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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. 


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.