Who started the local food revolution? Cuba or Jamie Oliver?

Roger Doiron Roger Doiron, a colleague who I hope to see in a couple weeks at the Kellogg Food and Community Conference, created this great 6-minute video based on his recent trip to Cuba.

Roger says, “The organic and urgan agriculture revolution that is under way there is nothing short of amazing, but what a lot of people don’t know is the amount of hardship Cubans have been through to get to where they are.  Unlike with most people in the US and other wealthy countries, growing their own and doing it organically were not really choices for Cubans: they did it to survive. Or to put it more flippantly, when life gave the Cubans limes (mint and rum), they decided to make mojitos.” Read from his blog.

Roger, in case you don’t recognize the name, is the guy who – along with Kitchen Gardeners International – inspired Michelle Obama and the White House vegetable garden. Here is an interview with him about that and the “This Lawn is Your Lawn” YouTube video that started it all.

Cuba is indeed a fascinating place, especially when it comes to farming. In 1994, I got an early look at this national experiment in organic agriculture while helping to lead a group of  farmers, scientists and students to look at Cuba’s forced shift from California-style, industrial agriculture to organic and sustainable approaches. They have come a long way from the time when many were experiencing serious vitamin deficiencies to now when you can find thousands of urban gardens and myriad farmers’ markets throughout Cuba. (Here are some gorgeous photos from a similar Reality Tour from February 2010.)

Roger ends his post with these words, putting it back on us to create viable local food economies that are good for our particular place:

In the end, each city will have to make its own path to sustainable food security for its residents and what works in tropical Havana may not translate to Hartford, Connecticut or Hamburg, Germany.  The road is going to be long and bumpy, but as the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu so famously said, a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step and the most important thing is getting started on that journey.

The soil is warming… Is there a better time than now to take that first step?