food

The urban gardens of Havana

I live in Luton, a town with a fair amount of post-industrial space. As I walk through the High Town area, I imagine what might be done with scruffy little plots of land or under-used car parks. Most of them will be built on, as there’s a housing shortage in the area. But maybe some of them can be turned over to urban gardening.

In thinking about what they could be, there are many examples of what can be done. We could look at the guerrilla gardening around South London, Incredible Edible Todmorden, or Detroit’s ‘agrihood‘. And then you’ve got what is perhaps the best example of just how far urban gardening can go: Havana. 90% of its fruits and vegetables are grown within the city.

I’ve written before about the particular circumstances behind Cuba’s food production, and there are good reasons why urban gardening became such a refined art in Cuba. It’s not a project that could be replicated – but it does serve as a kind of gold standard for urban growing. Here’s a video introduction:

4 comments

  1. So do we need Communist repression and economic mismanagement to push near a starving population to farm whatever they can to stay alive. Sounds attractive.

    So successful that Cuba still imports over 70% of its food (according to the World Food Programme). That’s higher than during the Cold War period.

    These urban farms are a rare avenue for Havanans to earn some personal wealth in a failed Socialist system. This reminds me of the private plots peasants in the USSR were allowed alongside the collectivised farms which for 3% of the agricultural land produced 25% of the produce.

    My Grandmother had stories of her allotments during the war (49 chickens only as 50 meant the government took all the eggs). All very rosy but bloody hard work. And peace, with trade, was preferable.

  2. In my mind I can walk with you along those streets Jeremy and think of how little pockets of front gardens, often paved behind railings, could be rejuvenated to produce crops. (I taught at Barnfield’s Charles Street site years ago.) Here in Kinghorn we have encouraged the Brownies to plant a boat with edibles, experimented on a vertical herb garden in the High Street and this year the Ecology Centre are bringing more edible planted tubs for outside the butchers. (Yes we still have a baker and butcher in our small burgh up here in Fife!

    1. Yes, all around Charles Street is just what I have in mind. Good to hear about your projects up in Fife. I was scouting vertical growing systems just yesterday in the hope of installing one on a sunny wall in High Town later this year.

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