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Farmworker representative says Senate report provides validation for Lake Apopka workers

Taken from: http://www.thefloridacurrent.com/article.cfm?id=25809972


A Farmworker Association of Florida representative says she hopes a Senate interim report on the plight of Lake Apopka farmworkers will lead the state to help those who believe they have suffered from working around pesticides. 

About 2,500 farmworkers lost their jobs in 1998 after the state bought almost 14,000 acres of vegetable farms around Lake Apopka to restore water quality and shoreline habitat. A 2006 study by anthropologist Ron Habin for the Farmworker Association of Florida found that 83 percent of farmworkers said they were in either "fair" or "poor" health and 79 percent thought their exposure to pesticides had affected their health.

Justice never too late for Lake Apopka farmworkers

Sixty-one year old Geraldean Matthew, a former Lake Apopka farmworker , spends most of her days in ill health. Suffering from congestive heart failure, Lupus, and kidney failure, she believes that exposure to highly toxic pesticides that were sprayed several decades ago is responsible for her various illnesses, as well as those of her children.

The predominantly African American community of former Lake Apopka farmworkers in Central Florida, U.S.A., was exposed for decades to the organochlorine pesticides aldrin, endrin, dieldrin, chlordane, DDT, and toxaphene. Used for vegetable cultivation beginning in World War II, these pesticides were eventually all banned, because of their toxicity which resulted in their serious impacts on wildlife and the environment. Because of their persistence in the environment, their legacy continues decades after their use was curtailed. However, survivor farmworkers who were exposed to these same chemicals have yet to achieve justice for violations of their right to life, health, and livelihood.

Community Disaster Response Center

Celebration of Grand Opening of the Community Disaster Response Center, Pierson, FL
Three years of negotiation, planning, and perseverance finally came to fruition with the dedication of the Community Disaster Response Center at the Farmworker Association of Florida’s office in Pierson, FL.

After the storms, freezes, and floods of 2004 and 2005, the members of the Pierson community were asked by the National Farm Worker Ministry what would lessen the impact of disasters on their community. 



Florida's unique climate means that our prime growing season in the state is fall, winter and spring, unlike most other states in the nation.  Vegetable and citrus crops are planted, cultivated and harvested from October through May and even June.  Farmworkers travel to Florida for the long growing season.  The community of farmworkers at the Farmworker Association of Florida office in Fellsmere are following the same growing season in this second year of their local farm project.

Farmworkers Issues Are Featured at TEDx Event


Farmworkers Issues Are Featured at TEDx Event in Fruitvale Last Week


The article states:

"But it was Barry Estabrook’s tale of Lake Apopka, a once-pristine lake near Orlando, Florida that local growers turned into the state’s most polluted body of water, that summed it up neatly. After nearly 70 years, the growers have been bought out for $103 million, $50 million spent on cleanup, $2 million for wildlife research projects to determine the problems caused by the pollution. Meanwhile, a proposed $500,000 clinic for local workers—three-quarters of whom, in a 2006 study, were found to have health problems, most likely due to the pollution—was vetoed by Governor Rick Scott. “Maybe we’re being too hard on Governor Scott,” concluded Estabrook. “How can we expect our politicians to put more value on farmworkres than the people who elected them to office do?” He paused. “And the people who elected them to office? That’s us.”"

Read the entire article here.
Civil Eats » Blog Archive » TEDxFruitvale Puts the Focus on Farmworkers



Florida is making a statement to the country - we will be on our knees to Washington, DC to send a message to our lawmakers and to the public.  In a show of gratitude to all the millions of immigrant families in the U.S. today, we will be walking on our knees until we are heard.
Called the Knee-A-Thon Pilgrimage, the effort arose from a community in Sebring, Florida in an effort to draw attention to the daily reality that immigrants in this country are facing, in the current climate of fear and intimidation against immigrants in the U.S.  Racial profiling, detentions, deportations, workplace raids, separation of families - these are the harsh realities that too many in our community are facing.  Rather than hide in fear from the ugly rhetoric in the news media harshly targeting immigrants, supporters will be drawing attention to their cause and seeking media attention to raise the issues with lawmakers and the public.  Kneelers meet every Saturday and Sunday from 7 to 10am to take turns marching on their knees.  The Farmworker Association of Florida is supporting this effort with the donation of knees pads and in marching with others.
Read the article below.  If you would like to join the pilgrimage, contact Santos De La Rosa through Facebook at "Knee-A-Thon: Thank You Pilgrimage."  
Thanks for your support!


Stop, look at march on knees





Farmworker children often accompany their parents into the fields after school and on weekends.  Toddlers, whose parents have no daycare money or opportunities, are often in the fields beside their parents all day while Mom and Dad harvest our fruits and vegetables.  For ten years, EPA has known that the pesticide chlorpyrifos is harmful to children.  Because of this, it was banned for residential use years ago, yet EPA continues to allow its use in agricultural production, putting farmworker children, their parents and the developing fetus at great risk.


