ECHO's location was carefully selected for having the worst soil in Florida, an environment similar to that of the countries where ECHO's solutions are made available. Our guide referred to the 50+ acre farm as a "living classroom." Interns receive 14 months of training before heading out into the field. More than 250 students have been trained at ECHO.
|Shelter made from bamboo|
We learned that 75% of the world's food is generated from 12 plants and five animal species. ECHO's small duck and tilapia pond was one example of a sustainable food source. Ducks were chosen because their eggs have the highest level of protein while tilapia are the fish of choice because they reproduce when quite small. The ducks are housed in a wire cage where their droppings fall into the water and grow into algae. The tilapia live off the algae. According to our guide, many villages would be able to live off the food produced from the tiny pond.
|Interns working monsoon-ready raised beds|
The farm has different areas whose environments mimic those of the regions where ECHO's work will be shared. One area featured raised beds where crops can be planted in a way that will protect them from drowning during monsoon season. (This is the way strawberries are grown here in Florida.) Another area had steep land where terraces had been created using rocks, rail ties and deep rooted plants. Plants on trellises are found throughout the farm because growing them in this way enhances their ability to survive and thrive.
ECHO has a separate tour relating solely to "appropriate technology" that I'm sure would be quite fascinating. We learned that twenty types of water pumps have been developed that require no electricity. We also were given a demo of a biogas digester created from an old barrel that can provide five months of fuel for a family of five.The creativity would make McGyver proud.
So much information was presented that my head was spinning by the time our 90 minute tour was over. I came away amazed at the ingenuity and selflessness of people dedicated to helping alleviate world hunger. It really is quite an operation.
If you're interested in learning more about ECHO, their Global Food & Farm Festival on March 19 would be the perfect opportunity. According to ECHO's press release, "the festival features samplings of exotic foods, a tropical rain forest demonstration, tours of the farm’s 300-variety seed bank and fruit tree arboretum, and educational programs about the connection between food and cultures. Farm visitors will have the opportunity to crush sugar cane and peanuts and taste the results. And there will be live 30-minute cooking demos on stage, featuring a very diverse group of local chefs. At the end of each session, the chefs will serve the dishes they’ve prepared.” It sounds like a great way to spend an afternoon.