What Does Spring mean to ECHO?

March 21st was the official first day of Spring, and with a new season comes new joy and experiences. The ECHO team recently asked our interns and volunteers on the farm in Florida, what Spring means to them.

It was a gorgeous day on Friday, not a cloud in the sky and the temperature barely crept over 80 degrees. The sun was beaming down on the abundance on the farm, bringing new life and more growth. This was truly a sight to see this morning: interns and volunteers working tirelessly to ensure the farm is in tip-top shape and the plants are thriving! To learn more about seasonal produce and our current favorite recipes, check out this post for some inspiration for fresh Spring meals!

Striding down the dirt path towards the urban garden, there was a smile on every face as we questioned our team members what Spring means for them, and what they were thanking God for this season. The first volunteer we stopped this morning was Kassie Jahr, a volunteer from Taylor University in Indiana:

God makes all things anew.

ECHO: What does Spring mean to you? How does Spring remind you to feel grateful?

Kassie: “God makes all things new. This is something I am constantly reminded of especially seeing what the season has created here on the farm. Our tasks mostly consist of spring cleaning, tidying up, harvesting, and just making things look anew. This is my favorite part about Spring, that God’s promises are always true, it won’t be cold and dead forever; life will still come back and bring new beginnings.”

After a wonderful conversation with Kassie, we traveled down to the warehouse and found two ECHO team members chatting about their daily tasks—this is when we struck up another conversation about Spring:

ECHO: What do you look forward to most about Spring?

Intern: “This may sound weird, but my favorite thing is free Italian ice at Rita’s on the first day of Spring—this gets me excited to know warmer weather is coming. Which is another thing I love: when the air gets warmer and you can feel it on your face. It’s as if you know life just gets happier around this time.”

As we rounded the corner after saying goodbye to our last two team members, we stumbled upon ECHO intern, Matt Cunningham and ECHO volunteer, Alaynna Flannery. When we asked them: “What Does Spring mean to You?” it seemed like a no-brainer for them!

Matt: “With Spring comes the promise of new life, and the freshness of new growth is very promising and encouraging…I appreciate the coolness before the high heat of summer, and try to remember how unique Spring is in and of itself—you can almost taste the Spring freshness in the plants you grow. Everything just tastes…sweeter. The distinction in crops is almost how you feel the seasons based on what you’re eating, and tasting the actual spring season in the plant...that freshness and ripeness.”

Alaynna: “Like Matt said, new life is a perfect way to describe Spring and just the new opportunities and challenges that lay ahead. I feel like this is the season to be surrounded by blooms, colors and growth, which is something specific that makes me feel so grateful for the Spring season. It reminds me to stop and reflect on how much I love and appreciate this life. I feel like I could go on forever regarding what I’m thankful for, but as far as expressing my gratitude and thankfulness, I love to write down how I’m feeling that day and express what it is I am truly grateful for.

We believe that helping small-scale farmers overcome tired soils and difficult conditions is one way to put an end to the suffering and worrying farmers and their families endure everyday.

A wonderful point our volunteers and interns have made here, was the importance of appreciating what we have in the present moment before it is gone. And more importantly, recognizing that having something we are so thankful for, is all the more reason to share it with those who may need it most. In this case, ECHO intern Matt chooses to share his favorite feeling of holding onto the cool, spring air before the searing, summer temperatures are upon us.

Millions of families all over the world hope to hang onto the Spring season, because of its promise of new growth, and the hopes for a plentiful harvest. However, droughts, barren and overworked land, and lack of resources, are just a few challenges that farmers and their families face. When this happens, malnutrition sets in, and families struggle to make a living, cover medical expenses, and send their children to school...all because they don't know where their next meal may come from.

ECHO's mission, is to reduce world hunger by providing sustainable resources, and useful skills, while honoring God by empowering and teaching those who are undernourished. We believe that helping small-scale farmers overcome tired soils and difficult conditions is one way to put an end to the suffering and worrying farmers and their families endure everyday.

Spring Time in a few words:

  • Growth

  • Gratitude

  • Fresh

  • Vibrancy

  • Rebirth

  • Thrive

  • Love

Interested in finding out how YOU can get involved in ECHO's mission? Visit our Social Media pages:

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.”

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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.

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    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. 

Helping Animals, Healing the Planet

Photo courtesy of: Veterinarians International

Photo courtesy of: Veterinarians International

Dr. Beth A. Miller is the Senior Livestock Advisor for Veterinarians International and was recently in Nanyuki, Kenya as an invited speaker for the “Symposium on Best Practices in Pastoralist Areas of East Africa.”  

She spoke on the topic of “Gender and Pastoralism,” and led a discussion about successful strategies to include both women and men in sustainable development activities among pastoralist communities. 

"Pastoralists are highly dependent on their livestock for their livelihoods and manage their cattle, sheep and goats to provide food, clothing, income, and to maintain friendships and alliances. Traditionally, they have moved across East Africa to different grazing areas, sustainably managing the arid areas while developing unique and vibrant cultures.

Because livestock is central to pastoralist livelihoods, animal health and training attract people’s attention, and are terrific opportunities to facilitate discussion of women’s vision of their own future."

For more information on the East Africa Symposium and the benefits of empowering women through pastoralism and animal care, visit: 

http://vetsinternational.org/empoweringafricanwomen/#sthash.Fj1tzjrq.dpuf