Echo Global Farm Fruit

Echo Global Farm | Thing to Do

For you a northern folk who may not realize it, southwest Florida has entered our version of spring as far as gardening and farming is concerned. It’s finally cool enough to plant our gardens without the seedlings instantly melted by the blazing sun or being pelted to death by rain. With the recent, welcomed weather change I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to visit ECHO Global Farm to learn more about gardening locally and more about the organization itself.

Echo Global Farm Photo AlbumThe walking tour of the fifty-five acre facility takes about ninety minutes and doesn’t nearly do it justice to what the organization has to offer. The grounds are exceptional and the demonstrations of various types of farming in different environmental scenarios are outstanding and innovative. Repurposing what one already has or recycling what some would consider trash into useful garden equipment and growing containers is demonstrated in nearly every part of the facility. There are even structures built which simulate, for example, a Haitian school or an average home so that visitors can understand what shelter is like in developing countries located in Central America, the Caribbean and Africa. It is humbling and will really put your first-world problems into perspective.Let me first start by saying that the short space allotted this column isn’t nearly going to cover some of the outstanding things that ECHO accomplishes. The most abbreviated description I can come up with is that it is a living, breathing agricultural research facility, world community garden, educational center and humanitarian project incubator. In short, ECHO is basically an extension agent for tropical agriculture. It promotes sustainable farming techniques, grows nutritional plants and provides technical support all over the world in their mission to help the poor help themselves. Simply put, they teach people how to grow food and the fill bellies of the hungry.

ECHO has quite a wide reach to those in need. It sends out over four-thousand seed packets a year to network contacts in over one hundred, seventy-five countries. These seeds aren’t just any seeds; they’ve been researched, studied and tested to perform specifically for the climate and geography in that particular area. The goal is for the farmer or family to be successful and continue to provide food well beyond that first seed packet.

The next time you’re looking for something interesting to do take a tour of ECHO. When you’re there, stop in their on-site store. They stock a variety of seed packets, many books on gardening and agriculture plus they have one of the largest selections of tropical and sub-tropical fruit trees in the area.

ECHO wants southwest Florida gardeners to succeed, too, so ask lots of questions and sign up for a few of the tours. Be sure to get there early because there are space limits and tours fill up quickly. They don’t take reservations but you can organize a group tour if you have a larger posse or an organization outing. It would be a great family tour and a way to show your kids that food actually comes from some place besides Publix or a drive through window.

If you’d like to learn more about ECHO or to donate, visit their website: www.ECHOnet.org. Tour schedules and times are listed.

Happy Trails and Boardwalks!

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Special to Southwest Spotlight