Last Day in Cuba, New Thoughts

By Neil Melancon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

One quick story from yesterday that I forgot about at the cigar factory. There are several types of Cuban cigars and one style is called “Romeo y Juliet (Romeo and Juliet).” They’re not aged long and they’re considered kind of “light” cigars.  The name, of course, comes from Shakespeare, but for a very specific reason. 

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From a Certain Point of View

From a Certain Point of View

By Neil Melancon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

I intentionally left something out yesterday because I had to think about it and today’s tour gave me perspective.

Before dinner last night, our tour guide, Wendy Holm, lectured us on the structure of agricultural co-ops here in Cuba. Recent reforms from Raul Castro allowed land to once again be divvied up to farmers, most of whom banded together in co-operative arrangements.

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Gardens in Paradise

Gardens in Paradise

By Neil Melancon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

It’s a tough life waking up in a garden paradise surrounded by lakes and mountains, but someone has to do it, I suppose

We only had one night in Las Terrazas, but we did get to explore some of the surrounding areas. The preserve is turning into a tourist destination, but not just for foreigners—native Cubans get a discount, which is good, considering the gap between the regular peso and the convertible peso is something like 25 to 1. One of Raul Castro’s efforts is to combine the currencies, but the gap remains a perpetual challenge.  

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Post-Revolution Revolutionary Ideas

Post-Revolution Revolutionary Ideas

By Neil Melancon, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

The trip to Cuba began at a very crowded New Orleans Metro Airport at 4 am. The security line for Terminal D stretched all the way to Terminal C. Every trip has a story and this one is listen to them when they say to arrive at an airport three hours ahead of time for an international trip—you never know when a massive convention is trying to get out all at the same time.

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Breaking News

Breaking News

by Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

“Breaking: Police are responding to a report of officers shot at a location on Airline Highway near Old Hammond Highway in Baton Rouge.”

That’s what I saw on my Facebook feed the morning of July 17th as I was about to leave the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Cuba. That was the only place in Cuba where I had some connection to home: The only place in Cuba where I could sign on to a rather slow WiFi connection and send messages back to my wife. That’s what I was doing when I saw the news. 

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Long Lunches with Lots of Rum

Long Lunches with Lots of Rum

by Tammi Arender, KNOE-TV Monroe

The highlight of the day for me was the visit to the University of Havana camps with University of Louisiana - Monroe President Dr. Nick Bruno and his wife. Side note here... they both offered to help me carry my camera gear on several occasions. How sweet is that?  The University campus is certainly a diamond in the rough. And I mean rough. The campus is like something out of Greece with its large columns and stately staircases. 

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Holding Together

Holding Together

by Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

The white plastic bag filled with plantains and purple skinned sweet potatoes is torn, but holding together. It’s a lot like the 60-year-old man clutching that bag as he runs toward a short American wearing a white hat, plaid shirt and deep love for agriculture. 

The 60-year-old is Raul Perez, a tall, lighter skinned Cuban who frequents the farmers’ market where I met him. The man he wants to speak with is Louisiana Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Dr. Mike Strain.

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Let's Get Back Together

Let's Get Back Together

by Tammi Arender, KNOE-TV Monroe

I gained such insights into Cuba for sure. Some business leaders from Cuba met with Commissioner Mike Strain and our Louisiana delegation. Very informative. I was surprised to learn that Cuba is internationally known for its biotechnology. They’ve developed medicines and vaccines that are cutting edge. For example, one of the Cuban speakers told us about a drug they’ve developed that has actually helped diabetics save a foot or appendage that is within inches of amputation. He says they’ve also developed a vaccine for use in cattle that prevents ticks from latching on to the bovines.

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Human Beings

Human Beings

by Tammi Arender, KNOE-TV Monroe

I was up before dawn to see the sun rise over the Gulf of Mexico, which is one of my favorite things to do on the planet, albeit usually from the angle of Gulf Shores. Remember, Cuba is an island surrounded by the Gulf on one side and Caribbean on the other.

When the sun’s rays start to illuminate the town of Havana, you’re reminded once again that it’s the city that’s locked in the 1950’s.

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Caught Somewhere in Time

Caught Somewhere in Time

by Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

I don’t know his name. I can’t speak his language very well. He’s older, weathered and commanding a pair of bull oxen with whistles, calls and a rope. The oxen are pulling a small wooden harrow, breaking up the red soil with every step. Looking at the man and his implements, it’s like going back in time. It’s 2016. He’s just caught somewhere in time. 

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Paving the Way

Paving the Way

by Veronica Mosgrove, La. Dept. of Agriculture & Forestry

What an amazing first full day in Cuba! Today, we visited an organic farm. It is 25 acres of mostly vegetables and some ornamental plants.  

In Cuba, this is the largest co-op with the primary crop being lettuce, but they also grow tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables. This co-op is also the main producer of mint for Havana. People love their mojitos!

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Going Back to Cuba

Going Back to Cuba

by Avery Davidson, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

Have you ever heard the song "Going back to Cali" by LL Cool J? It's popped in my head every time I've tried to type up this blog post. I keep rapping "I'm going back to Cuba, Cuba, Cuba. I'm going back to Cuba. Yeah, I think so" when I think about this trip. It's such a blessing to get the opportunity to return to this nation which is only 90 miles from the United States, but distant ideologically. 

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Connecting with Cuba

Connecting with Cuba

by Carey Martin, Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation

The possibility of trade with Cuba can be a divisive subject in certain circles, but when it comes to Louisiana agriculture, there seems to be universal support for opening that market for Louisiana farmers.

We are happy to host this blog to bring you the story of those paving the way for trade relations with Cuba.  Our own Avery Davidson is making his second trip to Cuba this year, following a trip in April with Louisiana Congressman Ralph Abraham and Arkansas Congressman Rick Crawford. 

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