N.D. farmer takes 'a trip back in time' to Cuba
Mark Formo says he feels like he took "a trip back in time." The Litchville, N.D., farmer and president of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, recently returned from Cuba, where he was part of a trade mission promoting food raised in the ...
Mark Formo says he feels like he took "a trip back in time."
The Litchville, N.D., farmer and president of the North Dakota Grain Growers Association, recently returned from Cuba, where he was part of a trade mission promoting food raised in the state.
"They (Cuban officials) seemed impressed with what we have to offer," says Formo, who talked with Agweek Friday. "It was very interesting."
The North Dakota Department of Agriculture, which organized the trip, will hold a news conference at 11 a.m. Monday, Nov. 2. Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring, who led the mission, and others members of the trade delegation will attend.
Formo and other North Dakotans hope that thawing U.S.-Cuban relations will lead to increased imports of U.S. food by the island country. North Dakota produces a wide range of ag products, including edible beans, which are popular in Cuba.
"The beans were a big thing (of interest in Cuba),” he says. There was a lot of interest in our wheat, too."
The Cuban economy is relatively backward after decades of Communist rule. That's certainly true of the agricultural sector, Formo says.
"We saw (farmers) plowing with oxen,” he says. “And the fields weren't very big. It was definitely a trip back in time.”
He also saw bare supermarket shelves - on which North Dakota-grown foods might someday sit. It's unclear how Cuba would pay for more imported food, though enhancing its tourism sector would help.
"Increasing tourism is important to them, that's for sure," he says.
Tour organizers advised him to bring packages of toothbrushes and toothpaste to leave as tips for hotel maids.
"If you gave them a $5 bill, they'd have nothing to spend on it," Formo says, noting the bare supermarket shelves. "They were so appreciate of what we gave them."
The Cuban people in general were very friendly, he says.
Formo, who took time off from his corn harvest to take part in the trade mission, says he's glad he went.
"It was a good trip," he says.