Cuban agriculture
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Venture out of Old Havana for a verdant, flower-infused landscape

Venture out of Old Havana for a verdant, flower-infused landscape
BY ALICE SHORT
Los Angeles Times

Cuba has more than 3,000 species of plants unique to the island, but
it’s unlikely that horticulture will come to mind while exploring the
streets of Old Havana.

When my daughter, Madeline, and I left that neighborhood, we encountered
a little more green – magnificent banyan trees near the University of
Havana and the lush landscaping that surrounds some of the embassies in
the Miramar neighborhood.

One day we drove to Vinales, two hours west of Havana, where we finally
were surrounded by sights often associated with the Caribbean. The
landscape started to look verdant and at times out of control. Flowering
plants popped up everywhere: Bougainvillea spilled in front of tiny
homes, and red-blossomed vines snaked around palm trees.

Our first stop was the Soroa Orchid Garden, which is maintained by the
University of Pinar del Rio, part of a larger park and botanical garden
and home to hundreds of varieties – cymbidium orchids, tiger lily
orchids and cattleya white orchids among them – about 30 of which are
housed in a small building at the entrance. I could have spent an entire
day in that structure, but we had a schedule to keep and a tobacco farm
to visit.

About 20 minutes later, we stopped at a private tobacco farm where young
men, stooped over in the fields, were harvesting, by hand, the second
crop of the season. Tobacco is one of the mainstays of the country’s
economy and a major moneymaking crop, thanks to worldwide fascination
with Cuban cigars. Manufacturers produce tens of millions of cigars each
year, and a few of them ended up in our suitcases.

We dutifully inspected the leaves of a mature plant and the drying barns
where the first crop, brown and wrinkled, awaited the rolling process.
The farm seemed relatively prosperous, with its well maintained
buildings and nonagenarian owner observing visitors from a rocking
chair, but its homespun charms couldn’t compete with the exotica of the
orchids.

The next day, we stopped at Finca la Yoandra, an organic garden about 25
minutes west of Old Havana and an example of Cuba’s urban agriculture
movement, which according to a 2014 report in the Guardian newspaper
supplies about “70 percent of the fruits and vegetables consumed in
cities such as Havana and Santa Clara.”

The 2-acre garden is attached to an Italian restaurant called Il Divino,
a popular stop for tour buses and groups. The well tended garden,
including a lime tree and row after row of vegetables, was a peaceful
respite from our nonstop learning.

Source: Venture out of Old Havana for a verdant, flower-infused
landscape | Miami Herald Miami Herald –
http://www.miamiherald.com/living/travel/article21274257.html

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