ECHO to celebrate 40th birthday Saturday | News, Sports, Jobs

It started with five acres of flooded land, two people and a dream to change the world.

Forty years later, ECHO has certainly changed the world, helping to eradicate worldwide hunger while becoming a tourist attraction back home.

On Saturday, the Christian-based organization will hold a celebratory event at 7 pm at New Hope Presbyterian Church at 10051 Plantation Road, in Fort Myers, and the public is invited to attend.

“It will be a night full of memories and representatives from ECHO from every continent and past staff from every decade,” said ECHO spokesperson Danielle Flood. “We’re excited to share this with the community.”

Flood said ECHO does not have a venue to hold the 350 people expected to attend, thus the move to the church, which reached out and offered their building to hold the event.

There will be some events at ECHO, but those are invitation only, Flood said.

Dr. Martin Price and his wife, Bonnie, moved to Florida from Ohio in 1981 and started ECHO along with Indiana businessman Richard Dugger, who led a group of high school students on a visit to Haiti in the early 1970s and was deeply moved by the plight of people that he met.

They started on five acres, and even though they had trouble growing much at first because they were not aware of the differences in growing plants in South Florida, they got the hang of things eventually.

“I got things growing, but I didn’t realize how different it is to garden here than in Ohio. Nobody thinks of toads, but they were eating the tomatoes,” Price said. “I also realized there was a water table rising, and soon there was nothing. Now, we’re helping people all over the world.”

David Erickson, president and CEO at ECHO for the past seven years, said they are looking forward to an evening of celebration and worship.

Erickson said ECHO has done a great deal to change the world by making communities more food independent.

“Forty years ago, it was five acres. Now the farm has grown and the capacity to resource the world has grown,” Ericson said. “We have centers around the world where we have training teams into Southeast Asia and Africa.”

Erickson said despite the pandemic, they were able to train 6,530 people in agricultural practices to help them feed themselves and their communities. More remarkable, is that those people they train, share what they learn with 40 other people. Do the math. That’s more than 260,000 people impacted by ECHO.

“Each one of those people represent a family. The average family size around the world is five. That’s 1.3 million men, women and children that have been impacted by the work we did last year,” Ericson said.

Price said he never imagined ECHO would become what it has, especially after some rough beginnings.

“We didn’t know if three years later we would make it. We could never have imagined all that has happened. Now, we’re wondering how much more might happen,” Price said. “We’re not resting on our laurels. We’re still pushing on how we could serve this huge global network.”

ECHO Global Farms is located at 17391 Durrance Road in North Fort Myers. For additional information, visit https://echonet.org/

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