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Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Climate Change and Lake Apopka Farmworkers – what do they have in common?

The beautiful and magnificently, artistically painted bus rolled into our Apopka parking lot on Sunday, August 26th on a sunny Florida summer day.  Inside the bus was a team of experts, advocates and reporters from Climate Nexus, Nexus Media and Think Progress on the Freedom to Breathe Tour to highlight the dangers to and impacts of climate change and rising temperatures on vulnerable populations, including farmworkers, in the South.  And, Sunday was a perfect day for the crew to experience some of that heat first hand.

Embarking on a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour that included visiting the former Lake Apopka farm lands; Magnolia Park where you could see the lake itself covered in algae, making the water opaque; and returning to the Farmworker Association office, the team learned of the harsh realities farmworkers face every day – past and present – in order to provide food for the rest of the nation.  In addition to pesticide exposure, farmworkers increasingly today battle high temperatures, increasing annually due to climate change, and humidity that make heat stress and heat stroke a serious health concern related to short and long-term health consequences.

Read Nexus Media Article: Extreme Heat is Killing Farm 
Workers. The Government Doesn't have a Plan to Protect them.
Standing in the blazing sun on the old Duda Farms property, at an entrance to what is now the North Shore Restoration Area hiking trail, each team member felt the intense heat as they learned the history of the Lake Apopka farmworkers and imagined what conditions were like when the farms were in operation.  Unlike the farmworkers, however, everyone was able to then leave the hot environment and re-board the cool, air conditioned, comfortable bus, as they pulled away from the farms to continue the rest of the tour. 

The last stop on the tour was the most important. Former Lake Apopka farmworker and community leader, Linda Lee, met the team at her home, where everyone sat outside in the shade to try to stay cool, while Linda recounted her memories of working on the farms and the harsh working conditions she endured.  Speaking from the heart and recounting her stories and her experiences put a face to the facts.  Reading statistics and scientific studies is one thing, hearing the voices of the people – well, that is the true story, and one that everyone needs to hear.  For the crew, it was the most memorable part of their visit to Central Florida’s farmworker community, as they continued their travels around the state, crying the clarion call of climate change, rising temperatures, and the risk to human health of heat exposure.

Read Think Progress Article: Facing Rising temperatures 
and Pollution, farmworkers are being left behind by Florida lawmakers. 

Nexus Media Video / The invisible Ones.

If you are connected with a community organization or a school group and are interested in doing a toxic tour please contact

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Farmworker and Immigrant Justice Allies Experience Lake Apopka Toxic Tour; Dig Deep into Farmworker Issues and Injustices.

Powerful young people, working for justice, visited the Farmworker Association of Florida on August 1st to experience the Lake Apopka Toxic Tour. Starting at the FWAF office in Apopka with a background on the lake’s environmental problems and the showing of the video “Out of the Muck”, the tour became a journey through the past and into the present of Lake Apopka.

Community leader, Linda Lee, led the tour, which included friends and allies from the Florida Immigrant Coalition, Central Florida Jobs with Justice, the Youth and Young Adult (YAYA) network of the National Farm Worker Ministry (NFWM), Organize Florida and Claudette, our new Rollins College Intern.

Everyone was deeply moved by what they saw and learned. The tour unpacked the experiences of racism against Black and Hispanic farmworkers and the damage to mother earth by our chemically dependent system of agriculture.

Linda Lee’s story got deep into everyone’s heart, as she described the long hours of intense physical labor in Florida’s hot and humid environment, all the while exposed to toxic pesticides.

The group traveled to the former Lake Apopka farm lands, now an eco-tourism destination with no historical information about people and animals who lived and died there. The next stop on the tour was Magnolia Park at the Lake Apopka boat ramp to observe the condition of the lake today, 20 years after the closing of the farms in 1998.

Looping back to the FWAF office, the group saw the other sources of environmental contamination in the community - two landfills and a medical waste incinerator, right next to the playground in a very impoverished community – a case of environmental injustice in our local area.

Concluding the tour, hope came in the form of resistance and restoration in learning about the FWAF Campesinos’ Garden, where the group could talk about environmental and agricultural reforms and learn about food sovereignty and agroecology in action in the local community.

We are all connected with the earth, between farmworkers and the food we all eat. Our stories of resistance and resilience are connected, we are all related. Thank you to this powerful group for your courage and consciousness.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Freedom School Programming Launches in South Apopka Summer 2018

For two weeks, Hope Community Center's South campus was filled with laughter, muddy shoes and about 25 young kids participating in a new community initiative. South Apopka’s first Freedom School was held July 9th-20th which was organized by HCC’s Community Organizer Lashae Copeland and other local Apopka volunteers.

The history of Freedom School programing dates to the 1960s. The structured Freedom Schools program was developed by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) during the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi. They were intended to counter the "sharecropper education" received by poor Americans. 

Focused on providing curriculum that helps to empower, educate and support youth in learning about afrocentric history and about their communities. These kids in South Apopka, aged 5-10 experienced a Wakanda themed two weeks as they learned about the real African Tribes from the Wakanda movie and were led by camp staff volunteers “tribal leaders” who consisted of Americorps volunteers, UCF college Students and local Apopka community members. Along with their Wakanda experience they learned about healthy eating, self love/empowerment, Agroecology, DNA, social activism, African Dance and much more!

As part of their environmental and community lesson, they visited the Farmworker Association to learn about the Lake Apopka Farmworkers. The kids were curious, attentive and very concerned about what happened to the Farmworkers as well as how people in their community are affected by the lake’s contamination today. The group drove past sites such as Duda Farms as they learned about what has happened to the environment around them. One of Linda Lee's grandchildren, participated in the program and was voted as a leader by his own peers!

