ECHO Intern Program, North Fort Myers, Florida
ECHO's Intern Program equips agricultural change agents with the skills and practical experience needed
to effectively assist small-scale farmers in developing countries.
ECHO Interns work and learn as team members in ECHO's global ministry.
ECHO Interns contribute to ECHO's ministry while learning about the various aspects of ECHO's work.
ECHO Interns gain hands-on experience with small-scale agriculture, appropriate technologies,
small animal husbandry, and more.
ECHO Interns get broad exposure to ideas and techniques for helping small-scale farmers
in developing countries.
We invest in each intern and allow each intern to take ownership of their area of our Global Farm.
Overview and Responsibilities
An ECHO internship is a full-time job with a demanding schedule. ECHO is a service organization with a working farm so staff and interns are asked to occasionally put in extra hours due to projects or special circumstances. The internship is a salaried position and as such ECHO expects interns to be committed to seeing work completed in a timely manner.
It is our desire that ECHO interns develop holistically. Interns are expected to do physical labor, to study and learn, to grow as a person, and to develop spiritually. Each intern is asked to develop a set of goals for their time at ECHO which are discussed and refined periodically with the Intern Manager. To help encourage holistic development we provide an opportunity for each intern to connect with a mentor. Ultimately, it is up to each individual to make the most out of the internship experience.
With one of the largest collections of tropical food plants in the country, ECHO has established a Global Farm filled with plants, techniques and technologies that are important to small-scale farmers and gardeners in developing countries. ECHO’s Global Farm is divided into eight demonstration areas: 7 agriculture areas (semi-arid, monsoon, rainforest, lowlands, highlands, urban, and community) and the appropriate technology area. The Global Farm serves as handson work experience for interns, as a demonstration farm for visitors, as a living classroom for students, as an educational tool for public tours, and as a production farm for seeds and plants.
ECHO offers interns an opportunity to serve while gaining experience:
1. ECHO maintains a Global Farm. Each of the farm areas highlight techniques and plants or technologies which can be useful for small scale farmers. ECHO interns are involved in the daily operation and maintenance of the Global Farm. ECHO staff works to plan what will be demonstrated in each of these areas and once the plan is determined, the interns are responsible to establish and maintain these areas. Much of the daily work at ECHO is selfdirected so interns gain experience in prioritizing tasks and seeking out resources when faced with a problem.
2. ECHO provides seeds to our overseas network and retail bookstore. ECHO operates a seed bank for study and distribution with seeds appropriate for small scale farmers. Many of the plants grown on the farm are for distribution to missionaries and development workers around the world. Selected seeds are also offered for sale to the public through our retail bookstore and website. Interns are involved at different levels in the entire process to grow the plants, harvest, and clean the seeds, maintain a healthy inventory in our seed bank and, fill seed requests.
3. ECHO answers technical questions. ECHO’s Technical Response Unit (TRU) corresponds with missionaries and development workers to answer their technical questions. Interns work with the TRU to conduct research and respond to requests. The ECHO library is a main resource and has over 4000 books relevant to small scale farmers. Interns learn from the technical materials they search through and send out. Equally important is the opportunity to read correspondence from missionaries and development workers for a glimpse of the issues that they face.
4. ECHO operates a Retail Nursery and Bookstore. Interns gain first-hand familiarity and handson experience working with ECHO’s tropical and sub-tropical plants that are sold in the Retail Nursery. Every effort is made to operate the retail nursery as a business that will glorify God by its quality of operation. We try to take time to answer questions from customers or help them find just the right plant. We also try to serve the customer by making available a unique collection of edible tropical plants, rather than stocking only those items that will provide the greatest income. Interns assist in the Retail Nursery which involves answering phone calls and helping customers. As a result of having to answer questions from customers, interns learn a great deal about the plants sold here.
5. ECHO operates a Propagation Nursery. The Propagation Nursery is responsible to provide the plants that are sold in the Retail Nursery and many of the plants that are used on the Global Farm. Interns are involved at different levels to plant, graft, weed, fertilize, and maintain a healthy inventory of plants.
6. ECHO hosts an Annual Agricultural Conference. ECHO’s eighteenth conference in December 2011 had 200 people from 27 countries in attendance. Many useful contacts can be made for future networking during this event. Interns are involved in the preparatory work for the conference and sometimes offer workshops during the conference. A lot of work goes into preparing the farm for this significant time, hosting the visitors, and helping with logistics.
7. ECHO gives educational tours. We have been blessed to become a local tourist attraction and to have a growing public interest in ECHO. The educational tours at ECHO are popular among both adults and children. The tour discusses reasons for world hunger and points out some of the resources that God has placed in the world that can be a blessing to people struggling to survive in difficult conditions. Each intern is trained to give guided tours and we also have an active docent (volunteer tour guide) program.
