cuba calls to borzekowski ’19 and canter ’19

College of Social Studies major Emma Rose Borzekowski ’19 and philosophy and feminist, gender and sexuality studies double major Selene Canter ’19 set out over winter break to research agriculture in Cuba–to learn what farming looks like in one of the few remaining socialist states. The research trip was funded by a grant from the College of the Environment.

Borzekowski has worked for the Sustainability Office since freshman year, serving as an eco-facilitator her second semester and as a sustainability coordinator this year. Writing her thesis on Undergraduate Student Unions, she is interested in the intersections of labor and policy, specifically how Leftist movements have been shaped by conceptualizations and implementations of agrarian economies. Her studies have taken on an international lens, comparing political regimes and labor activism across borders.

Canter worked the full summer of her freshman year at Long Lane Farm, and taught Farm Forum her sophomore spring. She is interested in the intersections between philosophy and farming, and the translations between local and global politico-cultural movements.

After graduation, both Borzekowski and Canter plan on pursuing agricultural and environmental work.

“By learning about farming specifically as trade increases between Cuba and the United States and relations begin to normalize, we can identify specific methodologies employed and attempt to trace their roots to understand how actual practice relates to ideology,” wrote Borzekowski and Canter in their research proposal. “We of course will complicate questions around Cuban agriculture through questions of geopolitics and colonialism. We want to research agriculture as it is practiced in Cuba, not as a type example of socialist farming practice but as a historically, culturally, and economically specific model that can in turn provide insight into how environmentalists globally can practice agriculture.”

Read more about their trip in the photo captions below.

What does farming look like in a socialist context? How does collectivization change farming practices and how do these changes affect the environments they exist within?
We visited several tobacco farms and learned about the systems of nationalized control over the industry. In addition to careful crop rotation systems, many of the farmers we met work with local municipal governments to regulate pesticide and herbicide use.
Cuba is known for its organopónicos- community-based organic farms that use a wide range of agroecological techniques.
Most of these organopónicos are small-scale and labor-intensive, meaning almost everything is done manually. Many of them are government run. The five workers that we met at this farm are employed by the government but use techniques that have been passed down to them through generations of farmers.
We also visited large scale sugar plantations. Here is a now abandoned sugar factory, where sugar used to be processed into rum. Almost all sugar plantations are government-operated and use innovative irrigation systems.