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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Rollins Bonner Students and BSU Winter ABT 2018 learn about Lake Apopka Farmworkers

On Tuesday January 9th, The Farmworker Association of Florida office in Apopka was visited by two student groups who although they are from completely different states, had one important thing in common, they were eager to learn about the realities of farmworkers in Florida specifically, those who worked on Lake Apopka's farms.

The most local group was made up of first and second year students from the Rollin's College Bonner leaders program and Alfond program. The Rollins College Bonner Leaders Program is a cohort based community service program that pairs undergraduate students in their Liberal Arts program with local nonprofit organizations. This school year, as part of their annual immersion, they were focusing on farmwork and immigration, as a class they read the book Fed Up by Dale Finely Slongwhite to learn about Lake Apopka before visiting the Apopka community firsthand. On Tuesday, the students received a first hand look at the lake, the local  FWAF Campesino's garden and then a presentation on the history of Lake Apopka's farmworkers.

The second group of students were visiting all the way from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts. These students were participating in Hope CommUnity center's student immersion program, which BSU has been participating in annually, sending groups of students as part of their Community Service Center's alternative break service learning program. The BSU students spent their morning getting their hands dirty at the FWAF Campesino's garden in Apopka. While there they learned about the importance of food sovereignty vs food security and the impact that community garden's have in our social justice movements.  Later that day they arrived at FWAF where they learned about the history of Lake Apopka's farmworkers. 

Share your thoughts! What do you think the impacts of community garden's are? Are student community service immersion programs part of your college culture? 

Interested in Scheduling a toxic tour or class presentation? contact
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Monday, December 11, 2017

Former Lake Apopka Farm Workers Learn Civil Rights History

On December 9th 2017, Former Lake Apopka Farmworkers took a trip with  FWAF Apopka staff members and local community member organizers to learn about very important Florida activists Harry & Harriette Moore. The Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Museum is located in Brevard County, Mims FL. The FWAF staff have been eagerly awaiting this day to be able provide these former Lake Apopka Farmworkers and local Apopka community activists with the opportunity to learn about such influential people who were original civil rights leaders in a fundamental time in history.

Harry T. and his wife Harriette V. were the first true civil rights activists of the modern civil rights era in the State of Florida. Both Harry and Harriette were dedicated to the cause of black liberation during this time. Harry is most well known for heading a black voters registration campaign in 1945 which resulted in the most black voters registered out of all southern states (over 100,000 voters) as well as organizing the first Brevard County branch of the NAACP in 1934.

The influential couple, were murdered in 1951 when a bomb exploded under their humble home on Christmas day. Harry died on the long drive to the closest hospital that would care for black patients, Harriette survived the initial bombing but died 9 days after the night of the bombing incident. They left behind their two daughters as well as a profound legacy of social activism that truly provided a foundation for the recognized time of the civil rights movement.

The FWAF group was extremely grateful to have learned about Harry and Harriette who were so important for civil rights movements all over the country and especially in our own state of Florida. When asked the question "what did you learn today?" 7 year old grandson of former Lake Apopka farmworker Linda Lee said " I know who Harry T. Moore is and I will go to school and tell my teachers all about him"

To learn more about the museum and schedule a tour, please visit their website

The resting site of Harry & Harriette
FWAF group members smiling after visiting the house 

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

International Food Workers Awareness Week UCF

On Monday, November 20th, a group of curious UCF students and two campus professors attended a book signing of the book Fed Up by Dale Finely Slongwhite. Special guests in attendance were Linda Lee, local Apopka community activist who is featured in the book, and Jeannie Economos, FWAF Lake Apopka Project Coordinator.

In collaboration with The Youth and Young Adult Network of the National Farm Worker Ministry   (YAYA) and SLAP – the Student Labor Action Project at UCF, this event was hosted as part of International Food Workers Week, an annual week of awareness for all food workers coordinated by the Food Chain Workers Alliance . This year, IFFW was November 16th-25.  The event is held annually during the week of Thanksgiving to engage the public about the importance of food workers and to move people to take action. Events or actions around the U.S. are organized by the FCWA, member groups, and allies.

The group at UCF listened to the testimony of Linda Lee, as she spoke of her experiences working on the Lake Apopka Farms. Her words touched everyone in the room as they listened to her speaking of the struggles of working an arduous job on the farms and the impact of the injustice of pesticide exposure on her health and the health of all farm workers. Routes of exposure to dangerous pesticides are dermal, respiratory, and through ingestion. Serious skin rashes were common among the muck farm workers from direct contact with residues on plants, but workers also were sprayed directly or were exposed to pesticide drift from crop dusters and/or tractors. 

Linda Lee's story provided a window into the larger picture of injustices against farm workers everywhere. Although the Lake Apopka farms have been closed since 1998, the long term effects of pesticide exposure are generational and continue to affect family members of the farm workers of Lake Apopka. 

 To learn more about the Lake Apopka farmworkers, follow this link to purchase a copy of Fed Up or visit our Apopka main office location at 1264 Apopka Blvd., Apopka, FL 32703

Also in honor of International Food Workers week, the Lake Apopka Memorial Quilts will be displayed in Rollins Olin Library located in Winter Park FL. The display dates are November 21st- December 14th. 

Thursday, November 16, 2017

November Toxic Learning With Seminole State

        Six Seminole State Volunteers from Seminole State College met former Lake Apopka farmworker and Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt maker, Linda Lee, on Friday November 10, when they participated in a toxic tour of Lake Apopka, led by FWAF staff. The tour began at 9am with a film showing of the video “Out of the Muck” about veteran farmworker activist, Geraldean Matthew, and the health problems of the Lake Apopka farmworkers. Linda Lee shared with the students her experiences as a farmworker and of working on the Lake Apopka farm lands and the effects that the pesticides have had on the health of the farmworkers and their families.  