8. ECHO is a non-profit organization. Staff and interns work together to provide the support needed to carry out the ministry that God has given us. Everyone at ECHO is involved in relating to the public and explaining what we do. ECHO raises financial support through avenues such as donor giving, retail sales, tours, presentations, and grant support and interns are involved in various aspects of these activities.
9. ECHO provides a work location for volunteers and work teams. In 2009 ECHO volunteers contributed 56,350 hours with the winter months being the main volunteer months. One of the reasons that ECHO has been such a cost-effective ministry is because of the volunteer labor donated. Volunteers are a precious part of ECHO's ministry. Many volunteers have been involved long-term with ECHO and provide valuable continuity from year to year. Volunteers also bring valuable experience and skills from which interns can learn. Volunteers minister to ECHO and its staff, and ECHO ministers to them by providing them with a meaningful place to serve with an extended "family".
Interns quickly discover that they are not able to cover all of their responsibilities by themselves. Learning to prioritize activities, to be flexible with plans, to motivate other people, and to manage their work are extremely important skills to develop. Every intern is expected to use volunteers and work teams to help accomplish the tasks they have been assigned. If God gives you a small vision you may be able to accomplish it yourself but if He gives you a big vision, you will only be able to accomplish it by the help of other people. This can be a good preparatory experience for a big vision.
10. ECHO provides a Christian community experience. ECHO interns are a major part of the ECHO campus community and have an opportunity to experience and participate in community living. Interns live, eat, work, and fellowship together providing opportunities to learn from each other, to support and encourage each other, and to challenge each other. In addition to the interns there are typically 5-10 staff members that live on the ECHO campus. This community life provides interns with valuable experience for helping create productive communities around the world. If you are not comfortable participating in the community life of ECHO, please discuss that with the Intern Manager before accepting a position.
Interns have lunch together as a group (including occasional visitors) two times per week. The cooking responsibilities rotate between interns and work time is allowed for this responsibility. This is an excellent time to learn how to cook for a group and an opportunity to learn how to use many food plants grown at ECHO. With the approval of the Farm Manager, interns are allowed to harvest plants or animals from the farm for their meals; however, needs for the seedbank, bookstore, and the educational tours have first priority.
11. ECHO offers classes and study options that provide an opportunity for hands-on learning and work for periods of 1 day to 3 months. Interns participate in this ministry by assisting with hospitality for visitors staying on campus. Visitors include development workers, missionaries, those preparing to be missionaries, and students considering missions. Interns help provide opportunities for some visitors to work side-by-side with them on projects and to point them to helpful resources. Interactions with students and missionary visitors can be a highlight of the internship at ECHO.
12. ECHO offers a unique working collection of Appropriate Technologies that provide potential solutions to many challenges faced by people living in developing countries. Our main areas of concentration are: Food, Water and Shelter. While all interns are able to get some exposure and experience with ECHO’s AT Department, the AT Intern is assigned to this area and gains significant experience with the various technologies.
ECHO’s intern program maintains structure to facilitate the various activities listed above while providing flexibility within each of the activities. This structure also serves to define time commitments, assure adequate supervision, and provide an equitable experience.
The basic intern week includes:
• daily farm and animal chores
• 3-4 mornings each week in the assigned Global Farm area
• 1 morning every other week cooking (for 6 months)
• 1 morning each week assisting various ECHO departments:
o Retail Nursery for 3 months
o Market Garden Stand for 3 months
o Seedbank/Propagation Nursery exchange for 1.5 months
o Public Tours for 1.5 months
o Responding to technical requests for 3 months
• 2 seminar afternoons each week
• 2 seedbank or propagation nursery afternoons each week
• 1 work afternoon each week where interns work together on projects for the farm
As mentioned before, each intern is given responsibility for an area of ECHO’s Global Farm. In addition, interns are responsible for caring for the animals on the farm and assisting with ECHO’s Seedbank and Propagation Nursery. All other activities and responsibilities are shared equally.
While all interns work in the Retail Nursery and all interns help produce seed for the Seedbank, interns are assigned to assist with either ECHO’s Seedbank team or ECHO’s Propagation Nursery team. While this assignment is for the duration of the internship, we have established a Seedbank/Propagation exchange to provide each intern with some basic exposure to the nonassigned area during the 2nd Quarter of the internship.
Seedbank Intern -- responsible for all aspects of maintaining 1000 seed accessions. Requires someone who is/has:
• an interest in seed production, harvest and storage
• organized, good with keeping records
• enjoys details
Propagation Nursery Intern -- responsible for all aspects of maintaining over 300 varieties of edible tropical and subtropical plants. Requires someone who is/has:
• an interest in trees and plant propagation
• ability to deal with repetitive or mundane tasks such as weeding tree pots
• enjoys being outside and enjoys physical activity