"At this moment I'm no longer a doctor. Right now I consider myself a farmer like everyone else."
On the outskirts of Havana, sandwiched between highways and public housing, a revolution is taking place. Here, in the district of Alamar, a 26-acre farming co-op provides employment for dozens of workers, while producing vegetables and medicinal plants for the local community and beyond.
Following the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in the early 1990s, Cuba was no longer able to access machinery and agricultural chemicals from its former Communist allies. In this difficult environment, the government relaxed economic rules and allowed the formation of cooperatives like the Organopónico Vivero Alamar.
What began as necessity—farming without pesticides and chemical fertilizers—has become a source of provide to coop members. They fertilize with compost and cow manure, raise their own insects for biological pest control, and have even created a fully biodegradable alternative to the plastic bag for use with seedlings.
TIERRALISMO introduces us to everyone from agronomists and senior management to workers who plant, plow, and propagate. The film also covers non-farming aspects of the operation, such as human resources and accounting practices where transparency is paramount.
Many of the co-op's members have come from other fields—including a former pathologist, a fisherman, and an oil-industry worker. More than half are seniors—including an 82-year-old who says when it comes to hoeing, he can outwork anyone in their twenties.
Lovingly photographed, TIERRALISMO offers a behind-the-scenes portrait of the Organopónico Vivero Alamar and a stirring defense of the importance of farm work and sustainable farming practices.
"Well-suited for use in classes that discuss social and environmental justice movements, Leopold’s land ethic, and environmental ethics. Raises important issues for discussion in classes dealing with environmental sustainability and economics by demonstrating how, in practice, environmental protection, sustainable jobs, and higher standards of living are not only compatible but really require each other—in the short term and the long term." —Alex Zukas, Environment, Space, Place