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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

World Food Week

In celebration of World Food Week, October 12th to 19th, the Quilts were busy again in raising awareness about the Lake Apopka farmworkers who fed America for decades! World Food Week is a time to celebrate food and those who make it possible for us to eat. The Red and Blue Quilts were on display in the lobby of the Olin Library at Rollins College in Winter Park from October 14th to 17th. This was a great opportunity to be seen by the Rollins community.

On Wednesday the 15th, students from the University of Central Florida went on the first Toxic Tour of the semester. Linda Lee and Farmworker Association staff led the tour of the places around Lake Apopka where farmworkers have labored to feed America despite exploitive conditions, pesticide exposure, and environmental injustice. That evening, Linda, a former farmworker who played a central role in creating the quilts, and Dale Slongwhite, who compiled the oral histories of the farmworkers in her book Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food, joined Farmworker Association staff in a video showing of “Out of the Muck” and a panel discussion of the Quilts at Rollins College. It was a day rich in learning for everyone involved.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Quilts on Display at Rollins Theater and Local Food Summit Events

This weekend was a busy one for the Lake Apopka Quilts!  Both the Red and Blue quilts made an appearance at Rollins College and again at the Florida Local Food Summit in Central Florida.

The Annie Russell Theatre at Rollins in Winter Park invited us to display the Quilts before a performance of Working on Friday night.  Farmworker Association staff and volunteers met with theater fans before the show.  The director, Jennifer Cavenaugh, discovered the song “Un Mejor Día Vendrá”, which was based on an interview with a farmworker and hadn’t been performed since the show’s original run.  Because of the importance of farmworkers in Central Florida, she brought it back for the Rollins production!

At the first annual Florida Local Food Summit in Orlando, stakeholders from all around Florida gathered to promote local, organic, sustainable, and socially just practices for farmworkers, consumers, and everyone in between.  Farmworker Association staff Miguel and Jeannie joined Leah Cohen of the Agricultural Justice Project and Jordan Brown of The Family Garden in Bell, FL in an agricultural justice workshop Friday afternoon.  The workshop began with a Mystica, a La Via Campesina ritual of gratitude for the soil, water, the sun, seeds, and farmworkers that are necessary for us all to live. 

On Saturday, FWAF staff and Marty Mesh of Florida Organic Growers led a conversation on agricultural justice following a screening of the short film Hungry for Justice.  The Quilts were on display during the panel, the screening, and a delicious meal of local organic food.  Both events were wonderful opportunities to raise awareness in the community.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Global Food System

A fascinating new book explores the many complex issues that plague our global food system and attempts to offer solutions. Published  in July, The Global Food System: Issues and Solutions is a compilation of essays written by experts in different fields tackling several facets of the food system and edited by William D. Schanbacher. Chapter 4, which is about racism and gender discrimination faced by food chain workers, was written by our friend Joann Lo, Executive Director of the Food Chain Workers Alliance. The FCWA is a coalition of organizations advocating for food chain workers and the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF). 

The chapter delves into the racial and gender discrimination that workers must face at every level of the food chain—farmworkers, food processing workers, distribution and warehouse workers, retail workers, and, finally, restaurant workers. Joann highlighted the story of our own Linda Lee and her leadership role in the Lake Apopka Quilt Project and FWAF in the section on farmworkers and the long history of racism on Florida farms.

An excerpt from the book:

“Linda started working on farms in the summers in the late 1960s, when she was about six years old. She harvested corn, cabbages, carrots, cucumbers tomatoes, beans hickory nuts, and potatoes…. ‘It was pretty tough trying to work, with cold, and then getting sunburned…. There was racism because they didn’t treat us equally. They’d tell us we had to get an order in, so if you got hurt in the fiends, it’s like: Go on back to work.’”

Friday, August 29, 2014


Fed Up - Book Signing and Talk at Barnes and Noble in Orlando

PhotoAuthor Dale Slongwhite and former Lake Apopka farmworker Betty Dubose addressed an interested audience on Thursday night, August 28th, at Barnes and Noble Book Store in Orlando, FL.  Ms. Slongwhite read passages from the book and Ms. Dubose talked about her personal experiences as a farmworker harvesting vegetables on Lake Apopka.  The book Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food was on display in the front window of the Barnes and Noble and on the second floor of the store.

Audience members asked many questions about the environmental issues on Lake Apopka and the work and living conditions experienced by the farmworkers.  The Blue Quilt was a backdrop to their talk and presentation.  Betty Dubose demonstrated how to use the orange picking sack and what it was like to harvest oranges when she was a young woman.  Sharing the stories of the African American farmworkers was a powerful experience - connecting our lives to those of the people who worked to feed us.  The legacy of the workers is kept alive through the book and through events like these.

Betty Dubose at Barnes and Noble Book Signing in Orlando

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Quilts Are Backdrop to Fed Up Book Reading and Presentation at Orange County Public Library

Author Dale Slongwhite, former Lake Apopka farmworker Linda Lee, and Farmworker Association of Florida Pesticide Project Coordinator, Jeannie Economos spoke to a group of interested listeners at the Orange County Library Downtown Orlando Main Branch on Saturday, August 16th.  A slice of local history that has gone untold, until the publication of the book Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food, was an eye-opener for everyone who attended.  Farming on the north shore of Lake Apopka, pesticide contamination, the lives of the farmworkers who harvested vegetables for generations in Central Florida - stories of the lake and the people came together to reveal what life was like for thousands of African American farmworkers who fed a nation through the hard work of their back-breaking labor.

Fed Up author Slongwhite read passages from her book, while Linda Lee spoke from the heart about her own personal experiences working in the fields in all kinds of weather, all while being exposed to toxic pesticides.   The publication of the book fills a vacuum in Florida history by portraying the lives of a people who have been virtually invisible.  As with the Quilts, the book Fed Up is a validation, as well as a commemoration of the lives, culture, history and contributions of the Lake Apopka farmworkers.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

TOXIC TOUR for Enivronmental Ambassadors from Gainesville, Florida

The Environmental Ambassadors, a youth group from the Summer Program for Youths sponsored by the Cultural Arts Coalition of Gainesville, FL toured Lake Apopka with Jeannie Economos and Linda Lee, a former farmworker from Lake Apopka farms in July, 2014.

Linda Lee spoke to them about her experiences growing up and working around Lake Apoka as a farmworker in a farmworker family.

It has been 14 years since the farms were bought out and Lake Apopka was supposed to have been returned to a healthy state but this is what this group encountered last week.  

Jeannie Economos from the Farmworker Association of Florida and leader of this tour states she has never seen the lake looking so bad with scum, algae and bubbling spouts of ?   There is a posted sign from St. Johns Water Management advising of a pesticide application of 2, 4-D + Glyphosate (for more information on the toxicity and dangers of this pesticide/weedkiller combination, CLICK HERE).

 A sad looking young alligator was spotted in the lake looking as though he wanted to be rescued!

   The condition of the lake emphasized the serious problems caused by the lake's sad history.

The Environmental Ambassadors enjoyed their informative tour and meeting with Linda Lee.

Monday, July 28, 2014