Compared with the popular media conception of spring break in college, Apopka has very little to offer. However, a group of University of Florida students decided that spring break could be more than a boozy blur. They all opted out of more traditional spring breaks to join the Farmworker Association of Florida for 4 days.
The students learned the history of Lake Apopka, and took a toxic tour on the shores of the former muck farmland. Students were humbled and surprised at what they heard. They had a chance to meet Linda Lee, former Lake Apopka farmworker and Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt Maker. That evening, the students created their own quilt squares to reflect on the experience they had learning about Lake Apopka and the stories of the people who harvested the vegetable crops on the farms for decades.
While the students did soak up some sun, it was during their labor filled days community gardening. The team of Florida Alternative Break students worked in Apopka’s Billie Dean Garden and also in the Campesino-a-Campesino garden in Pierson, Florida. The students built garden beds, turned compost, and learned from community members and FWAF staff about agroecology and organic gardening.
The final day of their “break” was spent in an Apopka Nursery. Their new knowledge was evident in how they prepared to enter the nursery. As students learn the dangers and hardships farmworkers face, they can begin to tangibly relate to the experience. When students were concerned about the large amount of pesticides used at the location, they covered up at the expense of being even hotter. While this was a single day in their lives, the experience will help them remember the people who live that day, only more difficult and stressful, every day.