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Monday, May 23, 2016

Lake Apopka Reaches Lake Nona

Jeannie Economos, the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator for FWAF along with Dale Slongwhite, Author of “Fed Up: The High Cost of Cheap Food” and Becky Wilson, AmeriCorps Volunteer, had the opportunity to speak with close to 130 junior year high school students at Lake Nona High School in Southeast Orlando, Florida. One of their incredible History teachers, Ms. Boujaber-Diederichs dedicated an entire class day to Lake Apopka Farmworkers. All seven periods of her students had a chance to learn about the history of pollution and environmental racism on Lake Apopka.  Jeannie shared her extensive knowledge of the pesticide pollution on the muck farms, and Dale added poignant voices of Farmworkers from her book, including Ms. Geraldean Matthews.  



Geraldean has been a leader for former Lake Apopka Farmworkers, and has been in the fields since she was a young girl. Now she is in the hospital, dealing with health complications likely caused by her many years of pesticide exposure. Her voice leaps off the page when Dale shares her words, and students were moved by her. In one class period, a student kindly suggested they make a card for Geraldean in the hospital. The suggestion manifested a beautiful, colorful card that many students decorated and signed. Jeannie delivered the card to Geraldean in the hospital and was moved to see how much it meant for Geraldean to receive a card from a group of kids that wanted to lift her spirits. We always enjoy sharing stories, knowledge, and the beautiful quilts, and it becomes even more meaningful when we get so very much in return. 


Monday, May 2, 2016

Earth Day and Toxic Tour with SSC






 Seminole State College in Central Florida brought out two awesome groups to learn more about Lake Apopka and its history. The group from SSC’s Sanford campus spent the morning working in a local ornamental plant nursery and getting a feel for the demanding nature of farm labor.  They merged with Seminole State College’s Altamonte Springs Campus at our Apopka, FL office and got to meet one another before heading off for a narrated drive and many stops highlighting the agricultural heritage of Lake Apopka, and the environmental racism that is so embedded in the landscape. The students were deeply affected by what they saw, and we are grateful to raise awareness and empathy in youth of Central Florida.






 Every year Lake Eola in Orlando hosts an Earth Day festival where lots of environmentally minded vendors come together to celebrate and honor Mother Earth. We were very pleased to participate and display the beautiful red quilt at this year’s event.


 Passersby enjoyed the materials we shared and many even signed a petition to boycott Sakuma Berries (https://boycottsakumaberries.com/), because all workers deserve fair treatment and a living wage. The Sakuma Berries workers face systematic wage theft, poverty wages, hostile working conditions, and unattainable production standards.  We stand in solidarity with our Brother and Sister farmworkers around the country in seeking just working conditions.

We love sharing the continuity of farmworker history and issues faced by farmworkers today. 

Friday, April 15, 2016

Quilts on the Move!

It’s been a whirlwind for the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt Project lately!



First, Jeannie Economos, Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Project Coordinator, was featured on WPRK Radio, the official Rollins College Radio Station. Along with Notre Dame AmeriCorps Volunteer for the Farmworker Association, Becky Wilson, Jeannie shared the history of Lake Apopka farmworkers, and the legacy of pesticide contamination that affects the lives every day of people in the farmworker community. She also shared some of the ways that listeners to the program, “A Dialogue with VOICE,” can volunteer and get involved.  VOICE is a unique educational and service program that utilizes the special talents of older adult volunteers in Central Florida to address local community issues. It was an awesome opportunity for FWAF to connect with the work VOICE is doing, and to share the injustice faced by the former farmworkers of Lake Apopka with a wide audience in Winter Park, FL.



The story of Lake Apopka Farmworkers was also shared with the Democratic Black Caucus in Leesburg.  Linda Lee, former Lake Apopka muck farmworker and Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt maker shared with the group her personal history of loss on the shores of Lake Apopka. The group was moved by her story and learned a great deal about environmental racism, farm work, and pesticides.

A few days later, University of Florida and Florida State University law students stand on the shore of Lake Apopka, while learning about the effects pesticides have had on the lake and the people in the community. The students also learned about the history of pesticide exposure and abuse in the fields for farmworkers.  The students appreciated a local history lesson and engaged in interesting and deep discussions around the injustices faced in the community.

It’s been a busy time for the Lake Apopka Memorial Quilt Project, and we’ve been overjoyed to have so many diverse opportunities to share such important histories with the community.