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Sending a helping hand

By Staff | Oct 10, 2017

Despite Hurricane Irma wrought destruction on the grounds at its North Fort Myers research facility, ECHO has joined an effort to help get the farms in Puerto Rico going again in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

ECHO, which lost more than 60 trees and other plantings, is taking part in an initiative to send seeds to Puerto Rico as a way to help get farmers there replant.

Danielle Flood, communications director at ECHO, said Karen King of Mount Citra Farm in Ocala contacted ECHO to tell them she has connections in Puerto Rico and wants to make sure they have seeds, as agriculture in the U.S. territory was devastated by Maria.

Just sending small bags of seeds for eggplant and tomatoes won’t aid this effort – farmers there have specific need, depending on location and topography.

“ECHO’s perspective is that when things happen, people go to the store, buy seeds, figuring anything would help, and ship it places not knowing what will grow well or what the needs are,” Flood said. “When we were approached, we let them know there are some seeds that do better than others and that they should talk to their connections to see what they need.”

ECHO’s director of Central America and the Caribbean is going to connect with those farmers, especially as the next growing season approaches, offering free seeds they asked for to help them overcome the losses, Flood said.

King said for the seeds to be sent to Puerto Rico, they have to be treated, and ECHO has the certificates to do that, which was why the organization was contacted.

She added that food sovereignty is important, so you don’t have to rely on foreign sources as Puerto Rico has had to do.

“I would love to help these people. If you don’t have seeds, you can’t grow food. About 85 percent of their food is imported there. Only recently have they decided to grow their own food,” King said. “That’s been decimated and, not having agriculture in the past, I don’t think they had a bank of seeds.”

Flood said she wasn’t sure who was going to get what. Puerto Rico is slightly warmer, and Flood said the soil could be saltier from being on the coast or on a mountain with higher elevation. The key thing is that they send what the farmers can use and need.

Urban Paradise Guild is putting together a central distribution point where the seeds will be sent and given from there. They are also working on a program to assist with planting and setting up gardens.

Flood encourages people who want to help directly to connect with non-profits they trust and, if they feel they mesh with ECHO’s mission, they can partner with them to help long-term agriculture in the area.

The seeds will come from the ECHO seed bank, which has more than 350 varieties. Most of the plants are grown on the farm, which would be adapted to that climate, Flood said.

ECHO’s mission to help end global hunger. It’s goal is to teach farmers around to world to be more productive.

Those who would like to aid this effort, or others funded through ECHO, may make a donation at echonet.org/give . If you wish to donate specifically toward seeds, choose the option “How would you like your gift used” and select seeds.