are all facing today because of the high level of dependence upon huge, multi-national agricultural businesses.

Economic collapse led swiftly to agricultural crisis. Cuba’s industrialized farming system, fueled, literally, by Soviet tractors and petrochemicals, ground to a halt. Oil imports fell by 53 percent, and the supply of pesticides and fertilizers fell by 80 percent. Launching an era of austerity and reform known as the “Special Period in Time of Peace,” the Castro government “instituted drastic measures such as planned blackouts, the use of bicycles for mass transportation, and the use of animals in the place of tractors” to meet the unfolding crisis, according to a report by Food First, a U.S.-based think tank focused on food justice issues.

Out of sheer necessity, an entire nation went largely local and organic. By 1990, Cuba began breaking up its big state-run farms. Much like its American counterparts, these industrial operations produced monoculture harvests, which were accomplished primarily with heavy machinery and fossil fuels. Now the government was issuing land use-rights, seeds, and marketing incentives to peasant farmers by the thousands. Over the next decade, according to “Agroecology Revolution,” Cuba’s farmers shifted to organic fertilizers, traditional crops and animal breeds, diversified farming with crop rotations, and non-toxic pest controls emphasizing the use of beneficial plants and insects. This blend of measures is part of a sustainable-agriculture approach known as agroecology. It’s often described as a promising innovation—which is a little ironic given that it draws on age-old peasant farming practices.

Complete article at: Craftsmanship.net