Saturday, January 3, 2015

ECHO Global Farm

At least a couple local residents encouraged us to take a tour of Echo Farms, probably because I asked so many questions regarding local plants and trees.  When we signed up for a tour on Friday, we had only a vague idea about what we would learn here.  We had a wonderful tour guide, a volunteer who works at Echo.  He did not start the tour until we had seen a video about the organization, as well as listened to his summary about what we would see while walking around the farm.  ECHO is an acronym for Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization.  Its international headquarters is in North Fort Myers and includes a global farm, research center, reference library, seed bank, tropical fruit nursery, and a global bookstore.  In the lowland section of the farm Echo has raised seedbeds where crops of nutritional value are grown specifically for seed production.  Sample seeds are sent to farmers of those countries where the crops can be grown.
 As our guide started our tour he mentioned that 75% of the world's food comes from 12 plants and five animals.  ECHO is working to change that, especially for the people who live in third world countries.  In another posting I mentioned the miranga tree- which is loaded with nutrients.  Growing on the farm is also a kutac tree.  The Japanese men who hid out in caves for years, not knowing the war was over, survived on the leaves of the kutac, which also is nutritional.  Pictured below is a picture of its leaves and berries.
The global farm has ducks, rabbits, pigs and goats, all of which figure into crop production.  Hens and pigs are placed in cages over various crops to eat weeds as well as to fertilize the land.  Pigs, which are not in the fields, reside in pens where there is no obnoxious smell and very little flies.  The floor of their pen has three feet of sawdust mixed with some rice husks and charcoal.  A beneficial microorganism spray is added, which also keeps the pen dry, clean and healthy.
 The waste of ducks in a small pond promotes the growth of phytoplankton which is eaten by talapia- that pond and its inhabitants provides meat, fish and eggs.  ECHO farms has Impact Centers in Africa and Asia where this information is shared with small-scale farmers.  Another part of our tour was viewing simple technology for pumping water into tanks as well as irrigating farm fields.  Pictured below is the Chapin Drip Irrigation Bucket which uses a 5 gallon bucket and tape.  It waters up to two 50-foot rows of any crop with as much as 8 gallons of water a week.  We also saw worm compost beds, as well as a small cook stove powered by methane gas.
Some people only have small areas outside their apartment or on top of their roofs to plant vegetables.  We saw examples of that kind of gardening, as the wick garden which is pictured below.  All that is needed in that garden is a bucket, piece of carpet, some wood chips.  Manure tea or a soluble fertilizer is also needed.
I felt that I had  learned so much on the tour, which lasted about two hours.  A lady on the tour with us said that this was her third time to take the tour, every time she comes back she learns something new to try out on her garden in Virginia.  Another man on our tour said that he had recently bought land in Florida and was interested in growing crops on that land.   ECHO is a non-profit organization, it relies on donations and volunteers.  It does cost to take a tour, and that money also helps to keep the farms going.

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