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Thursday, November 16, 2017

November Toxic Learning With Seminole State

        Six Seminole State Volunteers from Seminole State College met former Lake Apopka farmworker and Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt maker, Linda Lee, on Friday November 10, when they participated in a toxic tour of Lake Apopka, led by FWAF staff. The tour began at 9am with a film showing of the video “Out of the Muck” about veteran farmworker activist, Geraldean Matthew, and the health problems of the Lake Apopka farmworkers. Linda Lee shared with the students her experiences as a farmworker and of working on the Lake Apopka farm lands and the effects that the pesticides have had on the health of the farmworkers and their families.  

The students were all deeply moved by the stories.  One student commented that he was disappointed, not in the tour itself, but in learning about the injustices suffered by the people, and the silence around these issues among the general population.  He had expected a tour about the environment, and was surprised to learn about the lake’s environmental contamination’s impact on the people who harvested our food for decades.

Adding interest to the Toxic Tour was one student’s class science project which involved collecting algae from three different locations in Central Florida to study the effects of algae under stress.  Her project entails looking at the oil that is secreted by the algae under stressful conditions as a potential biofuels source for the future.  Linda Lee saved the day by using a Palmetto frond to reach into Lake Apopka to pull a glob of algae close to the dock so that it could be collected in a special jar to be brought to the lab at the school for analysis.  We were all left wondering at the results of the science project and its implications for health and the environment.

Interested in a Toxic Tour? Please contact us at or

Monday, October 30, 2017

Orlando Weekly & VegFest Travels

Lake Apopka in the Arts

Following the opening of the "The Lake: A Documentary Exploring the Land and People of Lake Apopka" the art exhibit at Crealde school of art, Orlando Weekly published an article about the exhibit. Featured in this particular article are the names of respected community members and former Lake Apopka Farmworkers, Linda Lee and Geovany Lopez. These two people are amongst the few portraits featured in the exhibit, "Portraits are rare, though, in this exhibit, which focuses instead on the natural and manmade landscape" says author Richard Reep.

Despite few portraits being featured, the paintings and pictures of the historical aspects of the community of Lake Apopka help tie together the memory of what the Lake once was and the devastation that it's been through. The exhibit expresses through art, the suffering but also the hope that dedicated community members still have for keeping the memory of their loved ones and  Lake Apopka alive.

Peter Schreyer speaking about Tom Sadler's  "Pump House Nocturne", which is also
mentioned in in Orlando Weekly's article. 
Banner promoting the exhibit located at Hannibal Square Heritage Center
Pictures by M.C 

        One of the Lake Apopka memorial quilts had the chance to attend VegFest Orlando!

The quilt brought in many interested festival attendees, they were amazed at the sad but also moving stories that the Lake Apopka quilt represents. One of the attendees mentioned how he worked alongside Geraldine Moore, who was a loved activist in the Apopka community . Geraldine's memory is featured on the blue memorial quilt as section #8 thanks to her sister Linda Lee.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

FWAF Welcomes the New NDA Apopka 2017-2018 Team

On Friday September 22, 2017,  the Apopka Notre DameAmeriCorps Volunteers, participated in a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour led by Farmworker Association of Florida staff.

The day began at the Hope CommUnity Center office in Apopka with an introduction on the history and background of farms on Lake Apopka, the people who make up the community of those who lived and worked in and around the farms, and the impacts of the toxic chemicals used on the farm lands for decades. NDA members listened as FWAF staff explained the devastating effects of the pesticides – including persistent organic pollutants, such as DDT -  that were used on the farm lands.

After the introduction, the NDA team traveled in two vans, and stopped at the former Duda Farm entrance that now sports a boat ramp, hiking trail and is an eco-tourism destination, but which previously housed hundreds of farmworkers in trailers next to the fields and where the hiking trail leads out to what once was acres of vegetable cropland for Duda Farms.  Sr. Ann Kendrick, gave a moving personal account of a former Duda camp resident’s experience of returning to the area after having left and moved to the suburbs.  She recounted his sense of loss of community that the workers experienced when they lived there, in spite of the harsh and difficult living and working conditions they endured on the farms.

photos taken by Moniqua Cisneros 
The group was honored to be accompanied by Farm Worker Association staff member, Mireya Ledesma, who gave insight on what it was like for her as a child having to work in the orange groves after school at 11 years old. She described "We would go work right after school to help my father on the groves, there would be many families picking up their kids after school to head straight to the groves". She is pictured here, wearing a bag used to pack the oranges which can weigh more than 90 lbs when filled.

To top off the toxic tour in the following week, the NDA group had the opportunity to visit the Lake Apopka exhibit at Crealde School of art to continue learning about the amazing history of Lake Apopka and its people (see previous post for more information on this exhibit).   

photos taken by Moniqua Cisneros 

Interested in learning more about Lake Apopka? Visit

Monday, September 25, 2017

Crealde School of Art, Lake Apopka Exhibit

       On Friday September 15, Crealde School of Art in collaboration with the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, unveiled a very special exhibit. The exhibit titled " The Lake: A Documentary Exploring the Land and People of Lake Apopka" presents a snapshot of the cultural history of Lake Apopka.

The project led by Peter Schreyer, came to life with the help of 24 local photographers and plein air painters who over the period of seven months, captured aspects of the Lake Apopka's grand landscape. The final project is made up of fifty-nine art pieces captioned with historical information connecting the artwork to the past and present history of Lake Apopka.

