ECHO is an amazing organization, and an amazing resource. The research facility is located in North Fort Myers, Florida. There they have a working farm, a seed bank, library, tropical nursery, and bookstore. ECHO provides training and technical assistance in the areas of agriculture, community organization and empowerment, and how organizations can work with the poor in underdeveloped areas to most appropriately meet the nutritional needs of the communities they serve.
here for more information about the conference and an overview of the speakers and topics presented. It looked like a really, really neat conference. This stuff is right up my alley. Although my background is in Public Health, not agriculture, many of the strategies for empowering communities and planning and evaluating programs is the same. In addition, agriculture, in the countries and communities that ECHO serves, is directly related to nutrition, which is Public Health. ECHO's agricultural work impacts healthy communities, maternal and child health, and disease prevention.
avocados, katuk, chaya, and, of course, moringa (if Kristi is reading this, I'm sure she's grinning). ECHO uses moringa for everything. Also available from ECHO farm produce: Tangerines, Fresh lemonade made from Meyer lemons, Lemonade made from Meyer lemons and red lime, and calamondon juice. One of the volunteers also made a jam from the pods of a cranberry hibiscus- which Joan and I actually have growing in the back yard. Sometimes I will add the hibiscus leaves to a smoothie or a salad, but I wasn't sure what else we could do with it. It was neat to learn that we could make a jam (I tasted it, it was good). The rest of the lunch was standard feed-large-numbers-of people fare: pasta in tomato sauce (with or without meat), garlic bread, rolls, fresh pears, apples, soft drinks and water. The food was donated by a local church.
|Calamondin juice (I tried it, it was yummy) Those are calamondins on top of the cooler.|
|Everything is recycled or composted|
|Closer view of the "please compost" signs (click for larger image)|
|We might be able to grow bananas and papayas, but we don't grow apples : ) |
Ed, this photo is for you : )
There were hands-on sessions after lunch, and my role was to sit at the information table at the entrance to the farm and help point people in the right direction to find the sessions they were looking for. I noticed some of the afternoon sessions covered grafting, cooking ECHO edibles, and low-technology irrigation. Some sessions were offered in French for the Haitian and African delegates in attendance. I heard many languages spoken throughout the day, and lost count of how many different countries I saw printed on attendees' name badges.
|Sitting under the papaya tree|
|A few of the reference books available for purchase. Topics included everything from fruits and vegetables, to llamas, chickens, and goats; even program evaluation and public health.|
|Bananas on the tree!|
|This is not the Cavendish variety you find in your local grocery store.|