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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. 


Monday, April 16, 2018

MAC Visits FWAF and Seminole State Students Experience Billie Dean Garden Day

Mississippi Association of Cooperatives 

On Thursday April 5th, as The Farmworker Association was preparing to host it's second annual Agroecology Encuentro, a group from Mississippi called the Mississippi Association of Cooperatives was part of the invitees for this event and luckily, they had the opportunity to partake on a Toxic Tour of Lake Apopka. The Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (MAC) was established in 1972 as an affiliate of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. MAC, serves farmers, families and their communities in improving their quality of life by increasing their livelihood and security. MAC provides technical assistance and advocates for the needs of the members in the areas of cooperative development, sustainable production, community food security and more! Visit their website here for more information.

The Toxic Tour started in the office with a presentation of the history of Lake Apopka's farming lands and the farmworkers who worked the lands, presented by FWAF staff. The highlight of the tour with MAC, was meeting Linda Lee who is a former Lake Apopka Farmworker and community activist. They listened as Linda shared her memories of working on the farm and how the consequences of the lack of farmworker protections are still affecting her and her family to this day.

Seminole State Students Toxic Tour 

On Saturday April 7th, Seminole State College Volunteers worked in the South Apopka Billie Dean Community Garden in the morning, there they met Peter Jordan the garden coordinator. Peter helped  facilitate this day filled with learning about community garden initiatives and how they bring positive change to a community. After the garden work morning the students participated in a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour.  By the end of the day, the Seminole state group students felt tired after working in the garden and learning about the history of Apopka!

Monday, March 19, 2018

March Toxic Tours with Rollins, FSU, Loyola and Xavier Colleges

Thursday March 1st Rollins Biology students visited FWAF for a Toxic Tour with their Professor, Dr. H. Bobby Fokidis who teaches in the department of Biology at Rollins college. Professor Fokidis knew and had worked with Dr. Louis Guillette, who conducted the alligator studies on Lake Apopka that ultimately concluded that they're were imbalances of reproductive hormones in the alligator population. The students in this class were made up of students interested in biology relevant to our everyday lives. The tour began around 8am and ended at 10:30am. Thank you to this class of biology students who showed much interest and asked many questions about Lake Apopka and the people who were affected by the contamination of the farm lands. 

Rollins College students on the Toxic Tour 

On Wednesday March 8th, as part of Hope Community Center's service immersion program students from Xavier College and Loyola University were brought together.  On this day, they were visiting FWAF for an hour long presentation to learn about the issue of the Lake Apopka farmworkers and the realities for farmworkers in general.  The students had been working in the nurseries interacting with workers during the week and visited the FWAF Campesino's Community Garden as part of their service learning week but gained a deeper context of the issues during their visit to FWAF.

The students during Lake Apopka presentation 

On Friday March 9th Florida State University Law students from Tallahassee came to FWAF Apopka for a service learning weekend. The weekend began with a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour on Friday March 9th. On Saturday the 10th they spent 1/2 day working in a nursery and 1/2 day doing outreach. On Sunday the 11th, they participated in an intensive workshop learning day to learn about the immigration issues impacting farmworkers and health and safety issue as well as the Worker Protection Standard and chlorpyrifos. The workshop on Sunday was facilitated by Dominique Aulisio from YAYA (Youth and Young Network of the National Farmworker Ministry) and Antonio Tovar who is our staff researcher at FWAF.  Monday they spent time learning about human trafficking with the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation. 

FSU visiting the Campesino's Garden 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Emrbrace Hope for Racial Understanding Lake Apopka Farmworkers attend Black History Month Event

