From the moment one arrives to ECHO’s Global Farm, you discover that the interns are an integral part of ECHO’s mission. However, many wonder: What do the interns actually do? What role do they play at ECHO? What do their lives look like during their 14 months here?
Interns have been a “long-standing legacy at ECHO,” according to the Florida farm’s storytelling intern, Maddie Christy.
In the early stages of the organization, ECHO’s founding CEO, Dr. Martin Price, hired a recent college graduate who was intrigued with international development to serve for one year as an intern.
The internship was meant to give recent graduates a chance to get hands-on experience, and become well-equipped in agriculture, before entering the mission field. To no surprise, the internship was a success! ECHO added two new interns in 1985, and by 1989, ECHO had acquired six interns on their staff.
The internship program has been thriving ever since, now hosting 8 interns at a time. This Spring in 2019, ECHO welcomed their 257th intern onto the staff! In an attempt to capture the daily life of an ECHO intern, Maddie Christy, our storyteller, gives us the closest inside scoop thus far, about what goes on in a typical day on ECHO’s Global Farm, in the eyes of Elizabeth Casey—an ECHO intern
Most interns are scrambling around the house getting ready for the day. Some reach for tea, coffee, or just a few mangoes. Elizabeth settles for some scrambled eggs—fresh from the chickens on the farm!
The first important meeting of the day is just a few feet outside the front door, in the courtyard between the intern homes. Everyone gathers closely together to listen for important reminders for the day, plan for lunch, and most importantly, take time to pray and reflect before conquering a long day.
The meeting ends, and the interns routinely split off to fulfill their morning duties. Elizabeth’s first stop is to re-check and record the total rainfall for each day. Elizabeth is referred to specifically, as the “monsoon intern.” In other words, it is her responsibility to track the water the Farm collects each day, and let others know the total so they can account for it in their work.
Heading off the the main chicken coop, Elizabeth opens the main latch to release the chickens inside. They will stay out for most of the day, only returning to the coop when Elizabeth approaches with feed.
Onwards toward the other side of the Farm, Elizabeth heads straight to duck and tilapia pond. She allows the ducks to scurry out before shutting the door behind them. Here, she rinses off the deck and collects any eggs the ducks may have laid the day before. After this is done, she fills the feeder with plenty of food and watches as the ducks hurry back in to devour their breakfast.
With most of the morning side-work complete, Elizabeth is now free to focus on her individual tasks for the rest of the morning. These tasks often include weeding, planting, or completing a project. Interns are also able to request help of ECHO volunteers during this morning time slot! On this day, Elizabeth had the goal of working on her raised garden beds and requested an extra set of hands. Moments later, three highly motivated volunteers joined us for the “morning in the monsoon.”
The specific tasks including weeding, composting, and mulching four of her raised beds. After countless trips to the compost and mulch piles, water breaks, and one interruption to go catch escaping chickens, our work was finally completed by noon. What would have normally taken Elizabeth a week to do on her own, was easily checked off the list in one morning. Not to mention, group work always makes it more fun!
The daily lunch plans tend to change, but today there was a special intern lunch gathering. The male interns hosted everyone in their home. Gabe, the urban garden intern, prepared a homemade stew, served with a side of mangoes. As the host, Gabe also prepared an inclusive activity for some group reflection and manifestations. With the addition of two new interns earlier that week, the group utilized this time to share new ideas and goals of what they hope to accomplish together. It was a sweet and tender moment of casting vision for the upcoming months, and the future work in which they are preparing for.
As the mid-afternoon sun falls lower in the sky, the interns return to group farm work. At 3:00 p.m. exactly, staff, interns, and volunteers integrate for a brief meeting to divide and conquer responsibilities. This afternoon was set aside for smaller, more specific projects around the farm, assigned by farm manager: Andy Cotarelo.
The best thing is, not one afternoon is ever the same. Monday and Wednesday afternoons are reserved for seminars. Interns are merged into a classroom, with a hands-on environment—to learn about vital agricultural information. ECHO’s recent intern seminars have covered a wide variety of topics including: mangoes, beekeeping, bamboo harvesting, and the Biblical basis for ECHO.
Tuesday and Friday afternoons are reserved to work in either the seed bank or propagation. Each intern is assigned to one of these duties for the duration of their internship.
This leaves Thursdays available during the week for ECHO interns and volunteers to join together and complete whatever projects on the farm that could use some extra attention and work.
As far as farm work, this week Elizabeth teamed up with Feo, the rainforest intern, to overcome a mulching project near the urban garden area. This mulching project quickly became an irrigation problem! To solve it, we began to clear the two main areas of weeds and overgrown greenery with hoes and rakes. Prior to burying the mulch to prevent weeds, we checked to make sure the irrigation in that area was functioning properly- which it was not.
We found a few leaks along the pipe and made repairs before completing the mulching. After confirming with the Farm Manager and multiple trips to the shop, Feo was able to demonstrate how to repair the holes. We polished off the job by dumping and spreading mulch all over both areas.
The sun sinks lower in the sky as the interns wrap up for the day. Everyone takes careful time to clean, and organize the farm’s tools and golf carts. They are returned to the shop so they are ready to go for tomorrow. Some interns hurried off to their own evening commitments—dinner, bible study, gardening, a pickup volleyball game, or some volunteering.
Elizabeth’s final task of the day was to feed and cage her chickens, similar to the chores we completed that same morning. With her work boots back on and her headlamp to guide the way, we ventured into the dark farm. The mature chickens were far easier to interact with—they even perched themselves for the night inside their coop. We shut the door and admired the beauty, just for a sweet moment.
Treading towards the young chickens, we detoured to the the laying box to pick up a few eggs from the day! We arrived at the teenage chicken’s coop to find that some had gotten out through a small crack again. We returned them to the enclosure, before coaxing the whole group into the left side of the structure for safekeeping from critters overnight. And lastly, the ducks had one more feeding before the hatch closed them in for the night.
It’s now officially the end of the day. Most interns have retired to their respective houses for the night. After a long day of hands-on work in the sun, interns tend to head to bed as soon as they can. Often interns joke about “missionary midnight” which comes at about 9 p.m; signaling the end of the day in the life of an intern.
My ECHO Experience Explained:
I loved following Elizabeth around for the day. I got a tangible sense of what the everyday life of an intern is like. They work in the tropical heat in Florida. Most of their time for 14 months is centered around the farm. But their work has purpose, and there is joy in it. These interns are the backbone of ECHO. The work the interns put in reaps a bountiful harvest— for ECHO, and for the communities the interns are preparing to work alongside. These interns are ECHO’s trainers, partners, and network members. They are quite literally training to be sent out as the hands and feet of Jesus and to be manifestations of the knowledge of the ECHO network. The interns are crucial to ECHO’s mission and have a beautiful role in the work of the Kingdom.
That’s a big deal.