Cultivating an Abundance

From the Global Farm to the fields of Immokalee, ECHO’s partnership with local organization “Cultivate Abundance” has produced an overflow of fresh fruits and vegetables to feed those in need and an overflow of the heart for those who serve them. 

By Leeann Estrada and Danielle Flood

If you met Rick Burnette in the late 1990s, you would likely have found him working among migrant farmers on a hillside in Thailand. The time he served there would become a reflection of what he does today: serving farmworkers in southwest Florida while ECHO continues alongside to help him accomplish these goals. 

As ECHO network members, Rick and Ellen Burnette began an agricultural missions ministry in 1996 in northern Thailand. Later, in 2009, they established the ECHO Asia Regional Impact Center in Chiang Mai, serving there for four years. Upon their return to the United States in 2013, they noticed the desperate need for adequate nutrition among the local migrant worker population in Immokalee, Florida which led them to establish a nonprofit, Cultivate Abundance, in 2017. Ellen is the Executive Director while Rick serves as the Program and Technical Director.  

Located 38 miles southeast of North Fort Myers, Cultivate Abundance partners closely with ECHO North America. 

Every Wednesday morning on the ECHO Global Farm, staff, interns, and volunteers gather at the shop on their way to lead a “mulch train”, make banana stalk silage for the hogs, or pull weeds. It is called “farm work” and unites everyone to complete tasks across and for the benefit of the entire farm. Among that large list of “to-do’s” remains one task whose impact is seen first-hand: harvesting and processing fresh fruits and vegetables for food insecure families in our community, shared through Cultivate Abundance.

Volunteers Chris and Sue process the hand-picked, intern-grown produce that is harvested on the farm. They sort, rinse, and fill crates with each item, bundling certain veggies as necessary, and then load them up in the vehicle for transport to Immokalee.

Cultivate Abundance clients include Haitian, Mexican, and Central American descendants who now reside in Southwest Florida. They gladly receive an array of vegetables like rutabaga, Swiss chard, mustard greens, New Zealand spinach and fruits like mangos, starfruit, and papaya. Interestingly, certain kinds of leafy greens are preferred by certain people groups because of their use in their traditional cuisines. For example, Haitian clients always ask for more Haitian basket vine because that vegetable is popularly grown and eaten in Haiti. 

According to Cultivate Abundance, the produce ECHO donates helps provide nutritious, culturally-preferred food for approximately 400 clients each Friday at Misión Peniel, a social justice and advocate group for Immokalee farmworkers. Last year, almost three tons of produce was donated from ECHO for the Immokalee farmworker community and hundreds of pounds of produce were provided to furloughed workers. Furthermore, in response to the pandemic and increased food insecurity, ECHO intentionally increased production and more than doubled that last year. 

Additionally, ECHO has provided Cultivate Abundance with access to approximately 0.1 acres of land on which to grow additional food for the Immokalee farmworker community, including papayas, bananas, squash, field peas, gourds, jute mallow, and prickly pear pads (nopales). Lucas, a CA volunteer, dug up taro from the sun-soaked earth with his shovel and spoke of the farmworkers: “When we’re donating the food it’s like something that they recognize from back home and it’s really special because they can’t buy this food at the grocery store. You know it’s not just like food to survive off of, but it’s food that is special to them.”  

Indeed, the long-standing relationship between ECHO and Cultivate Abundance is life-giving to both parties involved. Not only do people receive nutritious produce to feed their families, they also give ECHO a chance to serve others locally.

As one of the Cultivate Abundance volunteers said:

“We are so grateful for this produce and partnership. And we’re always grateful for you and your team.”

So, no matter where you are in the world – be it the Thai highlands or Florida lowlands – there is always a need, and therefore, an opportunity. The Burnettes saw the need and took that opportunity 30 years ago and it has exemplified ECHO’s hope against hunger to this very day.

ECHO provides hope against hunger around the globe through agricultural training and resources. As a Christian technical networking and resourcing organization, ECHO builds a diverse, global network and serves that network by sharing validated contextualized agricultural options with technical excellence. ECHO’s goal is to serve its network members to advance food security and sustainable livelihoods. ECHO’s North American Regional Impact Center is located in Fort Myers, Florida with a global presence through four Regional Impact Centers in the USA, Thailand, Tanzania, and Burkina Faso. For more information about ECHO call 239-543-3246 or visit or