Thursday, July 6, 2017

SAFSF Conference Travels from Gainesville to Learn About Lake Apopka Farmworkers

Photograph by Joann Lo
Over forty people filled a full-size tour bus for an immersive trip from their cool, comfortable hotel in Gainesville, Florida to the hot and humid former farm lands on Lake Apopka, learning along the way from their FWAF tour guides about the historical and systemic issues underpinning the conditions experienced by farmworkers in the past and today. 

Attendees at the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders conference spent Wednesday, June 28th on field trips to nearby places of interest and relevance to their work and passions.  A social justice conscious group embarked on an all day tour, that included a look at Long and Scott Farms famous for Zellwood sweet corn, the former Duda Farms labor camp area that is now part of an eco-tourism trail, a Superfund site at the former Drum Chemical Company, and a sewage sludge fertilizer company across from the former farm lands.  With a stop for lunch at Magnolia Park, participants had an opportunity to walk on the dock to see the pea-green waters of Lake Apopka, and assess for themselves the water “quality” of the lake’s restoration.

Pointing out other environmental stressors in the community along the way – the two landfills, medical waste incinerator, and ornamental plant nurseries where pesticides are used – the group was guided to the local Apopka community health center for a presentation and questions and answer session. 

By far, the most powerful moment of the trip, however, was the visit to former farmworker, Linda Lee’s home, where Linda simply and clearly told her heartfelt stories of her experiences working in the vegetable fields of Lake Apopka, and Mireya Ledesma spoke of her life as a young daughter of a farmworker family from Mexico that traveled the seasons harvesting crops in the U.S.  Their personal testimonies are what filled the minds of everyone on the return trip to Gainesville, and gave everyone a deeper and fuller understanding of life for workers in U.S. agriculture. 

Our  special thanks to SAFSF for giving us the opportunity to share our community and our community members’ stories with everyone as part of this memorable and successful conference.    
Photograph by Kristen richardson-Frick

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