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Monday, March 27, 2017

Seminole State College Students Win Top Honors for Poster on Lake Apopka Farmworkers

Congratulations and thank you to Laura Elisa Mendez Castro and to Rodrigo Alcala for their work on the Lake Apopka farmworkers and Lupus and the effects of pesticide exposure.  We are grateful for their work on this project and for raising awareness about the issue of the health of the Lake Apopka farmworkers.  The National Council for Science and the Environment 17th National Conference and Global Forum on Science, Policy and the Environment was held in D.C. on January 23-26, where Mendez Castro and Alcala presented their poster and received their honors.  For caring, for sharing, for raising awareness and for bringing attention to this important issue, we want to applaud both students for their work and their accomplishments! 

Read More Here!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Environmental Justice and Anthropology Classes at Rollins College go on a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour

Environmental Justice and Anthropology Classes at
Rollins College go on a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour

For more than 10 years, the Farmworker Association of Florida has had a relationship with students and professors at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida, about 14 miles away from our Apopka office, and the relationship just continues to grow each year.

On Sunday, February 5th, students from Professor Leslie Poole’s Environmental Justice class spent a morning and early afternoon learning about the environmental and health issues affecting the former farmworkers and current community members around Florida’s most contaminated large lake – Lake Apopka. They also learned about the systemic problems of our current agricultural system and policies, and how that has impacted the lives of real people and families for decades and even generations. Stopping at Magnolia Park for lunch gave the students an opportunity to see just how little progress has been made in cleaning up Lake Apopka, in spite of the farms having been closed for more than 18 years. The experience helped students put names, faces and places on what they were learning in their text books about environmental racism.

Then, on February 18, students from the anthropology classes of Professors Rachel Newcomb and Nolan Kline participated in a one day “immersion” project, in which they spent the morning working in a local flower and foliage nursery, working alongside the largely Hispanic workers, for a small taste of what it is like to be an agricultural worker in Central Florida. After a lunch break back at the FWAF office, they embarked on the Lake Apopka Toxic Tour, accompanied by former Lake Apopka farmworker and community activist, Linda Lee. While the information was a lot to absorb in one day, the experience was important for giving context and depth to their classroom and reading studies.

Our appreciation to such visionary and engaged professors at Rollins in offering to ‘get their students out of the classroom’ and to have these powerful and meaningful experiences that enhance their learning and provide insights into how to apply what they are learning. The future is in their hands.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

International Medical Outreach Student Immersion


The Farmworker Association was so happy to host a group of students from the University of Central Florida for a weekend Immersion in our Apopka office. On January 21st, the students arrived at the office in the morning where they shared about the organization, IMO (International Medical Outreach) that they all belong to. The group organizes trips to Haiti and other countries around the globe to assist with and fund medical clinics in areas with limited access to healthcare. The group of students expressed interest in getting a better idea of the farmworker community right outside their university.
The students began their day working in a local nursery, organizing and transporting plants. Shortly into the work, students began to experience the physical toll farm labor brings, as well as environmental discomforts. The students did get a chance to speak with a few of the workers in the nursery and even began an English and Spanish vocabulary exchange while they were hoisting trays of plants.

The student group also participated in a “toxic tour” around Lake Apopka, and had the honor of meeting the one and only Linda Lee. The history of the farmworkers that worked on Lake Apopka muck farms is often forgotten, but came alive for this student group as they heard stories from Ms. Linda, former farmworker and lead Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt maker. The toxic tour included sights of contamination and the students visited the places where farmworkers once lived before their jobs were pulled out from under them without notice when the farms closed in 1998. The group also stood on Lake Apopka’s shore and learned how the lake is tied to the history of exploitation and a lack of dignity for farmworkers and the need for systemic change in the agricultural system of the U.S.

  After a night of reflection and discussion and a conference room sleep over, the students approached their morning bent over vegetables in the Billie Dean community garden with a new understanding. The later part of the day was spent hiking on Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area Trail. We are so pleased to have had such an engaged group truly invested in learning about food justice and the farmworker community just a few miles from their university. A huge thank you for your thoughtful questions and for bringing new ideas, perspectives, and inspiration to us!

