An ECHO of our future: sustainable living

blog-echo-squareLast weekend, I had the good fortune of going to the ECHO farm in North Ft. Myers with my good friend, Tenille.  Their website states:  “Our goal is to improve the abilities of international community development workers assisting poor farmers by providing useful, important information and by networking their skills and knowledge with each other. We also provide hard-to-find beneficial food plants and seeds.”

They have a large suburban educational farm, just off I-75, and every year, they invite the public to come for tours and demonstrations.  What they’re doing on the farm is experimenting with different plants and seeds.  They’re trying to see what grows in extreme (hot) climates and sharing that knowledge with poor farmers in places like Haiti, Africa and Mauritania.

Sportster solar cooker

What was really interesting to me is that I’ve recently been researching ways to be more resilient in the face of current and future crises (economic, natural disasters, etc.).  Many of the sustainable living products I have been researching are ones that ECHO currently teaches folks in impoverished countries how to use.  Like rocket stoves, solar cookers, water filters, etc.

Rocket stove - survival stove

I get some negative feedback from what I’m doing – people thinking I’m crazy.  What’s crazy is that we wouldn’t consider preparing ourselves for emergencies with things that people are using in other countries in their everyday life.  It’s not like I want to carve a hammer out of a piece of stone!  These are modern products that are for sale today and would not only create resilience but lessen financial burden for people who use them (even in this country).

Water purification systems

ECHO also had a demonstration of urban farming, which I found very interesting.  They showed vegetable plants growing in various mediums – from aluminum soda bottles to pine cones to corn cobs – all being used as mulch for the plants.  It was a great example of how much life wants to propagate.  It’s so easy to grow food.  They also had plants growing inside of plastic grocery bags, kiddie pools and old tires.  There is no limit to how cheaply you can build your garden.

Growing plants in alternative mediums

ECHO has an entire nursery of tropical fruit plants – bananas, oranges, avocados, and then some really exotic things like atemoya, barbados cherry, black sapote and many others  – all that grow well in Southern Florida.  I attended the seminar about fruit trees and learned a lot about what grows well here, what is drought tolerant, what is cold tolerant and the best uses for each particular fruit.

Growing vegetables in plastic shopping bags

All in all, I learned a ton at the ECHO farm.  It gave me hope that people were investigating these technologies for use in other countries and ours as well.

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