Now, we have a chance to tell EPA ‘no more chlorpyrifos – not in our homes or in our fields!’ To protect farmworkers, the EPA must ban chlorpyrifos now.  Join us in signing the petition to EPA.  (Sign on here

Students from California visited us

On August 13, 2011 a group of students from California visited the Homestead office to interview farmworkers for an independent film. The film is said to debut next year. They asked hard hitting questions like:  Why did you leave your homeland? What was the trip like? And what is your pay and living situation like? The answers to the questions didn’t just shock the students but the on lookers as well. The hardship that these people overcome is mind boggling and the harsh reality that they experience when they got here doesn’t compensate for their pain. One of the interviewees explained in vivid detail how one of his coworkers died of heat exhaustion due to the lack of water on the job, when this happened he got the supervisors attention to inform him of the death and all the supervisor had to say was “that’s what lazy people get, so work harder so that won’t happen to you”.

Workers report abuse


This is a picture from a meeting that was held in the Homestead office on August 5, 2011 in regards to the misconduct in nurseries on behalf of the management.  A lawyer from Florida Legal Service Inc. came in to listen to the claims of five women who have been neglected and verbally abused in the work place. Some claims involved injuries which took place in the work place but have not been addressed by the management. In any normal cause the management would report the injuries and lead these women in the right direction so that they can receive the benefit of workers compensation. 

The blue quilt is designed by the Farmworkers Association

Taken from Freeline Media.


APOPKA — The former farmworkers of Apopka lost something they never had recently – the possibility of adequate, community-wide health care.
But they still have their quilts, and are using them to promote their cause.
At one point, the new state budget had a $500,000 item devoted to the special health needs of this predominantly African-American community, courtesy of state Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando. Butr that money got cut out of the budget on May 26, the day Gov. Rick Scott signed it into law during a ceremony in The Villages. But the community still has its quilts.

Why Should We All Care About Immigration?


Anyone who eats has a connection to immigration issues, whether they realize it or not.

Anyone who consumes food in the U.S. has an invisible link to farmworkers.
The state of Georgia recently passed harsh anti-immigrant measures similar to Arizona’s SB 1070.  Alabama has a gone a step further and passed an even harsher law, that includes checking the immigration status of school children.   Even though there are legal challenges to these new laws in Georgia and Alabama, the fact that they passed state legislatures was enough to frighten many undocumented immigrants into leaving the states.  Farmers in Georgia are facing a serious labor shortage that could cost them millions and millions of dollars in crop losses – because they have no workers to harvest their summer fruits and vegetables.   Read the article in The American Independent.  http://washingtonindependent.com.  The Governor of Georgia’s idea to employ probationers in the state to do the work of farmworkers failed miserably.  http://washingtonindependent.com.

Thank You!

FWAF wants to thank everyone who took the time to send public comments to EPA and/or sign the Pesticide Action Network petition in support of requiring pesticide labels to be translated into Spanish.  There were many comments submitted urging EPA to implement such a policy.  We are hoping that the weight of positive comments will convince the agency of the importance of taking this significant step.
As always, we appreciate the support of all who care to help make a difference in the lives of farmworkers. 



How Industrial Farming 'Destroyed' The Tasty Tomato

Article taken from NPR online.


Florida workers harvest what they can from the DiMare Farms tomato fields, a month after the January 2010 freeze that caused a statewide crop shortage.Enlarge Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Florida workers harvest what they can from the DiMare Farms tomato fields, a month after the January 2010 freeze that caused a statewide crop shortage.


June 28, 2011

If you bite into a tomato between the months of October and June, chances are that tomato came from Florida. The Sunshine State accounts for one-third of all fresh tomatoes produced in the United States — and virtually all of the tomatoes raised during the fall and winter seasons.

The health of Lake Apopka's wildlife

* Apopka farmworkers say pesticide exposure caused illnesses

* Article taken from the Orlando weekly.


Former workers and activists trying to draw attention to health problems in the community.


By Christopher Balogh

Published: June 2, 2011



At the end of the fishing dock that rests on the south end of Lake Apopka, a man leans against a wooden railing and stares at the broad expanse of water before him.

"I have been here for over 60 years," says the man, an auto mechanic whose name, Lend, is sewn onto his work shirt. "I went to all the fishing camps when I was a little boy. This lake was filled with fisherman, in and around it."

Not anymore. "Look at it now - not a soul. It looks like pea soup," he says.

Tell EPA spanish language pesticide labels

Tell EPA to Require Spanish Language Pesticide Labels


Help Protect The Health and Safety of Farmworkers


Most pesticide labels in the United States are written in English only. Most farmworkers, including those who handle and apply pesticides, are Hispanics, whose first language is Spanish. While employers are required to provide workers with appropriate Personal Protective Equipment and to properly train handlers and applicators on the correct use of pesticide products, not being able to read English-language pesticide labels puts Hispanic workers at a definite disadvantage. They must depend upon what they are told and trust that they have been provided the required gear.

May 1



This was one of the chants that inspired some two hundred marchers in Central Florida on May Day – May 1st – in support of Immigrant and Worker Rights.  Gathering in Apopka on Sunday morning, carrying signs and wearing T-shirts, the farmworker and immigrant community members and supporters joined together in solidarity with the message that “no human being is illegal” and demanding basic civil and human rights for all.  In harmony with events and actions around the country on this International Workers’ Day, the message was clear – “We are NOT Arizona!  Just say No to SB 2040” – the anti-immigrant bill that is being debated in the Florida legislature this week. 

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