We can all be a learner: A first timer's view of the ECHO Global Farm

By McKenzie Van Loh, Abby Petersen and Beret Leone

We woke to the light of morning shining through the leaves of papaya and avocado trees next to the A-Frame on ECHO’s farm. As we sauntered to the second level to toast bagels and sip coffee, the heat of a Florida November had already begun to rustle the tips of the bamboo shoots nearby. At our home, Bethel University in St. Paul, Minn., the leaves are already off the trees. But at ECHO Farm, everything is alive.

    We, four students from a small journalism program, had never heard of silvopastoral systems or sustainable agroforestry. We came to ECHO as learners - and we learned. More than anything, we learned how much we don’t know about our world and those who hunger in it. We met agriculturalists from Australia, Haiti and Brazil, as well as from all over the U.S.

    For the short visit we had at the ECHO conference we had one goal: find stories and serve others by sharing these stories. We quickly came to realize our plan wasn’t so simple.

One person in particular who caught our attention introduced himself to us as Michel. Traveling from Haiti, Michel and his friend David offered to be in the video we were producing for ECHO - a small project intended to get a sense of why ECHO matters to the people it affects. Michel translated for David, who spoke Haitian Creole. We sat back in awe while the lilting tones of the Haitian language bounced back and forth through the ECHO yard. We came to serve ECHO, but the people of ECHO continually served us.

    Chatting with passerbys on the porch outside of the ECHO gift shop quickly attracted a gentlemen bearing a ‘PRESS’ lanyard; a fellow journalist. He was a sports reporter reporting for the North Fort Myers Neighbor newspaper who heard we were students and wanted to ask us a few questions. It was humbling to have the spotlight turned over to us, but helped us refocus on what ECHO is all about and what message we wanted to share. As the reporter, Chuck Ballaro, simply put; “it’s about giving a man a fish versus teaching a man how to fish.”


After talking to several people about their experiences with ECHO, we came across one vibrant woman. She pulled aside the brown, wooden rocking chair we had been using and plopped down while she ate from a bag of popcorn in her hand. She smiled up at us struck a conversation. We asked her if we could interview her about what ECHO means to her.

“My husband and I founded ECHO,” she said with a chuckle. We spent the next twenty minutes listening and learning from Bonnie Price and the experiences she and her husband have shared.

We spent the rest of the afternoon traipsing past the sheep, being followed by the local cat and enjoying the balmy air of Fort Myers. We learned that the guacamole we ate for lunch was made from a recipe created by a neurosurgeon. We learned how to make an agroforestry joke. Mostly, we closed our mouths and learned.


    What a blessing it is to learn. What a blessing it is to serve our fellow children of God. How humbling it is to meet the hands and feet of Christ at ECHO. 

Silvopastoral... and other words you didn't know you needed to know

ECHO International Agriculture Conference 2016 is the coolest conference ever!

Refreshing! Is that a term that normally is connected to long hours and busy days? For anyone with interest in agriculture and sustainable development, the ECHO conference fits that bill and more. 

Delegated huddle together discussing new trends in sustainable development and share both challenges and successes.

Stan Brown presents about wild fruits from Central Asia

Stan Brown presents about wild fruits from Central Asia

Plenary speakers share years of experience in their fields, spurring other practitioners to try a proven technique or method. 

The ECHO conference welcomed 189 delegates this year working in over 20 countries around the world. 

Hands-on workshops include how to make Chaya green tortillas.  

Hands-on workshops include how to make Chaya green tortillas.  

Evening settings included Silvopastoral systems in Brazil, livestock management in jungle pastures, and other in-depth expert-led topics. 

Register today: 2015 ECHO International Agriculture Conference

Announcing the 2015 ECHO International Agriculture Conference

November 17-19, 2015 - Fort Myers, Florida - USA


Announcing The 2015 Conference

ECHO’s Annual International Conference will be taking place in Fort Myers, Florida from November 17th to 19th, 2015. Early-bird rate of $325.00 will be available until October 1st, 2015.

Take advantage of this special price by registering online!


