ECHO conducting tours; but it’s still not business as usual
It took nearly three-and-a-half months for things to return to normal, but on Wednesday, things finally did in the areas most important to ECHO’s farm campus.
The bookstore had opened, people could buy trees again, and as of today, people are able to take tours again.
ECHO, the farm dedicated to helping solve hunger problems worldwide, has seen life finally return to normal — somewhat — even as COVID-19 infection numbers spike to record levels.
However, issues on both a businesswise and global level has ECHO caught in a bind, which will likely make its mission more difficult.
Danielle Flood, ECHO spokesperson, said ECHO has watched what similar organizations have done and has made smart decisions on how it should open.
“We feel an outdoor tour with plenty of space won’t be a problem in this climate,” Flood said. “People can stay outside and distance themselves. We are limited to 10 people on the tour, so there’s space to spread out.”
Masks are encouraged for the tour and are required in the book store.
However, ECHO has been forced to make some difficult decisions. The annual conference they hold in November has been cancelled, changing it to a virtual conference.
Meanwhile, workers at the ECHO locations worldwide have only recently returned to training in small groups, following national guidelines.
Also, there are no visits expected from guests are missionaries over the summer, as there have been in the past, Flood said.
On the farm, Flood said the volunteer program is currently closed and that the farm expects to see a30 percent reduction in donations in 2020.
ECHO has been getting out the word regarding ECHO’s mission and how it has not changed despite the pandemic.
“We’re making some hard choices with trying to figure out how to do our mission most effectively. We slowed down some of the in-person activities during the safer-at-home order and are hoping to continue to carry out our mission because people are still hungry and needing our services more than ever,” Flood said.
Hunger has become an acute problem worldwide. The World Health Organization is forecasting more than 200 million more people will become more food insecure this year because of the pandemic.
ECHO has been doing its part throughout the closures locally by donating produce from our farm directly into the community.
ECHO also has donated more than 1,000 plants to schools throughout Lee County on Earth Day, where school garden clubs were able to share plants with families getting free school lunches.
“We’ve communicated some hopeful messages, what the training from the past has resulted in, how people are sharing the training with others and kept the need out there while people locally have struggled,” Flood said. “We meet the needs of farmers around the world.”
Though it’s hard to predict the future in this climate, ECHO still plans to hold its Food & Farm Fest, expanding it to four days next year from March 10-13, following the success of its new events from last year, Flood said.
ECHO is at 17391 Durrance Road. For more information, go to echonet.org.