The students were all deeply moved by the stories.  One student commented that he was disappointed, not in the tour itself, but in learning about the injustices suffered by the people, and the silence around these issues among the general population.  He had expected a tour about the environment, and was surprised to learn about the lake’s environmental contamination’s impact on the people who harvested our food for decades.

Adding interest to the Toxic Tour was one student’s class science project which involved collecting algae from three different locations in Central Florida to study the effects of algae under stress.  Her project entails looking at the oil that is secreted by the algae under stressful conditions as a potential biofuels source for the future.  Linda Lee saved the day by using a Palmetto frond to reach into Lake Apopka to pull a glob of algae close to the dock so that it could be collected in a special jar to be brought to the lab at the school for analysis.  We were all left wondering at the results of the science project and its implications for health and the environment.

Interested in a Toxic Tour? Please contact us at or

Monday, October 30, 2017

Orlando Weekly & VegFest Travels

Lake Apopka in the Arts

Following the opening of the "The Lake: A Documentary Exploring the Land and People of Lake Apopka" the art exhibit at Crealde school of art, Orlando Weekly published an article about the exhibit. Featured in this particular article are the names of respected community members and former Lake Apopka Farmworkers, Linda Lee and Geovany Lopez. These two people are amongst the few portraits featured in the exhibit, "Portraits are rare, though, in this exhibit, which focuses instead on the natural and manmade landscape" says author Richard Reep.

Despite few portraits being featured, the paintings and pictures of the historical aspects of the community of Lake Apopka help tie together the memory of what the Lake once was and the devastation that it's been through. The exhibit expresses through art, the suffering but also the hope that dedicated community members still have for keeping the memory of their loved ones and  Lake Apopka alive.

Peter Schreyer speaking about Tom Sadler's  "Pump House Nocturne", which is also
mentioned in in Orlando Weekly's article. 
Banner promoting the exhibit located at Hannibal Square Heritage Center
Pictures by M.C 

        One of the Lake Apopka memorial quilts had the chance to attend VegFest Orlando!

The quilt brought in many interested festival attendees, they were amazed at the sad but also moving stories that the Lake Apopka quilt represents. One of the attendees mentioned how he worked alongside Geraldine Moore, who was a loved activist in the Apopka community . Geraldine's memory is featured on the blue memorial quilt as section #8 thanks to her sister Linda Lee.  

Thursday, October 5, 2017

FWAF Welcomes the New NDA Apopka 2017-2018 Team

On Friday September 22, 2017,  the Apopka Notre DameAmeriCorps Volunteers, participated in a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour led by Farmworker Association of Florida staff.

The day began at the Hope CommUnity Center office in Apopka with an introduction on the history and background of farms on Lake Apopka, the people who make up the community of those who lived and worked in and around the farms, and the impacts of the toxic chemicals used on the farm lands for decades. NDA members listened as FWAF staff explained the devastating effects of the pesticides – including persistent organic pollutants, such as DDT -  that were used on the farm lands.

After the introduction, the NDA team traveled in two vans, and stopped at the former Duda Farm entrance that now sports a boat ramp, hiking trail and is an eco-tourism destination, but which previously housed hundreds of farmworkers in trailers next to the fields and where the hiking trail leads out to what once was acres of vegetable cropland for Duda Farms.  Sr. Ann Kendrick, gave a moving personal account of a former Duda camp resident’s experience of returning to the area after having left and moved to the suburbs.  She recounted his sense of loss of community that the workers experienced when they lived there, in spite of the harsh and difficult living and working conditions they endured on the farms.

photos taken by Moniqua Cisneros 
The group was honored to be accompanied by Farm Worker Association staff member, Mireya Ledesma, who gave insight on what it was like for her as a child having to work in the orange groves after school at 11 years old. She described "We would go work right after school to help my father on the groves, there would be many families picking up their kids after school to head straight to the groves". She is pictured here, wearing a bag used to pack the oranges which can weigh more than 90 lbs when filled.

To top off the toxic tour in the following week, the NDA group had the opportunity to visit the Lake Apopka exhibit at Crealde School of art to continue learning about the amazing history of Lake Apopka and its people (see previous post for more information on this exhibit).   

photos taken by Moniqua Cisneros 

Interested in learning more about Lake Apopka? Visit

Monday, September 25, 2017

Crealde School of Art, Lake Apopka Exhibit

       On Friday September 15, Crealde School of Art in collaboration with the Winter Garden Heritage Foundation, unveiled a very special exhibit. The exhibit titled " The Lake: A Documentary Exploring the Land and People of Lake Apopka" presents a snapshot of the cultural history of Lake Apopka.

The project led by Peter Schreyer, came to life with the help of 24 local photographers and plein air painters who over the period of seven months, captured aspects of the Lake Apopka's grand landscape. The final project is made up of fifty-nine art pieces captioned with historical information connecting the artwork to the past and present history of Lake Apopka.

Featured in the art is Apopka local, Linda Lee, former farm worker and current advocate for the health issues of agricultural workers in Apopka.

      The Lake Apopka Art pieces will be displayed in Crealde's winter park locations, The Alice & William Jenkins Gallery and the Hannibal Square Heritage center. The exhibit will be relocated in the winter of 2018 as part of a traveling exhibit in Florida.

Linda Lee admiring her portrait taken by photographer KuKu Varghese seen standing on the right

Linda Lee and her grandchildren

For more information about "The Lake: A Documentary Exploring the Land and People of Lake Apopka " exhibit details and building hours, please visit the Crealde School of art website.