Every state in our United States has an Extension Service. To quote from the national website:
"These offices are staffed by one or more experts who provide useful, practical, and research-based information to agricultural producers, small business owners, youth, consumers, and others in rural areas and communities of all sizes."
Extension services are normally headquartered in a "land grant" college. For example, in my native New York State, we have the Cornell Cooperative Extension Service.
But what happens when you go overseas, especially into countries that are commonly called "third world nations"? What agency acts as their extension service?
Earlier this week, while in North Ft. Myers, FL, my spouse and I visited the ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) demonstration farms. They style themselves as being an "extension service to the world". While a Christian organization, they serve all peoples regardless of religious belief. They bring agricultural knowledge to poor countries to help them fight hunger and disease, and work with appropriate technologies - those that can be built with native materials or other materials abundant in the area - that are both ingenious and sustainable.
ECHO trains volunteers and then the volunteers go forth (privately funded) to help the world.
While the tropical demonstration farms left me sorry I can not grow avocados and mangoes in upstate New York, it was the urban demonstration farm that especially caught my eye.
"wick garden", the mustard greens are being grown with a carpet mulch covered in corn cobs. To quote from ECHO's literature on wick gardening:
"The wick garden was developed to enable people to have exceptionally shallow bed gardens without the need to water several times each day..You are most likely to think of a candle or lantern when you think of a wick, where kerosene or melted wax are pulled by capillary action up the wick from the pool of liquid below.
Water is likewise moved by capillary action if a cloth or fiber wick is placed in it.
The wick for the garden can be any kind of cloth. For example the wick might be an old blanket, pieces cut from old clothing, a piece of carpet or a special fabric made for this purpose that is used in greenhouses to keep the soil in small pots moist until they are ready for sale. "
Nothing fancy, nothing expensive - but it works.
The man who led our tour was originally from the Philippines. He was a retired surgeon, and was following his passion and religious beliefs in his retirement. His name is Vic, and I want to thank Vic for the wealth of information he gave us on our tour.
There was a lot more to ECHO than the urban garden and I will be blogging more about the other demonstration gardens at a later time.