ontinuing exchanges between the U.S. and Cuban co-op sectors facilitated by NCBA CLUSA’s U.S.-Cuba Cooperative Working Group, Organic Valley hosted Agroecologist Leidy Casimiro at MOSES Organic Farming Conference—the U.S.’s largest organic farming conference held recently in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Over a week in late February, Casimiro visited Organic Valley member farms, attended the MOSES Conference and participated in organic farming workshops at the conference’s Organic University with farmers and Organic Valley members from across the U.S.
Touring family farms, Casimiro was especially interested in Organic Valley members’ bio-gas and bio-digesters. She was excited to learn about their role in local farming and connected it to an affordable model that her family farm in Cuba has constructed with locally sourced materials for approximately $100. This reduced cost bio-digester provides approximately 85 percent of her family’s farm’s energy needs.
Touring Organic Valley’s main offices, Casimiro was introduced to the cooperative’s history and structure as well as its efforts in sustainability, social programs and marketing. This provided an opportunity for Casimiro to share her agricultural knowledge from her own family’s 11-hectare organic farm, a member of the Cuban Credit and Services Cooperative (CCS) Reynaldo Ramos.
The structure and support from the co-op stood out for Casimiro. “I told [my colleagues] about the work experience that CROPP/Organic Valley coordinates as a cooperative that focuses on teamwork, clean and sustainable food production and the benefits of sharing among all partners, as well as the well-being of farm families, their interests and the priorities of the workers linked to the organization,” she said.
Since her return to Cuba, Casimiro has been sharing her experiences with her colleagues at the Permaculture Movement of Cuba, University of Sancti Spiritus and researchers at Experimental Forages and Pastures Research Station “Indio Hatuey.” Identifying more points of collaboration, she noted some of the research happening in Cuba could be useful for U.S. farmers. In particular, producing bio-gas and organic fertilizers for potato production could improve the energy, economic and technological efficiency of the systems.
“It would be very interesting to exchange in this area, which can greatly benefit the families of La Crosse [Wisconsin] and other farming families linked to Organic Valley with the technology we developed in Cuba at very low cost but with great benefit,” Casimiro said.
To learn more about the Cuban co-op sector check out the article “Cuba’s Economic Experiment” on p. 26 in the latest issue of the Cooperative Business Journal.