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Family Fun Farm Tour stresses ECHO’s mission

July 24, 2019
By CHUCK BALLARO ( , Pine Island Eagle

ECHO does a lot to educate people of all ages on the importance of being good stewards of the planet while making sure people around the globe don't go hungry.

To that end it offers everything from an annual food festival to field trips.

On Saturday, ECHO invited area families to take a tour of the farm for its Family Fun Farm Tour, where people got to see what ECHO grows, the animals they care for, and how people in some of the least hospitable areas in the world feed and shelter themselves.

Danielle Flood, communications manger at ECHO, said the tours were targeted to children between the ages of 5 and 12.

"We want them to become better global citizens and learn how they can reduce hunger around the world," Flood said. "We host school tours year-round and they get to see plants growing that they may eat later in the week. It puts food in context and it's difficult to imagine how difficult it is to grow food around the world until you see it."

At this event, the second and last that ECHO would offer this summer, attendees saw plants they were already familiar with, such as starfruit and mangoes. They also got to taste items that grow on the farm such as "peanut butter fruit," Bunchosia armeniaca, which tastes just like peanut butter.

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Bonnie Clancy, one of several docent tour guides, showed there were also many animals, such as goats, chickens, ducks and rabbits, as well as examples of shelters in which people worldwide live, such as homes built with bamboo frames, which are tougher than traditional wood-framed houses and which survived Hurricane Irma two years ago.

Russ Luther, tour coordinator who facilitates field trips and events such as this, said one particular thing makes what he does worthwhile.

"I like to see the lights go on and see people think that they can eat that or grow that here. It all becomes inspiring and motivating for local residents," Luther said. "I know that it changes lives around the world with its development."

The lights went on for Garance Renard, 14, and Salome Klein, 16, both transfer students from France, who took a tour with their sponsor family and learned a lot.

"I was happy to learn about the fruits and vegetables I have never seen before," Renard said. "I didn't know papayas and mangoes could grow here in Florida. I really like the peanut better fruit."

"I learned a lot. I never saw pineapples and mangoes grow before. I also liked when I got a chance to eat," Klein said.

Crystal Whiteaker, of North Port, brought her children and enjoyed the trip, especially since they are gardeners themselves.

"We like growing food at our house and try to do it as organically as possible," Crystal said, going to her daughter Katelynn, who added that she learned how people live throughout the world and enjoyed the rabbits."



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