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Garden Grow series offered at Community House

January 10, 2018
By MEGHAN McCOY ( , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

A new series, "How Does your Garden Grow," - designed to explain and demonstrate commitment to farm to table cooking - is set to kick off next week at the Sanibel Community House.

"When we restored the Community House, we added the culinary kitchen and began the Culinary Education Center," Sanibel Community Association Executive Director Teresa Riska-Hall said. "We planted many items that would bear fruit, so that we could have the freshest ingredients in our cooking programs. The Garden Grow series allows us to partner with local organizations, such as ECHO to educate the general public, and also feature foods for the lunch, which are part of the speaker topic. People can learn how to grow items and then learn how to use them in different recipes."

The Garden Grow series was created to encompass various topics with a focus on healthy eating, while featuring specialists that the Sanibel Community Association has worked with before. She said they hope the lunch and lecture will provide a better idea of how easy it is to produce items for farm to table food recipes.

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ECHO Farm Manager Andy Cotarelo teaching a group at the North Fort Myers property. A representative from ECHO will provide the first presentation of the “How Does your Garden Grow” series at the Community House.


The first guest speaker is Danielle Flood from ECHO Global Farm. She will speak about "Growing Edibles in a Small Space" on Tuesday, Jan. 16. The class will begin at 11:30 a.m. Registration, $30 per person, must be made by 3 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 11.

Riska-Hall said the speaker will provide a 20-minute presentation, followed by a 10-minute question and answer session. Directly following will be a meal. The lunch and lecture will last a maximum of an hour and 15 minutes.

"Jarred is a fantastic cook and he really wanted to try this series and will be providing the recipes for all the food items. All of our topic speakers are leaders in their area and have many hints for the listener," she said.

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Flood said the lunch will feature the ECHO salad, which is something that is thrown together using basic greens available on the farm, as well as moringa, katuk and a red leaf hibiscus.

"It comes together and it is a really vibrant salad. You can put avocado, star fruit, or whatever else is available," she said in the salad.

Flood will spend time sharing information about how to grow plants, care for them, as well as what can be grown on the lanai, front porch, back porch, or indoors that can be incorporated into food.

"The ECHO Farm here in North Fort Myers is specifically located here because of the tropical environment. We have lots of tropical fruits that people can buy here and then take to their home," Flood said.

In addition to the fruits, ECHO also has moringa, which she explained as another leafy green that grows on trees.

"You can just pull it off the tree and put it in your mouth," Flood said.

ECHO also has a number of vegetables that can be grown in small pots on vines, such as okinawa spinach.

Flood said she will bring some plants from ECHO to sell at the presentation, saving individuals from a trip to North Fort Myers.

"People can always come to ECHO and have a tour," she said.

ECHO started 36 years ago with a mission to serve the poor around the world through training, equipping and agriculture, so that people can raise themselves out of poverty in a sustainable way, Flood explained.

"We have trained thousands of people per year. They then train hundreds of others," she said, which is done through working with community leaders. "It's amazing to see people get a taste of what ECHO is about. We have seen tons of people make what they learn from ECHO into a business to support their families, just because if people have a will once provided with an opportunity to thrive."

Tours are offered at ECHO every day except Sunday and Monday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The 90-minute walking tour starts with a video in the Visitor Center, followed by a tour through such regions as the tropical lowlands and highlands, monsoon, semi-arid, rainforest and urban garden.

"Everyone that comes through the tour gets inspired," Flood said.

The next class, "Rain Barrels," will be held Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 11:30 a.m. This class is also $30 and registration must be completed by 3 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 15. This class will feature Cathie Lewis, who will explain how rain barrels capture and save rain water from a home's roof. The water collected in a rain barrel can be used on all indoor and outdoor plants.

On Tuesday, March 20, Ken Ryan, a local microgreen farmer will offer the class "Micro-Greens," at 11:30 a.m. The micro-greens are young, nutritious seedlings of vegetables and herbs that are harvested and eaten in less than 14 days. His class will feature how to grow, nurture and excel at producing micro-greens from his more than three decades of techniques gathered in New England and Florida. Registration for this class must be completed by 3 p.m. Thursday, March 15.

The final class, "Mushrooms," will feature Jeff Samson, a gentleman that has owned and operated restaurants since 1993, at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, April 17. He works directly with farmers, foragers and fishermen to bring fresh, quality sustainable food to the table.

"We love the origin of food and it is always a pleasure serving customers and food lovers, who respect and enjoy great food," Samson said in a prepared statement.

Those interested must register by 3 p.m. Thursday, April 12.

Call (239) 472-2155, or visit to register, or for more information about all four lunch and lecture classes.



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