Saturday, March 9, 2013

Sustainable Saturday - ECHO ECHO

So many people in our world hungry...sick...what can be done to improve these lives?

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.

These are mustard greens.  They are being grown in raised beds, with a mulch of used carpet (hidden under the grass/hay mulch).  Note the barrels that act as part of a drip irrigation system, and also tires (in the background) being used as planters.

Don't have much ground?  No problem.  Here, bags of compost/manure are being readied as a type of "grow bag".

In this area of the demonstration "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.


  1. Thanks for this interesting post. My only familiarity with Extension Services was with participation in 4-H clubs. I had also never heard of ECHO - I'll have to ask my oldest daughter about it, because she has a related degree in sustainable agriculture. The pictures of the gardens are beautiful; I think I've seen these types of "urban farms" on HGTV or similar programs.

  2. Wow. This is so cool! There is a community garden in one of my nearby neighborhoods. I love watching everything grow. Fantastic ideas and wow, love how they are making the most with the least!

    A great example!

    I popped over from UBC - so great to meet you!

  3. It's amazing what's in our own back yards! Thanks for bringing this to my attention!

  4. That's a really cool garden! I wish I could build one where I live now. But the HOA here would die. LOL! Thanks for sharing, Alana! WRITE ON!


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