Year of the Family promotes awareness of family farms

There are more than 500 million family farms, or smallholders, in the world. Eighty-five percent of these farms are managed and operated on plots of land that are just over four acres. These small plots actually produce the largest amounts of food and cultivate around 60 percent of the arable land worldwide.

Considering the magnitude and importance of these small farms on a global scale, it makes sense that the 2014 International Year of Family Farming (IYFF) was launched as a way to raise their profile and significance.

IYFF's goal is, ".to reposition family farming at the centre of agricultural, environmental and social policies in the national agendas by identifying gaps and opportunities to promote a shift towards a more equal and balanced development."

Family farming, and smallholder farming, is linked to world food security, preserving traditional food products, contributing to balanced diets, protecting the world's agro-biodiversity and utilizing natural resources, and so by empowering the family farmer and the smallholder, the positive rippling effect is felt worldwide.

ECHO, Inc. in North Fort Myers works with farmers throughout the world in becoming more effective with food production and overcoming various challenges using tested solutions.

The group strives to find ways to turn non-productive land into productive land using a variety of means that can address the wide range of climates and landscapes, as well as the availability of tools and labor in each particular country-from Asia to East Africa.

Stan Doerr, president/CEO of ECHO, explained how family farms, and smallholder farms, play a vital role in the world in even more ways. "Family farming, and smallholder farms increase the resilience of a family, a community and even a country." Along with resilience, food production is increased and costs are lowered while families, communities and countries work effectively together for a common goal, mainly ending hunger.

According to ECHO, "923 million people worldwide are undernourished, and there are more than 9 million deaths related to hunger each year." So the importance of empowering the family farms and smallholder farms goes well beyond economics.

Moringa, a tree that grows in tropical or sub-tropical regions and whose leaves are packed full of nutrients; along with amaranth, a plant that can thrive in low water conditions and whose grains are protein-packed; and gramma pumpkins that can grow in a variety of soil types are chalk full of vitamins, are all representative of a larger variety of nutritional plants that can flourish in less desirable growing conditions and can, consequently, make a global significant impact on world hunger.

"Furthermore, the seeds derived from these plants can be used to plant again," explained Doerr. ECHO's nursery & bookstore offers the plants and seeds of these edible plants and many more.

According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, 93 percent of farms in Florida are considered small farms. The USDA defines small farms as those having gross sales of less than $250,000. In Florida, much of our nearly $8 billion agricultural industry relies on farms that help our state's economic resilience.

Throughout the United States there are approximately 2.2 million farms. According to the 2007 Census of Agriculture, "the vast majority of farms in this country (87 percent) are owned and operated by individuals or families."

Family farms and smallholder farms play a major role in the health of the people and the economy of nations worldwide and, thankfully, the 2014 International Year of Family Farming is drawing more attention to their importance.

For More Information:

2014 International Year of Family Farming

ECHO, Inc.

17391 Durrance Road

North Fort Myers, FL 33917