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Farmworker Quilts to be Featured in UCF Art Gallery

In the Eyes of the Hungry: Florida’s Changing Landscape
We are delighted that the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts will be featured in the UCF Art Gallery in Orlando, FL from Feb. 27-March 3 as part of their upcoming exhibition. 

"In the Eyes of the Hungry: Florida’s Changing Landscape seeks to inspire and contribute to conversations about demographic, geographic, and environmental shifts in Florida, features the work of Cesar Cornejo, Mark Messersmith, Lilian Garcia-Roig, Donald Martin, Noelle Mason, Peter Schreyer, Lisa Mills, Brooks Dierdorff, Carl Knickerbocker, Marion Post Wolcott, Arthur Rothstein, Carl Mydans, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, Emil Holzhauer, and J. Andre Smith, as well as the Lake Apopka Farmworkers' Memorial Quilts and photographs from “The Last Harvest.” Through sculpture, painting, installation, video, embroidery, quilting, and photography, these artists provide immediate yet transcendental responses to the environment and explore ideas such as conservation, migration, agriculture, poverty, homelessness, and local food security." 

Please join us at the UCF Art Gallery 
for an Opening Reception: 

Monday, February 27, 2017  5 – 7 pm. 
Free and Open to the Public!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Lake Nona High School Students Experience the Quilt, Donate Food for Farmworkers

Thanks to school teacher, Nicolle Boujaber-Diederichs, author Dale Slongwhite and FWAF staff were invited to Teach-In Day at Lake Nona High School in Orlando, Florida.  It happened to coincide with International Food Worker Week and was an opportunity to raise awareness not only about farmworkers, but about workers all along the food chain.  The Food Chain Workers Alliance of which the Farmworker Association of Florida is a member, helps coordinate IFWW each year around Thanksgiving, a time to think about food and the hands that feed us all.  

The Blue Quilt was on display as Dale and Jeannie showed the “Out of the Muck” video  Geraldean and the Lake Apopka farmworkers, and Dale read passages from her book Fed Up: The High Costs of CheapFood quoting farmworkers’ own stories about what life was like working in the fields.  Speaking to seven periods of AP history and geography classes at the school, the presenters reached close to 250 students who learned about farmworkers, pesticides, health impacts and social and environmental justice. 

A great bonus was the donations of food and money that the students collected for the FWAF annual Thanksgiving food and turkey drive and give-away to needy African American, Haitian and Hispanic community members in the Apopka area.

Thanks, Ms. Boujaber-Diederichs and thanks to all your students.

Remember, at Thanksgiving and always:  Got Food?  Thank a Farmworker.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Farmworker Association Welcomes Seminole State College Students

October 28th was an exciting day for the Agroecology project in Apopka. We had our very first work day in the Campesinos’ Garden in progress with a group of 23 students during Seminole State College’s Social Justice Week. The students began the day learning about the exploitative conditions and abuse farmworkers often face.

 From there they got to learn how farmworkers are finding power in alternative food systems, growing their own food, and honoring ancestral practices. The garden in Apopka is in the very beginning stages, and we were so grateful to have students help rake and clear land so irrigation can be put in. The students also helped to break down pallets to build raised garden beds. The garden space was closed out by sharing about their favorite plants.

 Students then had a chance to learn about the history of Lake Apopka muck farms and the legacy of pesticide exposure in the community. Jeannie shared her knowledge of pesticides and, helped students learn about the pollution of a community and the rampant environmental racism on Lake Apopka. 


Thank you Seminole State College Students for your hard work, attention, and empathy. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Remembering Geraldean Matthew

On September 26th of 2016 the friends and colleagues of an incredible woman, activist and farmworker, Geraldean Matthew gathered to honor her memory. The stories, memories, and community shared will sustain those who knew and respected Geraldean.  Our community still feels the loss of such a committed and beloved advocate for change. 

"She could hang out in the state capital and be swanky, and she could be picking endives the next day," said Ron Habin, an anthropologist who partnered with her over the years. "It's all the same to her."

We want to sincerely thank Bethany Rodgers of the Orlando Sentinel for her beautiful tribute to the one and only Geraldean. Please read the piece she wrote honoring Geraldean.