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On the Funny Farm

sunny 24 °C

We've arrived at ECHO (Educational Concern for Hunger Overseas) demonstration farm in the sunshine state of Florida. We were surprised and delighted with our home, named and themed 'West Africa' with lovely colours and prints throughout the house, and a slightly disconcerting large zebra skin in the entrance, and a deer head watching us from the kitchen wall. It's lovely to have our own space and a place to unpack our suitcases and hopefully get into a routine for the next few weeks. The farm runs tours for the public 4 days a week so we caught a tour on Friday morning with a funny little lady who rode in front in a golf buggy and was super enthusiastic about the moringa plant. We met a nice couple who were visiting the farm with the girl's 90 year old gran (also in the golf buggy), they both work in different departments for Starbucks, so were probably very interested in the coffee beans...
Zebra Skin

Zebra Skin

Kiss me dear

Kiss me dear

The farm is amazing, over the last 15 years they have created different environments and climates, and have different types of housing and land which would be common in developing countries, so there is a ramshackle shed made of iron, wood etc, like homes in slum areas, and an area for people who live in built up concrete areas without much space to grow. The students and interns learn how to utilize these situations and see the potential for growing plants for food, shelter, nutrients and natural medicine.

We met the director of ECHO and spoke about the opportunities for hands on experience and learning over the next few weeks. David is keen to get stuck in and spent the rest of Friday in the library reading a book called 'two ears of corn' and making copious notes. I had to drag him out before they locked up. I hope this enthusiasm lasts... There are 9 interns who stay at ECHO for a year and work on the farm and study and picks the brains of the experts and then go overseas to put some of their knowledge into practice. The interns all seem lovely, down- to -earth and warm and friendly. We have been lent a car within a day of knowing one of the girls. We made a pathetic attempt of cookies (aka 'friendship bribes') last night and watched the interns make their own ice-cream by cranking a handle for half an hour... well worth the wait.


We made the most of our hired car by going to a beach and exploring a bit today. (only after swimming in the sea and wondering why no one else was in the water did we see the sign saying there had been shark sightings recently...) We went to a supermarket to do our grocery shopping for the next 3 weeks before giving the car back tomorrow. Being in another culture makes us appreciate how tiring the most simple task can turn into, like fueling up the car (you have to prepay for your fuel - how weird...!), or choosing a salad dressing when there is a whole aisle dedicated to salad dressings. I hadn't really anticipated this time in the USA being such good preparation for Africa next year, but it has got us thinking much more practically about how to set up home and live when we're away from the life and culture we're used to.

The farm is typically American in that it is only accessible by car, and miles and miles from anywhere, so we are not looking forward to giving the car back to the rental company tomorrow and being stranded here. But the interns have been generous with offering their cars so hopefully I will be able to get David out of the library sometimes...

If any of you are interested, here is a BBC report on the work of ECHO and its attempt to deal with the problem of hunger in the world:

Posted by africraigs 20:30 Archived in USA Tagged educational

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