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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

Thursday, July 3, 2014


This Fantastic Exhibit Closes This Month.  

 This comprehensive exhibition is part of an extended exhibition program called, Tapestry: The Cultural Threads of First America. 

The first leg or “thread” of this exhibition is a retrospective of African-American history beginning in 1565 when both freed and enslaved Blacks landed with St. Augustine founder Pedro Menendez, through Fort Mose, the first freed Black settlement in the U.S., to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, and beyond. 

The purpose of the exhibit is to elevate awareness of the important role African-Americans played in the cultural and historical development of St. Augustine and thus, America.

Attending: Betty Dubose, Linda Lee, Mary Ann Robinson, Gerda Brun, Dale Slongwhite, Sarah Downs and Jeannie Economos. 

With a guided tour by a docent, the exhibit starts with pre-settlement by white settlers and continues thru slavery up to the Civil Rights movement/era. The tour included a video about civil rights activity in St. Augustine in the early 1960s.  

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Lessons learned from Lake Apopka" at Central Florida Health Careers Camp

FWAF presented "Lessons Learned from Lake Apopka" as part of the Central Florida Health Careers Camp 4 day program for H.S. students from the Central Florida region as part of the Central FL AHEC (Area Health Education Center) summer camp program.

Lessons Learned from Lake Apopka: The Importance of Sustainable Agriculture for Healthy Living -- A comprehensive educational curriculum for middle and high school classes

The students attending the 4 day Central Florida Health Careers Camp program were very attentive to the presentation given by Jeannie Economos and Sarah Downs. Following the curriculum the students learned about:

I. Building knowledge about the adverse impacts of pesticides on farmworking communities
II. Discussing  the working conditions of modern day farmworkers

III. Making informed choices in students’ own food consumption

IV. Activities and Resources for further learning

A Case Study of Lake Apopka, the video Out of the Muck, and presentations on pesticides, sustainable living, and problems facing farmworkers were used to introduce the idea of where food comes from, how it gets to us and how it affects the lives of farmworkers and their communities. 

Students were encouraged to ask questions, use critical thinking, and present their own opinions in their study groups and in front of the class. They were given suggested activities for after the class for further study and self enrichment.

"Lessons Learned from Lake Apopka" was developed as part of two grants awarded to FWAF.