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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lake Apopka Scientist Speaks on Alligator Studies at Pesticide Forum in Orlando

Dr. Lou Gillette pioneered research into endocrine-disrupting pesticides with his study on Lake Apopka alligators' reproductive systems, and his keynote address goes into detail about what his findings were, what they mean for the alligators and possible consequences for the Lake Apopka farmworkers who were also exposed for years to persistent pesticides.

Thanks to longtime Progressive News Network Radio host and Farmworker Association of Florida supporter Rick Spisak, who recorded each day's keynote speaker and has shared them on his websiteEvaggelos Vallianatos gave a passionate keynote addressing the basics of why pesticides are harmful to our health and environment, as well as exploring the reasons that regulatory agencies and other actors seem powerless to stop the industry from using them. 

Dr. Tyrone Hayes closed the Forum with a powerful keynote presentation exploring his research into pesticides and frogs and exploring the tremendous push back and persecution he suffered because of it. These outstanding speakers, researchers and heroes in the work to protect health, wildlife and the environment were truly inspirational and motivational!  They imparted to everyone the incredible importance of pursuing research and banning the use of these toxic chemicals, and now you can hear them too by checking out these links! 

Linda Lee and Geraldean Matthew stand with the Blue Quilt. 

And, the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt Exhibit at the Orange County Regional History Center completed its multi-month exhibition in Orlando last week.  The Quilts were seen by hundreds of visitors to the museum - a source of great pride for the community!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Evaggelos Vallianatos Reflects on His Toxic Tour Experience

Writes Passionate Piece Decrying the Injustices of the Lake Apopka Farms, Industrial Agriculture

Photo of farms near Lake Apopka taken by Mr. Vallianatos on the Toxic tour.
Our new friend, Evaggelos Vallianatos, recently opened up the 33rd Annual National Pesticide Forum that we co-hosted for Beyond Pesticides with his Pesticides 101 lecture. In it he explains why pesticides are terrible for farmworkers, for everyone else, and for the planet and why we still use them. He's worked tirelessly for more than 30 years now to create regulations that better protect farmworkers and the environment so he should know. His 2014 book, Poison Spring, exposes the shocking corruption and devastating apathy which informs the Environmental Protection Agency's policies regarding pesticides and farmworker safety.

Vallianatos (center) poses for a picture with Dr. Tyrone Hayes (left) and Marty Mesh (right) of Florida Organic Growers during the National Pesticide Forum. 

As part of a group of conference participants, Mr. Vallianatos got to partake in the extended version of our Toxic Tour we wrote about here.  And yesterday, he published a powerful piece on reflecting on the injustices of the industrial agriculture of Central Florida called Lake Apopka: Ecocide, Rural Oligarchy, and Slavery. In it he connects the tragedy of Lake Apopka and its farmworkers to the larger issues with our food system and he ends it with a passionate plea not just to beef up Worker Protection Standards, but to actually provide farmworkers with land so that they can grow our food in humane and sustainable ways. Please read it and share it on your social networks.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Lake Apopka Farmworkers Visit Their Quilts at the Orlando Regional History Center

Lake Apopka farmworkers Linda Lee, Betty Dubose, Geraldean Matthew, and Mary Ann Robinson, along with three youth from the community and Rollins College volunteer, Dustin Baetz, visited the powerful "And, Still We Rise" exhibit this past Sunday, April 26th at the Orange County Regional History Center in downtown Orlando. The exhibit is a collection of some 70 hand-made quilts by African American Quiltmakers on the themes of the African American experience in America from slavery to the present, including a quilt in honor of the Tuskegee (birthplace of Betty Dubose) airmen and of Congresswomen Shirley Chisholm, among many others.  
Linda Lee and Gereldean Matthew talk to onlookers about their quilt.
The highlight for the group was to see the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts - both the Red Quilt and the Blue Quilt - along with the quilt brochures - on display in a room adjacent to the main exhibit and alongside an exhibit on the local history of African Americans in neighborhood communities of Orange County. The women were proud to see their quilts on display in conjunction with this noteworthy new and stunning exhibit of quilts that made Orlando its first stop in its scheduled nationwide tour. May 2nd is the final day of the exhibit and the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts will be looking for new venues in Florida to bring their message and their display.

Linda Lee, Betty Dubose, and volunteer Dustin Baetz at the exhibit. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Toxic Tour Takes a Detour

Concludes in Visit to Organic Citrus Farm
On Friday, April 17th, 2015, participants of the 33rd Annual National Pesticide Forum got to participate in an extended version of our usual Toxic Tours around Lake Apopka! The group went on a guided bus tour of Lake Apopka (via Magnolia Park in Apopka), what remains of the North Shore muck farms, and ended the day with a tour of Uncle Matt's Organic orange grove to learn about the benefits and challenges of growing organically. The tour was led by former Lake Apopka farmworker Linda Lee, farmworker and organizer Miguel Zelaya, and Coordinator of Pesticide Health and Safety Project, Jeannie Economos. 

Above, Linda Lee and one of the tour participants pose for a snapshot. Participants file back onto the bus after exploring what's left of the Lake Apopka farms

A huge thank you to everyone that came out on the Tour and participated in the Forum!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

World-Renowned Scientists to Speak at Pesticide Forum in Orlando

The Farmworker Association of Florida is very proud to co-host the 33rd Annual National Pesticide Forum with Beyond Pesticides and other partners in Orlando. One of the many amazing guests and speakers, Dr. Lou Guillette, was one of the first scientists to link pesticides to endocrine disruption and conducted his research with alligators in Lake Apopka. Many of the participants will be taking a Toxic Tour around the lake Friday afternoon, before the official start of the event. For more information or to register go to

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lake Apopka Farmworkers Featured in New Short Documentary

Our very own Linda Lee, Betty Dubose and Geraldean Matthew are featured in this new short documentary released last week by Earthjustice. Check it out!

The film, by filmmaker Sanjay Rawal, profiles Linda, Betty, and Geraldean's experiences on and the environmental destruction of Lake Apopka. The State of Florida refused to pursue justice for the Lake Apopka farmworkers, but we can encourage the EPA to strengthen the protections surrounding pesticides. Sign EarthJustice's petition for the EPA now!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Alternative Spring Break Students from University of North Florida Take Toxic Tour

What a powerful way to begin the week!  On Sunday, March 15, seven students and two professors from the University of North Florida visited the Apopka office of the Farmworker Association of Florida for an 'immersion' into the issues of farmworkers and social and environmental justice.  Starting with a Toxic Tour of Lake Apopka, with an opportunity to watch both the "Out of the Muck" and the "Los Naranjeros" videos, the students engaged in a day of learning, observing, questioning, thinking, and challenging the current and past injustices experienced by farmworkers in our country.

With probing questions, open hearts, and alert minds, the group met Linda Lee and heard her personal stories of decades as a farmworker on Lake Apopka.  Ms. Linda also shared with the students some of her most recent quilt square creations, indicative of her creative talents and passion for storytelling through art. Linda keeps getting better all the time!

So incredible was this group of students, that they delayed their drive to Immokalee to stay and hear and learn more.  The group was an inspiration to us!  Thank you from all of us at FWAF!