Leah Phillips pushes a mechanical weeder through rows of rice plants. She surveys two rice paddies at a farm in North Fort Myers, Florida. A group called Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization, or ECHO, runs the farm.
Why is Mrs. Phillips growing rice? She is learning as an intern on the ECHO farm. Staff and volunteers there research ways to grow food. They show others how to use best practices to do the same.
ECHO workers seek to help small farmers around the world. Farmers already know a lot. ECHO workers know that. The groups work together to share knowledge.
The rice paddies are a demonstration. One paddy is planted the traditional way. It’s flooded all the time. And it’s filled with rice seedlings planted close together.
The other paddy is planted differently. Mrs. Phillips and other ECHO workers placed fewer rice seedlings. They are farther apart. The team waters this paddy and then lets it dry out.
This method is called the System of Rice Intensification (SRI). It takes more work, but it produces more rice. ECHO workers teach it to rice growers around the world.
Every year, eight interns like Mrs. Phillips come to ECHO’s Global Farm. Each intern takes over one part of the farm. Each section is used for plants from different regions. Those includes places like tropical highlands, semi-arid regions, and urban gardens.
Mrs. Phillips manages the tropical lowlands section. Plants such as banana trees, taro root, and maize grow there.
Interns “learn the way they will teach someday,” Mrs. Phillips says. For example, ECHO staff in Tanzania may teach a small farmer the very same methods the interns learn.
By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread. — Genesis 3:19
Why? Ever since the fall into sin, farming is hard but important work. People must eat. When people work together, they can find better ways to grow.