We are pleased to announce our 2015 Plenary Lineup:

  • Peter Marks – Vegetable Gardening as Crisis Response: Selecting Seeds, Selecting Strageties
  • Phil Reasons – Aquaponics for community development
  • Susan Stewart – From Chaos to positive community development: The agricultural worker's role as change agent
  • Mark Hare – FONDAMA Yard Garden Program
  • Christy Hanson – Growing our way to health: the intricate links between global health and agricultural development
  • Tre’ Cates – The restoration of grasslands through holistic management by which properly managed livestock heal the land
  • Andre Houssney – Sambah Naturals and Zambeezi: Agricultural Missional Business in Zambia
  • Stephan Lutz and Angela Boss –The cheers and challenges of "Conservation Agriculture" programs implemented with small-scale farmers in identified dry and drought prone areas, with a particular focus on Kenya and Zambia. 
  • Sara Delaney – Trying Something New: Factors in farmer adoption or non-adoption of new practices

Full details about each plenary speaker are available at ECHOcommunity.org


Still Not Convinced?

See what you missed last year: Watch the plenary session videos from last year's conference or browse the photo gallery.


Poster Gallery & Session

This year at the conference there will be a poster session offered. The poster session is an additional way for attendees to share and exchange information through compelling visuals that tell the story of your research, success, or technique. If you would like to produce and present a poster please let us know.


Looking for Training on Faith in Agriculture? Look no further

ECHO is proud to help share information about the Second Annual Redeeming the Dirt Conference in Rockford, Alabama, July 26-29, 2015! This summer you can come together with other Christian farmers, gardeners, and agrarians from around the country as they seek to learn how to better express love for Jesus through the way land is tended. The goal of this conference is to encourage, challenge, inspire, and equip followers of Jesus to impact their communities and nation through agriculture.

At the Redeeming the Dirt Conference they will:

  1. Encourage Christian farmers to recognize how faithful stewardship of the land can be part of making disciples of Jesus Christ and glorifying God.
  2. Encourage those in Christian ministry to consider the power of modeling the Gospel and helping the poor through Jesus-centered agriculture.
  3. Provide practical training and tools for more productive, sustainable, and beautiful gardens and farms!

Register today as you consider how you might redeem the dirt.

When: July 26th-29th, 2015 Where: Poplar Point Camp, Rockford, Alabama


  • Craig Deall, Foundations for Farming Zimbabwe
  • Noah Sanders, Farmer, Author of Born-Again Dirt
  • Robert Brandon, New Water Ministries

What: Challenging sessions and testimonies, encouraging fellowship, and hands-on practical training in conservation agriculture!

For more info or to register go to www.redeemingthedirt.com, or email noah@roravalleyfarms.com

The conference changed (deepened) my faith in the Lord . . . The garden is a small piece of the big plan of sharing the Lord’s word.
— Sonja, 2014 Attendee
What a life changing event . . . it was well worth our time away from our small homestead and business.
— Larry, 2014 Attendee

ECHO International Agriculture Conference

ECHO International Agriculture Conference
November 18-20, 2014
Fort Myers, Florida

This year marks the 21st Anniversary of the ECHO International Agriculture Conference held in Fort Myers, Florida!  We hope that you will make plans to join us for this year's conference.  The event brings together some of the world’s most influential voices dedicated to eradicating hunger and improving lives.

Speakers will share practical solutions to agricultural challenges, personal experiences and strategies for improving the lives of millions who daily face the threat of starvation. The event offers an open exchange of information, connecting the people and ideas that can make a real and sustainable difference.

ECHO International Agriculture Conferences provide opportunities for networking and enrichment for professionals working internationally in agriculture or related fields. The conference regularly attracts delegates representing more than 30 countries.  

An important part of the event is the Post-conference Workshops.  This year we have what we hope to be very helpful and useful workshops for individuals that are able to stay for one more day.  Click on this link Post-Conference Workshops to see details about the presenters, the topics of the various workshops and the additional costs involved.  People that have attended these post conference events have found them very worthwhile.

Conference accommodation and meeting rooms for morning and evening sessions will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel (http://www.cpfortmyers.com/) in the Bell Tower district of Fort Myers. Afternoon workshops and demonstrations will be held at the 50-acre ECHO farm in North Fort Myers, which has one of the largest collections of tropical fruits and vegetables in the United States. 


Continue to Registration Information