Published on 4 June, 2017.
Encompassing a range of traditional and creative Baracoan and Eastern Cuban dishes, our cuisine offers our guests healthy and delicious meals. We use only fresh ingredients bought to small producers in the region.
One of our suppliers is Orlando Frómeta Labacena, an organic micro-farmer who works marvels out of a tiny piece of land right within the city.
Hailing from the neighbouring municipality of Imías on Guantánamo province’s southern coast, Orlando married a Baracoan woman and moved to Baracoa in 2011. Here he built a house for his family. He brought with him a taste for cultivating fruit, vegetables and medicinal plants. Moreover, he brought a solid awareness of the importance of the environment and human beings’ relation with their surroundings.
A citizen-led ecological micro-project is born
Thus in 2012 Orlando decided to take care of this little patch of land on the shore of Baracoa Bay, a few steps away from his home and with a beautiful view towards mount El Yunque. For a long time, this tiny terrain had been abandoned to its luck. And its sad luck had made of it a waste dump.
Orlando cleaned it up and prepared it to launch an organopónico – an urban organic agriculture project. In a small city like Baracoa, with 45,000 dwellers and blessed with a climate of abundant rain and very good sunlight, nature seems to invade it all. For travellers coming from a huge city, it will sound weird to talk about “urban” agriculture in Baracoa – here everything would seem to be the countryside.
A wide range of products – and an ancient Baracoan practice
And so the Organopónico de La Punta – La Punta’s urban organic micro-farm was born. La Punta is one of Baracoa’s oldest neighbourhoods, guarded since 1742 by one of the three walled forts built to protect the city from enemy attacks. Nowadays, this little piece of land produces chard, beets, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, radish, cassava, chives, green onions…
The practice of cultivating lands adjacent to homes is as old as Baracoa itself. In the early 16th century, settler families favoured a very particular urban design. Houses were narrow and had an equally narrow and long terrain behind the built area, were they cultivated some of the vegetable inputs needed for families’ nourishment. This urban design is still intact in Baracoa’s old centre today.
Government incentives and supports – a happy way to launch a project
Orlando tells us the Cuban government favours the reutilization of unused land for small, self-employment farming undertakings. He himself benefitted from such incentives in the form of visits by a government-assigned specialist who advised him on the best ways to prepare and maintain the terrain in view of obtaining the best crops possible.
Medicinal plants and ecological cultivating methods
Besides vegetables, fruit and herbs, Orlando grows medicinal plants. For instance, sage, excellent for respiratory illnesses; verbena, useful to control blood pressure and sugar levels; mint, to foster good digestion and counter migraine…
Everything in this organic micro-farm enjoys remarkably good heath. Leaves are in excellent condition and they show great colour, texture and vitality. We ask Orlando whether he has to battle a lot with plagues. He smiles, knowing that such battles are necessary – but also the best ways to engage them. He tells us a bit about his ecological control methods – using substances extracted from plants such as tobacco, cardona (euphorbia lactea), basil, etc., to keep insects and worms checked.
Hurricane Matthew, a bad dream that’s now behind
In early October 2016, hurricane Matthew destroyed all of Orlando’s crops. Some of them will take time to come back – he had small lemon trees, soursop (annona muricata) trees, pineapple and tomato plants. Orlando says with conviction that with a bit of time all of that will be a reality again.
Not long ago he was visited by representatives from FAO, the United Nations’ agency for food and agriculture. They were touring all 4 municipalities affected by Matthew, taking note of progress towards recovery thanks to joint efforts by the UN and the Cuban government.
Sustainable tourism for local development
For us at Villa Paradiso it’s been wonderful to get to know Orlando and to develop collaboration and exchanges with this agriculture lover who supplies us with fresh, organic vegetables and herbs. Our vegetarian, vegan (as well as all other) guests appreciate the quality of his products at our table. And as we buy from him, we contribute to his family’s income and to his project’s development.
Did you know?
In 2016 the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) identified Cuba again as the top country in the planet in terms of sustainable development.
The United Nations declared June 5th World Environment Day. Here you can read more about this global opportunity to highlight the importance of cultivating a good relationship with nature.
You can read this article by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to learn more about Cuba’s organopónicos urban agriculture strategy.