The Winds of Change
Two years after Hurricane Irma, ECHO has made a full recovery and is using the knowledge gained to equip others.
On a tour of ECHO Global Farm, you may notice blotches of white coating the trunks of trees. At first glance, this appears to be a natural mossy growth. But look closer and you’ll see that it’s actually latex house paint.
On September 10, 2017, Hurricane Irma tore its way through Florida. And ECHO was right in the path. When the wind died down, we began to see how God spared us from damage to many of our buildings, but the Global Farm did not fare as well. Mango and avocado trees laid uprooted on the ground. Bamboo stalks and palm fronds scattered the paths. Head of Agricultural Operations Tim Watkins estimated that 100 to 120 trees were victim to the winds.
ECHO staff and volunteers worked immediately to restore the farm. They covered exposed trunks with detached tree branches and palm fronds and shielded unprotected roots with soil, burlap, and tarps. Thanks to hundreds of generous donors, we were able to quickly procure the resources that we needed to care for our downed trees. Volunteers came to serve, some from as far as Maryland.
“The key is to fix it right away” Watkins said. “Trees are more likely to recover if you work quickly.”
The team worked towards a more permanent recovery including painting trunks with white latex house paint. They lifted larger trees with tractors and installed steel pipes for support, allowing the roots to regrow.
One year later, they removed the posts. The trees were healed.
Much like the pipes, ECHO provides support in the form of training and education so small-scale farmers and their families can sustain themselves.
Irma left its mark on ECHO in the form of white tree trunks, scars of missing branches, and less shade. But every blemish is a reminder that, with enough support, everything can recover.
ECHO took the damage left by Irma and turned it into knowledge. Just one month after the storm, ECHO held three workshops that focused on the same hurricane recovery techniques used to repair the farm. Later that year, ECHO staff taught a workshop at our annual international agriculture conference focusing on lessons learned during the storm.
Since Irma, ECHO has continued to work towards protecting itself from the next storm by installing metal shutters to protect windows.
“We’re in a better place for the next event,” Watkins said.
Irma is a story of destruction and recovery. Of damage and growth. The winds may have uprooted trees and snapped branches, but ECHO’s foundation stayed strong. And the final result, like the goal of ECHO’s mission, was knowledge for the future.
Last week, we put that knowledge to use. As Hurricane Dorian pointed it’s path toward the Florida peninsula the ECHO staff watched carefully and put a plan in place. Though we were spared as the hurricane turned, our hearts go out to all those in the Bahamas facing devastating destruction.
You can read more about the initial recovery stages from Irma and lessons learned HERE: