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Monday, April 20, 2015

Toxic Tour Takes a Detour

Concludes in Visit to Organic Citrus Farm
On Friday, April 17th, 2015, participants of the 33rd Annual National Pesticide Forum got to participate in an extended version of our usual Toxic Tours around Lake Apopka! The group went on a guided bus tour of Lake Apopka (via Magnolia Park in Apopka), what remains of the North Shore muck farms, and ended the day with a tour of Uncle Matt's Organic orange grove to learn about the benefits and challenges of growing organically. The tour was led by former Lake Apopka farmworker Linda Lee, farmworker and organizer Miguel Zelaya, and Coordinator of Pesticide Health and Safety Project, Jeannie Economos. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

World-Renowned Scientists to Speak at Pesticide Forum in Orlando

The Farmworker Association of Florida is very proud to co-host the 33rd Annual National Pesticide Forum with Beyond Pesticides and other partners in Orlando. One of the many amazing guests and speakers, Dr. Lou Guillette, was one of the first scientists to link pesticides to endocrine disruption and conducted his research with alligators in Lake Apopka. Many of the participants will be taking a Toxic Tour around the lake Friday afternoon, before the official start of the event. For more information or to register go to

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lake Apopka Farmworkers Featured in New Short Documentary

Our very own Linda Lee, Betty Dubose and Geraldean Matthew are featured in this new short documentary released last week by Earthjustice. Check it out!

The film, by filmmaker Sanjay Rawal, profiles Linda, Betty, and Geraldean's experiences on and the environmental destruction of Lake Apopka. The State of Florida refused to pursue justice for the Lake Apopka farmworkers, but we can encourage the EPA to strengthen the protections surrounding pesticides. Sign EarthJustice's petition for the EPA now!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Alternative Spring Break Students from University of North Florida Take Toxic Tour

What a powerful way to begin the week!  On Sunday, March 15, seven students and two professors from the University of North Florida visited the Apopka office of the Farmworker Association of Florida for an 'immersion' into the issues of farmworkers and social and environmental justice.  Starting with a Toxic Tour of Lake Apopka, with an opportunity to watch both the "Out of the Muck" and the "Los Naranjeros" videos, the students engaged in a day of learning, observing, questioning, thinking, and challenging the current and past injustices experienced by farmworkers in our country.

With probing questions, open hearts, and alert minds, the group met Linda Lee and heard her personal stories of decades as a farmworker on Lake Apopka.  Ms. Linda also shared with the students some of her most recent quilt square creations, indicative of her creative talents and passion for storytelling through art. Linda keeps getting better all the time!

So incredible was this group of students, that they delayed their drive to Immokalee to stay and hear and learn more.  The group was an inspiration to us!  Thank you from all of us at FWAF!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Farmworkers and "Fed Up" Author at Tampa History Center and Seminole State College

Farmworkers Linda Lee and Betty Dubose joined Fed Up author Dale Slongwhite for a presentation at the beautiful Tampa Bay History Center in Tampa, FL on the evening of Wednesday, February 11th.

 After showing the video "Out of the Muck" and sharing information on the background of environmental problems on Lake Apopka, Ms. Lee and Ms. Dubose talked about their personal experiences as farmworkers in the vegetable fields of Lake Apopka.  Ms. Slongwhite then shared how hearing the farmworkers' stories for the first time at an environmental justice summit at Barry University Law School over five years ago changed her life forever...and was the catalyst that led to her writing the book.  Following the presentation was a question and answer period and station TBAE filmed the event.  Plus, the ride home was fun, too!

A little over a week later, on February 19th, the Red Quilt as well as Linda Lee, Betty Dubose and Dale Finley Slongwhite visited with Professor Anne Riecken's English class at Seminole State College in Altamonte Springs, FL. The students watched "Out of the Muck" as an introduction and then Ms. Lee and Ms. Dubose again spoke about their experiences in the fields. Ms. Slongwhite discussed the process of writing her book as well as her techniques for oral histories and the interviews that make up the book. Farmworker Association of Florida staff member, Jeannie Economos, gave background history on the Lake Apopka farms and the environmental destruction they wrought. It was a great day, and 55 new people got to hear the story of the Lake Apopka Farmworkers.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Quilts on Display at the Orange County Regional History Center

This Saturday, February 7th, 2015, the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts were seen by dozens of visitors to the Orange County Regional History Center. The quilts are being displayed as part of the And Still We Rise: Race, Cultural and Visual Conversations special exhibit that will be at the museum from February 7th until May 3rd. The exhibit explores nearly four centuries of African American history, through more than 60 story quilts made by women of color. 

Friday, January 16, 2015

Fed Up Talk and Toxic Tour with the Adventist Forum

The weekend of January 10-11, the Adventist Forum of Orlando brought over 100 members, eager to hear the stories of the farmworkers in Apopka, together for our most recent discussion of the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt project and the book Fed Up: The High Costs of Cheap Food. After a brief introduction and short reading by author Dale Slongwhite, former Lake Apopka farmworker Linda Lee told the audience about her family's history as farmworkers, originally coming to Apopka from north Florida and finding work in the vegetable fields on the north shore of the lake. 

She described the harsh work conditions, extremely low pay, and oppressive experience of working on a mule train packaging sweet corn. 

For many in the audience this may be one of the first moments of true reflection on the legacy of slavery in American agriculture in the South. Many members of the audience were moved by the quilt squares memorializing the lives of now deceased farmworkers whose work fed a nation for decades. Linda went on to describe the harsh conditions many orange picker's face, having to carry 90lb bags of oranges up and down tall ladders, leaned precariously against trees. 

Both Linda Lee, and former farmworker, Betty Dubose described the long-term effects pesticide exposure has had on their lives and the lives of many in the farm worker community. During the Q&A session at the end of the talk, many asked poignant questions about how to support increasing the awareness and knowledge about the relationship between toxic exposure and devastating health conditions, like Lupus, inter-generational mental health problems, lung problems and other forms of organ failure. 

Moved to learn more, about 30 participants of Saturday's talk joined us again Sunday afternoon for a toxic tour of the area, where they saw first hand the sources of environmental contamination in the community.  . Thanks to the Adventist Forum organizers and members for engaging with the Farmworker Association of Florida to bring this issue to the attention of the broader community and Forum participants.  Together, we are stronger and awareness is key!

Members of the Forum study a map of the muck farms while standing quite near the north shore of Lake Apopka.