A Fitting Adventure Wrap-Up

We started our bike adventure with a partial purpose of supporting ECHO, so we thought a fitting way to end our trip would be to visit ECHO. We are so glad that we decided to take the detour home by visiting the ECHO farm in Fort Myers, FL! What an amazing place, and what a wonderful collection of skilled and caring people who work as a team to find solutions to many different agricultural challenges related to worldwide hunger and poverty!

 Not only is the ECHO farm beautiful, but so interesting, too- full of small-scale reproductions of farms in different regions of the world: plants yielding vegetables and fruits I’ve never seen before, animals raised for the purpose of food that generate useful waste products for use as fertilizer or in other useful ecological cycles.

Not only is the ECHO farm beautiful, but so interesting, too- full of small-scale reproductions of farms in different regions of the world: plants yielding vegetables and fruits I’ve never seen before, animals raised for the purpose of food that generate useful waste products for use as fertilizer or in other useful ecological cycles.

On our first full day at ECHO, the staff and interns gathered for a very nice reception (in our honor). We were humbled by this, but so appreciative of the opportunity to share some of our stories and answer their questions about our bike adventure. Our journey was partially a mode of raising awareness and funds for ECHO using people’s enthusiasm and interest in our family adventure. The ECHO staff and interns, though, are the ones doing the more direct, hard, and daily work of addressing the challenges of world hunger and helping find solutions to those challenges. We were honored to partner with them for our 4-month bike adventure, and we hope to continue to spread the word about the good and meaningful work that they do!

 This is a picture of Jerry explaining some aspect of our bike trip with the ECHO staff and interns at the reception that they had for us. From this perspective, you can only see about a third of the folks that had attended. 

This is a picture of Jerry explaining some aspect of our bike trip with the ECHO staff and interns at the reception that they had for us. From this perspective, you can only see about a third of the folks that had attended. 

 This is a gift- wrapped in the beautiful, blue fabric (see behind frame)- that ECHO so graciously gave us at the reception. It is the framed magazine article that Danielle Flood and her summer intern, Maddie Christy, had written for the August issue of Florida Parent and Child Magazine. What a special keep-sake this will be!

This is a gift- wrapped in the beautiful, blue fabric (see behind frame)- that ECHO so graciously gave us at the reception. It is the framed magazine article that Danielle Flood and her summer intern, Maddie Christy, had written for the August issue of Florida Parent and Child Magazine. What a special keep-sake this will be!

 Avery pulling weeds...

Avery pulling weeds...

After seeing some of the farm, our family  had the opportunity to volunteer there for a couple of hours. We weeded and mulched amid the warm, humid contrast to our previously chilly, dry, and mountainous location just a day before. 

 This is our sweaty bunch during a fulfilling time of volunteering on the farm. ECHO staff member, Heidi, whom we worked with (Jerry taking the picture). 

This is our sweaty bunch during a fulfilling time of volunteering on the farm. ECHO staff member, Heidi, whom we worked with (Jerry taking the picture). 

 Russell brushing off a rake, the first step in the tool cleaning process. 

Russell brushing off a rake, the first step in the tool cleaning process. 

The boys learned to clean the tools that we used. What a great way to give tools a much longer life! We should do this at home! Water isn’t used to clean these (that would cause them rust faster). Instead, they are dry-brushed into a bin with a bristle brush.

 Douglas spraying a tool with WD-40, the second step in the tool-cleaning by process. 

Douglas spraying a tool with WD-40, the second step in the tool-cleaning by process. 

Then, they are sprayed with WD-49.

And last, they are placed back in their “home” for storage. 

 Tool storage room...

Tool storage room...

Jerry and I would have loved to stay longer at the ECHO farm to hear more of what the 14-month interns could teach us about each of their areas of expertise. The farm is an active and vibrant research center dedicated to exploring methods for propagating and growing plants and animals for both food and for a livelihood in various countries and climates throughout all the world. In addition, ECHO serves as a hub for folks living and serving in third world countries to ask their relevant agricultural questions to experts in the field. They are also able to connect people to each other who might experience similar agricultural, economic, or cultural challenges so that they can glean ideas and learn appropriate methods from one another. 

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How does an impoverished family living in a crowded city grow enough food for their own family with limited space and resources? One solution might be a roof-top garden using little to no soil and instead using old clothes or bed sheets to incorporate a wicking method for moisture and for fertilizing the vegetable and fruit plants. Old car tires can even be used as efficient planters.

 These “rooftop” garden experiments are utilizing a method of fertilizing and watering that involves continuous wicking from these buckets onto a mat of either old clothing, bed sheets, old carpet, or a polyester fiber. 

These “rooftop” garden experiments are utilizing a method of fertilizing and watering that involves continuous wicking from these buckets onto a mat of either old clothing, bed sheets, old carpet, or a polyester fiber. 

How can folks irrigate their farms when there is no home and gardening store around to purchase irrigation supplies and perhaps no electricity to run water pumps for water transport? With simple and easy-to-come-by materials, farmers can build water pumps and irrigation systems that allow their crops to flourish. 