On Monday February 12th 2018, our Apopka office along with Hope CommUnity Center,
shared an evening exploring the importance of storytelling within generations and the importance of dialogue centering racial experiences in America. The evening began with a southern style dinner catered by local chef Willie Bell, then followed with a dynamic presentation by South Florida native, Dr.Kitty Oliver, who is a veteran journalist, oral historian, author, television and radio producer.  She has been featured on CNN news, “Black in America,” for her race relations work. She is also president of Kitty O. Enterprises, Inc., a cultural diversity consulting firm based in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and director of the new Race and Change Initiative at Florida Atlantic University. Her work focuses on intergenerational race and ethnic relations topics. A crowd of over 100 diverse people from the Apopka and Central Florida area were in attendance. Including key leaders of the African American Lake Apopka Farmworkers such as Linda Lee and her family, Maryann Robinson, Lessie Stevens, Rosa Nivens, Eloise Barnes and Mary Tinsley.
They attentively listened, asked questions and observed as Dr. Oliver discussed ways in which we as a community can prioritize and create race related dialogues to create connections in culturally different situations. Some of those in attendance could directly relate to Dr.Oliver’s reading’s of life in the South, at the end of the event several people shared their appreciation for Dr.oliver’s stories of racial experiences as it allowed them to feel more connected and unified with their experiences growing up and their community. This event was sponsored by the Florida Humanities Council ( with funds from the Florida Department State, Division of Cultural Affairs and the Florida Council on Arts and Culture.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

UCF Women and Gender Studies Students Learn about Lake Apopka

On Saturday February 3rd, UCF professor, Dr. Santana provided an amazing opportunity for her students to come out to FWAF Apopka and learn about Lake Apopka Farmworkers. As part of their curriculum in her classes, students read the book Fed Up by Dale Finely Slongwhite. This group of students was made up of mainly juniors/seniors, part of Santana's Women, Race and Struggle class, as well as two YAYA members (Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farmworker Ministry).

During their visit, the students met Linda Lee who was featured in the book Fed Up.  Linda gave her personal testimony of working on the Lake Apopka farms and how this has affected her and generations of her family members. Then the students partook of a "Toxic Tour", which helped to give the students a better overview of why they were there, to see first hand how environmental racism has affected people in their local community.

Professor Santana shared some words on why incorporating this into her curriculum is important:

"It is sometimes wonderful to read Oral Histories but meeting the person who inspired a book is remarkable. My students were able to visit, hear, smell and feel the places and people they read about and study under Environmental Racism and the intersectionalities of gender, race, place of origin, body ability and social class among others. As activists and feminists it is crucial for us to investigate and experience the realities of all members of our community. The farmworkers are part of our community. Without their honest work in the fields we would not have food on our tables."

We are so thankful for conscious professors like Maria Santana, who realizes the importance of an education grounded in social awareness and provides these opportunities for her students. 

If you are interested in a toxic tour or presentation please contact

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

UCF Students Experience Service Immersion over MLK weekend

 Many college students consider the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday which is held every year on the third Monday of January as another opportunity to take a break and rest with a day off. However, for those involved in their community's and part of the community service world, MLK is a day ON not off, it is considered a day of service to others and a chance to connect with one another and remember the legacy that Dr.King as well as many other civil rights and social justice activists have left for us to continue.

For a group of 8 UCF students, this past MLK day weekend consisted of not only sleeping in a room full of strangers but getting out of their comfort zones and learning about the issues of farmworkers and immigration in their local communities. Alicia Perez a UCF student who is an alternative break program coordinator and volunteer has a strong vision for planning this weekend since the issues at hand are close to her heart

"With everything that is going on politically and socially in our nation, I felt that it was important to inform those around me about the stories that they don't hear in mainstream media when linked with farm worker and immigration issues even if that meant facing the pain left behind from my story. To bring a face, and humanize the issues even if that face was just mine. " 

Alicia Spearheaded the planning for this particular trip because of how important the issue of immigration and farmworker injustices is, she wanted other UCF students to learn about these issues and help spread the awareness. 

Throughout the weekend the students interacted with local farmworkers, heard testimony of their stories and learned about the local issues of environmental racism and much more. On their first day of the weekend the students spent their Saturday morning working in a local nursery where they spent a few hours" in the shoes" of a farmworker, the students then took a tour of Lake Apopka where they then learned about the toxic history of the lake and it's historical farming practices and farmworker treatment. The last two days consisted of working in the local Campesino's garden to learn about FWAF's national Agroecology movement and the students even got the opportunity to participate in South Apopka's annual MLK day parade where community members come together to celebrate community diversity and unity. 

"I know that in order for me to reach the change that I want to impact later on in life with my many goals, I have to start small and I have to start now, regardless of how painful it may be for me. I hope that one day I will be able to speak about my story the way Ms. Linda spoke to us about hers. "- Alicia 

Check out this article by Valerie Starks about this immersion weekend

If you are interested in participating in a service immersion experience with FWAF please contact