This is an article about agroecologist Fernando Funes and his farm “Finca Marta”, in Artemisa, where he has implemented sustainable development models of production and society.
HAVANA TIMES – Eight years ago, agricultural engineer Fernando Funes put on a hat, some clothes and wellington boots and set out to take science to the land on his “Finca Marta” farm, which now provides work for 15 people. Today, he wants to expand his experience and create a sustainable farming community.
In the Caimito municipality, in the Artemisa province next to Havana, the farm’s staff grow herbs and vegetables on its eight hectares, keep livestock, produce biogas for the house and it also has its own apiary, all of which are eco-friendly practices.
“We have a level of organization, production and ties with markets that has given us experience, we want to duplicate this elsewhere, creating a community and social dynamic, not just a productive one,” Funes explained to IPS Cuba. Funes transformed a plot of land overrun with weeds into an organic farm.
Sustainable farming community
Funes said he not only wants for this farm to grow, but for this experience to be replicated in as many neighboring plots of land as possible, until a sustainable farming community is created in the next few years.
There are many models in the world: ecovillages; the Landless Workers’ Movement, in Brazil, and transition towns, in England, for example.
“Every country has a different model. I have seen and visited many of them, and I wanted to take the best of each experience for our community,” Funes admitted, who dedicated 20 years of his life to research and teaching.
He pointed out that this initiative is a united effort of different farms, who hold onto their individuality within the group, with shared goals such as protecting the environment, production, commercialization, agro-tourism, educational activities and research on and the introduction of renewable energy
“It isn’t only centered around production, but everything leads to it indirectly,” Funes explained.
Then, he added that, within this social and economic dynamic, funds and assets generated would also be invested in the community’s entertainment, such as a swimming pool, social center, a store, for example, where not only the communtiy benefits but other locals in the area too.
“We are going to encourage farms belonging to other families and make a social, human connection with them so that we can work together not only on this small space, but in a larger area, so that more people are looking after the environment, producing food and living in the countryside,” he planned.
However, this isn’t the only project that Funes has in mind, who has been throwing some conceptual ideas about with experts at NGOs such as Cubasolar and the Antonio Nunez Jimenez Foundation, as well as with experts who have worked on issues relating to communities and landscape architecture.
This entrepreneur is also working on proposals such as a fruit and vegetable company, a cooperative of consumers and an app to inform users when products are available and help facilitate food orders.
While he is working hard to bring his projects to life, the 15-person team on his farm are growing some 60 different types of plants, mainly vegetables, which are then sold to thirty-something private restaurants. They also sell honey to the corresponding state company and they receive tourists, via a travel agency, as part of an agro-tourism project.