Growing up on a dairy farm in Canada, Mike Fennema’s father had hoped he would take over the farm one day, but the lifelong calling to serve others sent him in a different direction.
“God had always put it on my heart to be involved in development work overseas,” Fennema said.
While studying temperate agriculture at Dordt University in Iowa, a staff member from ECHO came to speak at the university. Fennema was immediately interested in learning more about an organization that was combining agriculture and missions. The desire to be involved in what ECHO was doing grew after speaking with the staff member. In 1990, Fennema became the first Canadian to ever intern at ECHO Global Demonstration and Research Farm in Florida.
When he arrived at ECHO Florida, Fennema did not have a lot of experience with tropical agriculture. The process of learning how to work in this new environment was foreign yet exciting.
“One of the most important things of my time at ECHO was getting a deeper understanding of tropical agriculture,” Fennema said. “It was a good experience of getting exposure to a wide variety of innovations.”
In addition to the knowledge of tropical agriculture, the connections and relationships built were an influential legacy of his year with ECHO. For years, ECHO has helped farmers all over the world by answering the agricultural questions that they submit. It wasn’t until after leaving ECHO that he fully realized just how important those connections are... and would be for years to come.
Fennema began to work with World Renew, an organization dedicated to ending global poverty. Upon meeting his colleagues, one of the names sounded familiar: Tom Post. Fennema realized that Post was someone who had submitted a question he and other ECHO colleagues had answered. Now years later, Post was Fennema’s boss.
“It was one of those full circle moments,” Fennema said. “A reminder that one of the really neat things about working with ECHO is being exposed to such a wide variety of different people, working and doing different things with agriculture around the world.”
Fennema continues to put his heart into what God has called him to do. He will always be grateful for the experience he gained in tropical agriculture and the connections made with people all over the world because of ECHO. Since his ECHO internship, Fennema has served for more than 30 years with farming families around the world.
Since his ECHO internship, Fennema has served for more than 30 years with farming families around the world.