Featured in the art is Apopka local, Linda Lee, former farm worker and current advocate for the health issues of agricultural workers in Apopka.

      The Lake Apopka Art pieces will be displayed in Crealde's winter park locations, The Alice & William Jenkins Gallery and the Hannibal Square Heritage center. The exhibit will be relocated in the winter of 2018 as part of a traveling exhibit in Florida.

Linda Lee admiring her portrait taken by photographer KuKu Varghese seen standing on the right

Linda Lee and her grandchildren

For more information about "The Lake: A Documentary Exploring the Land and People of Lake Apopka " exhibit details and building hours, please visit the Crealde School of art website. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Lake Apopka Farmworkers Featured in New Project of University of Florida Masters Students

The Farmworker Health Initiative is a recently completed project created by three focused and dedicated University of Florida students who are committed to exposing the conditions of farmworkers’ exposure to toxic pesticides. Their video, “The Toxic Effect of Feeding America”, features former Lake Apopka farmworkers Linda Lee and Betty Dubose, as well as FWAF staff and community members and former owners of the Lake Apopka muck farms speaking of their own experiences and from their different perspectives. The students spent months doing research; conducting interviews; documenting their experiences; visiting the FWAF offices, as well as farm lands, nurseries and ferneries; and learning about the realities of chemical exposures experienced by those working in the fields to feed America. The result is a powerful narrative, supported by cited references, statistics, and supporting articles. This is a tremendous tribute to the farmworkers, as well as an incredible resource for anyone wanting to know more about this reality.

Thanks to Ambar, Laura and Darling for taking on and doing such a great job with this excellent and important project. Check it out, listen to the stories, learn more, and share with others. We will never rest in the struggle for Justice for Farmworkers.

Visit their website here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Environmental Ambassadors from Gainesville
Learn about Farmworkers and Lake Apopka

Six highly motivated high school youth from Gainesville traveled to Apopka on Friday, July 21, 2017 to learn about the environmental problems on Lake Apopka and the injustices faced by farmworkers.  Each summer, the Gainesville Cultural Arts Coalition hosts a group, led by local community activist Nkwanda Jah, of aspiring young people in several weeks of intense learning on environmental and community issues. Known as Environmental Ambassadors, their experiences include visiting a solar energy facility, a water treatment plant, a local worm farm, and, as they have done for several years in a row, a trip to Apopka to meet the Farmworker Association of Florida through a half day immersion into farmworker issues.  

Some heard the term “environmental racism” for the first time, learning what it means, while seeing first-hand an environmental justice community that is and has been exposed to pesticides on the farms along with contamination from landfills, a medical waste incinerator, a sewage treatment plant and more.   

Enviromental Enbassadors Learning hearing Ms. Linda's story
The highlight of the trip was the visit to the home of Ms. Linda Lee, the key quilter of the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts.  Standing in her yard in the shade of her mango tree, with her great-grandsons around her, Ms. Lee shared the realities of her daily life working on the farms on Lake Apopka. 

  Watching the video “Out of the Muck” and even seeing pea-green Lake Apopka itself and the former Lake Apopka farm lands were not as powerful as Ms. Linda’s personal testimony and true life stories.  Everyone was hungry to hear more about her life even as they drove away.  One student commented that what stood out the most for her was when she learned that farmworkers are excluded from labor laws that protect most all other workers in the U.S.  They may look at food in the grocery store with a new appreciation after learning about farmworkers.

We thank Ms. Jah and the Environmental Ambassadors for taking a day to travel the two hours to and from Gainesville to learn about farmworkers and to share with the people in our community.  Through these exchanges, we can help change the world!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

SAFSF Conference Travels from Gainesville to Learn About Lake Apopka Farmworkers

Photograph by Joann Lo
Over forty people filled a full-size tour bus for an immersive trip from their cool, comfortable hotel in Gainesville, Florida to the hot and humid former farm lands on Lake Apopka, learning along the way from their FWAF tour guides about the historical and systemic issues underpinning the conditions experienced by farmworkers in the past and today. 

Attendees at the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders conference spent Wednesday, June 28th on field trips to nearby places of interest and relevance to their work and passions.  A social justice conscious group embarked on an all day tour, that included a look at Long and Scott Farms famous for Zellwood sweet corn, the former Duda Farms labor camp area that is now part of an eco-tourism trail, a Superfund site at the former Drum Chemical Company, and a sewage sludge fertilizer company across from the former farm lands.  With a stop for lunch at Magnolia Park, participants had an opportunity to walk on the dock to see the pea-green waters of Lake Apopka, and assess for themselves the water “quality” of the lake’s restoration.

Pointing out other environmental stressors in the community along the way – the two landfills, medical waste incinerator, and ornamental plant nurseries where pesticides are used – the group was guided to the local Apopka community health center for a presentation and questions and answer session. 

By far, the most powerful moment of the trip, however, was the visit to former farmworker, Linda Lee’s home, where Linda simply and clearly told her heartfelt stories of her experiences working in the vegetable fields of Lake Apopka, and Mireya Ledesma spoke of her life as a young daughter of a farmworker family from Mexico that traveled the seasons harvesting crops in the U.S.  Their personal testimonies are what filled the minds of everyone on the return trip to Gainesville, and gave everyone a deeper and fuller understanding of life for workers in U.S. agriculture. 

Our  special thanks to SAFSF for giving us the opportunity to share our community and our community members’ stories with everyone as part of this memorable and successful conference.    
Photograph by Kristen richardson-Frick