Freedom School programming will likely continue in South Apopka during school breaks and holidays for community kids to continue learning about these important topics. 

LeMarquis and Cecilia complete an art project during their visit to Hannibal Square heritage center

Group picture with the Wakanda Salute

Students Yeferson, Kyron and Josue pictured learning about making "seed bombs" with Milkweed seeds 

For more information about how to get involved or support in any way please contact Lashae Copeland or at (407) 880-4673. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Gainesville Community Activist & Student Leaders Participate in Toxic Tour Experience

Students Travel from Gainesville to Learn about Environmental Justice 

Nkwanda Jah, noted leader and activist in the Gainesville community, brought her Environmental Ambassadors students to Apopka on Thursday, July 12 to experience the Lake Apopka Toxic Tour and to hear the heartfelt stories of community leader, Linda Lee. The Environmental Ambassadors program has given young high school students in Gainesville incredible opportunities to see, learn about and experience the environment and issues affecting their environment, and the Toxic Tour has been an exciting and eye-opening field trip as part of their overall experience for the past several years. Seven students, two adult leaders, and two other volunteers/supporters joined the toxic tour on a hot Florida summer day, visiting the old Duda Farms properties and driving past a small labor camp and a Superfund site. Standing in the relentless sun, at the entrance to the Lake Apopka North Shore Restoration Area hiking/biking trail, the students thought about just how hard it would be to be working in the fields and greenhouses under such high temperatures and humidity, as they loaded into the air conditioned van to drive to the next location.
Asking insightful questions and learning about environmental and racial injustices, the students were captivated by Linda Lee, who demonstrated to them the orange picking sack and talked about the dangers and hazards orange pickers have in order to harvest the fruit we take for granted every day. While the tour was cut short by mechanical problems with the van, the students are planning to read Fed Up, to get a deeper insight into the reality of farmworkers who fed America for generations. 
Nkwanda Jah

If you are connected with a community organization or a school group and are interested in doing a toxic tour please contact

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Stonehill College Comes Down South to Learn about Lake Apopka Farmworkers May 2018

On Friday May 25th, FWAF had a visit from students at Stonehill College, Easton Massachusetts. As part of the Hope Community Center's service immersion program, the students visited FWAF to learn about the Lake Apopka Farmworkers and environmental
 injustices in Apopka. In the morning, they worked in the FWAF community garden and learned about Agroecology and food sovereignty. The group also had the chance to work firsthand at a local nursery and learn about the various types of agricultural work that is considered farm work. After being caught in a Florida Thunderstorm, they arrived at the FWAF office where they dried off, and watched "Out of the Muck" and learned a little bit about the Lake Apopka farming lands and the farmworkers. This group of about 12 students, then shared a reflection together about their trip thus far. They spoke of the impact of staying with immigrant host families in the area and how valuable the experience was for them. Some of them mentioned the importance of getting out of their comfort zones and how grateful they were that they participated in this trip. Thank you Stonehill College for visiting and taking the time to learn about very important issues! 

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Cucumber Harvesters on Lake Apopka Farm Lands Unexpected Part of Northland Church Toxic Tour

On Saturday, May 12th a Toxic Tour was held from 10am-2pm with 12 members of 1-2-1 Hope of Northland Church in Orlando and one member of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in Winter Park, FL. 

The Northland Church participants expressed interest in and work on issues of human trafficking . Several had already been on the toxic tour, but thought it was very important and powerful that others should experience this tour.  Several in the group were Florida natives and were shocked that issues of human trafficking, environmental racism, agricultural injustices and more were happening in their own backyards and they had no idea about it. While on the tour, the group had the chance to see farmworkers in the fields harvesting cucumbers that are then shipped to other companies to make pickles. 

While they were interested in hearing about cases of human trafficking of farmworkers, they were also very interested and disturbed to learn about the pesticides and the health issues impacting the Lake Apopka farmworkers. Which are issues that although some people like to view as past history with Lake Apopka's  farming lands, they are very much still affecting previous Lake Apopka Farmworkers and their families to this day. Although Linda Lee was not available to join the tour on this day, the group drive by her house and pointed out the blue tarp covering her home was donated by their Northland church community. Something that really grabbed the attention of the group was the people who seemed to be living in deep poverty on Mcqeen Rd. The people living in this neighborhood are sandwiched between two landfills, a medical waste incinerator, municipal waste water facility and a nursery where pesticides are sprayed. 

To view more pictures click here

If you are interested in participating in a Toxic Tour and learn more about the ongoing issues in your own community, please contact

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Lake Apopka Former Farmworker Engages with Community on Ocoee Massacre Event

Apopka community member and local historian, Francina Boykin

Tuesday April 24th, The Equal Justice Initiative and the Peace and Justice Institute of Valencia College held a community event at the Winter Park Women's Club. 

"Aside from Florida history scholars, most Floridians have never heard of the Ocoee massacre of 1920, which was sparked when a black man attempted to vote." The Ocoee massacre was a white mob attack on African-American residents in northern Ocoee, Florida, which occurred on November 2, 1920, the day of the U.S. presidential election.This was just one attack out of the many racially motivated hate attacks recorded in Florida history.This event held at Valencia College,  included a short documentary, panel, and community discussion pertaining to the lynching and massacre that took place in Ocoee in 1920. Featured in the picture from our African American Leadership group is Linda Lee, former Lake Apopka Farmworker, who attended this educational event with FWAF staff. 

Check out the Valencia's Peace & Justice Webpage, to find out more information on the remaining opportunity to experience this event on May 24th.