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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Loyola Students Immersion Experience in Apopka

We are starting out 2015 at the Farmworker Association of Florida with a lot of commitment and enthusiasm! This week, a group of students from Loyola University visited the FWAF Apopka office as a part of an immersion project with the Hope Community Center. The students and staff are from a wide variety of states, such as Connecticut, New York, Maryland and even Puerto Rico. 

With the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts on display, the students participated in a presentation about the reality of farmworkers in Florida.  During their visit, they learned about the injustices farmworkers face as a part of the legacy of slavery here in the United States, particularly the terrible working conditions for many migrant workers brought here as a part of the H-2A guestworker program.  They watched a short video called “Los Naranajeros” about the working conditions of orange pickers.  The film was produced a few years ago by a group of Harvard Law School students in partnership with our Immokalee office. The video was followed by a great discussion of how the students can avoid purchasing fruits and vegetables produced by workers facing exploitation and exposure to toxic pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. We also encouraged them to read more about the "Dirty Dozen" and the "Clean 15".


Jeannie Economos demonstrates how to carry an orange picking back. 
These typically hold about 90lbs worth of oranges.


The students then learned more about the history of Lake Apopka and the work Dr. Louis Guillette  produced to bring scientific attention to the harmful effects of DDT on human and wildlife. The effects of DDT on wildlife was first brought to Dr. Guillette's attention as he began to notice abnormalities in the development of alligators in Lake Apopka and established the idea that chemicals like DDT can have harmful effects on life because they are neuro-endocrine disrupters. Basically, this means that the chemicals target the nervous and hormonal system of the body and can lead to life threatening illnesses.

Jeannie Economos and Americorp Volunteer Coordinator, Pia Desangles help the students understand the history of Lake Apopka visually.

Since we didn't want the students to leave too depressed from our discussion, we ended our talk with a description of how indigenous farming techniques, like agroecological practices, local organizations like ours, and global farmworker social movements like La Via Campesina help promote positive change for our communities. Afterall, the new food movements are great but truly good foods must be produced with justice for workers!


Sociology Graduate Student and Volunteer, Bekah Torcasso, discusses La Via Campesina.

After our talk we posed for a group photo in front of the Apopka office, chanting "si se puede!"


Thank you Sister Ann Kendrick and the Hope Center for bringing such wonderful guests to learn and share in our mission to build power among farmworker and rural low-income communities to respond to and gain control over the social, political, workplace, economic, health and environmental justice issues that impact our lives!


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