 This shows many uses of simple pvc pipes and rubber tires that can be used for so many different purposes, such as homemade manual water pumps, irrigation systems, and other uses. 

This shows many uses of simple pvc pipes and rubber tires that can be used for so many different purposes, such as homemade manual water pumps, irrigation systems, and other uses. 

How can a family’s need for income and nutrition be met in the most efficient and cost-effective way? One solution could be through aquaponics, in which the waste and nutrients from one organism is used and cycled through to the space of another- fish and vegetables growing by mutually producing nutrients for one another in separate holding tanks in which the water is constantly cycling through them. 

 This is the aquaponics system. In the foreground are rectangular reservoirs which receive nutrient rich water from the fish tanks in the background. (three fish tanks are covered by the black shade cloth) In these reservoirs float foam “islands” which hold vegetables and leaf crops. These plants use the nutrients and then this water is cycled back to the fish tanks to start the cycle over again. The fish tanks were full of nice fat tilapia. I’m getting hungry!

This is the aquaponics system. In the foreground are rectangular reservoirs which receive nutrient rich water from the fish tanks in the background. (three fish tanks are covered by the black shade cloth) In these reservoirs float foam “islands” which hold vegetables and leaf crops. These plants use the nutrients and then this water is cycled back to the fish tanks to start the cycle over again. The fish tanks were full of nice fat tilapia. I’m getting hungry!

 This is the seed bank on the ECHO farm. Small-scale farmers from all over the world can obtain seeds from here- either during the annual conference at ECHO (held in Florida in November), at other equipping events in various remote locations in the world, or seeds can be ordered from ECHO by the farmers.

This is the seed bank on the ECHO farm. Small-scale farmers from all over the world can obtain seeds from here- either during the annual conference at ECHO (held in Florida in November), at other equipping events in various remote locations in the world, or seeds can be ordered from ECHO by the farmers.

 This is a bamboo house built by interns and staff on the ECHO farm, using bamboo grown on the farm. Training on the farm focuses not only on plants but “appropriate technology”—region appropriate food prossessing, cooking, building, and other physical aspects that support families. The ever-present focus is to use materials easily available to locals. 

This is a bamboo house built by interns and staff on the ECHO farm, using bamboo grown on the farm. Training on the farm focuses not only on plants but “appropriate technology”—region appropriate food prossessing, cooking, building, and other physical aspects that support families. The ever-present focus is to use materials easily available to locals. 

 This is another type of dwelling built on the farm using materials grown and harvesting there.

This is another type of dwelling built on the farm using materials grown and harvesting there.

 This is the movable pig pen. 

This is the movable pig pen. 

There were two different uses of pigs that we saw on the farm. One situation had pigs in a movable pen, in which they forage and naturally till and fertilize the ground beneath them. The pigs and their pen can be moved to bemutually beneficial for the soil and for the pigs. 

 These are the pigs in their pen that collects their excrement in deep layers to be used for fertilizer. 

These are the pigs in their pen that collects their excrement in deep layers to be used for fertilizer. 

 Another set-up had some pigs in a pen where they would go about their business of eating and pooping. Their excrement would collect over a long period of time in specific types of grates, and microorganisms would be constantly working to break down this material. Later, it would be used as a very rich fertilizer. 

While we were in Florida for those 3 days, we were able to enjoy a beautiful beach not too far from the ECHO farm- on the Gulf coast- with our new friends, the Flood family. 

 Digging holes, building sand castles, and playing in the warm and calm Gulf coast waters with our new friends, the Floods. 

Digging holes, building sand castles, and playing in the warm and calm Gulf coast waters with our new friends, the Floods. 

When we returned home, we were struck by how well our parents had cared for us while we were gone. They had faithfully cut grass, collected and tended to our mail, received items we returned, made sure all was well with our home- both inside and out, and even tackled a mildew problem that cropped up in our basement during our absence. They wiped down furniture, counter-tops, mini-blinds, cleaned upholstery, washed linens, filled our refrigerator with nutritious groceries and prepared a lunch feast for our return. And my mother flew all the way out to Jackson, WY, to greet us at our finishing point and help us with the process of shipping bikes and gear. We together explored the Grand Teton area in addition to flying to Florida to visit ECHO. We are surely missing some things, but we hope you get the picture. We wanted to thank our parents publicly for the love they have lavished on us!

With this particular adventure having ended, we also want to thank each of you again for following us, supporting our journey with your prayers, encouraging words, and many acts of kindness all across the country! The biking was fun, challenging, and invigorating. But the most important and meaningful parts of our adventure were the people that we were able to meet—experiencing kindness from those who began as strangers to us—and for God’s grace, protection, and provision for our needs! We are still processing all that we experienced. And we are currently trying to reacclimate ourselves to whatever normal is back here at home.  Our intent in the next month is to cull our many pictures and video and provide some sort of “overall snapshot” to those of you that are interested.  Stay tuned!