A Northerner's First Impression of ECHO Grown Food

1,690 miles away from ECHO’s farm in Fort Myers, my little cousins like to pick raspberries from my Grandma’s garden in St. Paul, Minnesota. The cool thing about picking and eating fruit as a child is most of the time, you don't have to ask your mom before you eat it. I wonder what my cousins would think if they wandered through ECHO’s trees.

Growing up in the north, tropical fruit was never my forte, so that’s why I have been excited at ECHO to try some tastes I’ve never experienced before.

On Saturday, I took a trip across Durrance Road to ECHO’s market, which is held every Friday and Saturday. I left with three different foods harvested from ECHO’s farm and brought them back to my A-Frame to give them a try.

Wax Jambu

Even though their name makes them seem like they taste like a crayon, they don’t! When I took my first bite, the tart hints of cranberry and pine made me think about Christmastime. I’m not sure if the ones I ate were at their full eating potential, but I would be willing to try another batch to make Wax Jambu fruit preserve.


When I sliced this Sapodilla in half and ate the sugary inside, I realized why my family makes sweet potato pie back home. It is because we can’t grow Sapodillas. It’s as if the Sapodilla tree cranked its oven to 350 degrees and made a bunch of pie pods. 

One of the interns told me it is possible to make Sapodilla cake. I might have to make one and celebrate my birthday a little early this year!


Okay, I know Okra isn’t necessarily that unique. And I know it can be grown in Minnesota, but I have never tried it.

So feeling a little embarrassed, I picked up my first little pod of Okra and took a munch.

I expected it to be crunchier...like a pea pod, and to my surprise, my mouth started to feel really slimy.

I liked it!

To mix it up, I decided to pop some Okra pods in the oven with some salt, pepper and olive oil. When they stopped sizzling, I gave them a try.

It was kind of like a slimy french fry. Looks like I found my next movie snack!

What ECHO fruits and veggies should I try next? Post your tropical food suggestions and recipes in the comments! I would love to try them!

Home is Where the Love is

 On Sunday afternoon, my new boss Danielle Flood and I lugged a 46 pound suitcase, a backpack, a duffel bag and five bags of groceries up three flights wooden stairs.

“Welcome to your new home!” Danielle said as I gazed at the quaint living space on the top floor of the A-frame, the first building built on ECHO’s property.

This summer I traded the land of 10,000 lakes for the sunshine state to work as ECHO’s first storytelling intern for six weeks. I will be writing, taking photos and producing video content to share the ways ECHO is making an impact. 

After Danielle left, I put my things away, storing my clothes in a woven basket, placing my paintbrushes on the shelf and propping a radio I found in the closet on a small table beside the couch.

It was strange to move into a house by myself after living as a freshman RA at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. To smother the silence, I turned the radio on. As the music echoed off the walls, I began to notice that I was all by myself.

The next morning, I skipped down the stairs and through the leaf-lined paths to my first meeting.

One of the first people I met was Bruce Wilson. After we introduced ourselves, he asked me where I was living this summer.  

“The A-frame?!?! All alone?,” he exclaimed. Bruce promptly walked over to the interns and introduced them to me. They let me sit by them at the meeting even though I don’t know how to milk a cow or weed a garden like they do.

You know, you aren’t living on this farm alone. Us interns are here too.

Later that afternoon as I sat by myself in my living room eating my second veggie burger of the week, I heard a knock at my door. Kelly Wilson, the community garden intern stood in front of me; her hair glistening with the evidence of Florida’s showers.

“You know, you aren’t living on this farm alone. Us interns are here too,” She told me.

“Are you doing anything tonight?,” I asked maybe a little too excitedly.

“I mean, not really. You can come over if you want!”

Later that night I visited with Kelly and two other interns named Gretchen and Ashley. I learned they had tried to invite me to eat lunch with them that day, but couldn’t find me. Thankfully, they invited me to eat lunch with them next time instead.

When I left they all reminded me that I’m not on this farm alone.

“You are welcome in this house any time, even if we aren’t here,” Kelly said.

At work the next day, I visited with Kristen Musko, one of my coworkers, as she tended to the snack table. She shared a little bit of her story with me.

I love working here,” she told me. “God is so good. He has you here for a reason.

Kristen moved to Florida in 2015. The commute to her new job at Living Waters Church was long, often sprinkled with accidents and bumper to bumper traffic. The seemingly endless drive began to wear on her. Why would God move her to Florida if she had to work so far away?

Then God started to open doors.

Kristen’s husband found a job opening at ECHO, and with the Lord’s leading she applied and was hired as the executive administrative assistant. Today, Kristen only has to drive ten minutes to work.

“I love working here,” she told me. “God is so good. He has you here for a reason.”

And I believe her.  

While ECHO’s focus is on solving global hunger, I can tell their real focus is on their love for God and people. I can see their love when they ask how I’m doing and mean it. The love is in the dairy and egg free blueberry muffins my boss made for me last night. It’s in warnings about fire ants and lightning strikes.

So I don’t feel like I’m very alone anymore. Even though my home is 1,700 miles away, I feel like I have a home here at ECHO.