30 Years of Building Power Among Farmworkers



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First Decade 1983 - 1992

1983    Farmworkers in Mascotte (Orange County), with the support of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the Office for Farmworker Ministry, created the Farmworker Association of Central Florida to organize for better housing, wages, and working conditions.  The headquarters was established in Apopka, and the name was later changed to the Farmworker Association of Florida, as the organization expanded across the state.

1985    Established PEP Labor Crews, a citrus harvesting cooperative which was the first farmworker-owned cooperative, and which empowered farmworkers to negotiate their own contracts with growers/producers to ensure fair wages and working conditions.

1986    The Farmworker Association of Central Florida became incorporated as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in the state.

1986    Established the La Tienda ethnic food store in Apopka, which later expanded to two additional locations, in order to provide the farmworker community with access to their ethnic foods.

1986    Three successful lawsuits initiated by the Farmworker Association resulted in coverage for ferncutters under the Agricultural Worker Protection Act.  
1986    Successfully advocated for the inclusion of ferncutters under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which provided a legalization opportunity for undocumented immigrants.

1987    Established an office in Pierson, Volusia County, known as the Fern Capital of the World.
1987    With Homes in Partnership, constructed the Las Alamedas low-income housing community in Apopka and the Comunicasa low-income rental housing in Groveland, which provided approximately 100 homes for seasonal farmworkers in Central Florida.

1988    Helped to expand the Community Trust Federal Credit Union to Pierson.

1988    Initiated an HIV prevention education project to reach high-risk individuals in Apopka and in surrounding farmworker communities.

1989    Expanded La Tienda ethnic food store to the Pierson area office.
1991    Participated in the First National People of Color and Indigenous People Environmental Leadership Summits.  Participated in the Second Summit in 2002.
1992    After Hurricane Andrew, conducted disaster response and relief to impacted farmworkers in remote, rural areas of Miami-Dade County, and subsequently established an office in Homestead.
1992    Co-founded the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute to develop popular education pesticide safety trainings for farmworkers and to advocate for policy change to improve farmworkers’ working conditions.
1992    Became a member of the Rural Coalition.  Joined the Rural Coalition Board of Directors in 1997.

Second decade 1993 - 2002

1993    Co-founded the Farmworker Network for Economic and Environmental Justice.

1993    Established an office in Collier County to serve the areas of Bonita Springs and Immokalee.
1993    Established the La Carreta Mexican restaurant in Apopka, an economic development initiative to provide ethnic food for the community.
1994    Secured passage of the Florida Right-to-Know Law, which gave farmworkers the right to information about pesticides used in the workplace.

1995    Began implementation of the Sisters/Compañeras Project, a healthy pregnancy and women’s health education project for at-risk, low-income women in the Apopka area, as well as other farmworker communities in later years.
1995    Following significant disaster response and relief to farmworker communities impacted by severe flooding, filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development against Lee County for discrimination, and ultimately won a change of zoning to allow the construction of a farmworker rental housing complex, Pueblo Bonito, in Bonita Springs.  

1995    Helped to expand the Community Trust Federal Credit Union and expanded FWAF’s La Tienda ethnic food store to the Everglades Village labor camp in Florida City.

1996    Initiated the Minority Farmworkers/Farmers Exchange Project, which created a mutually beneficial partnership among Latino farmworkers in Florida and African-American farmers in Arkansas.

1996    Partnered with a research scientist on the Neurobehavioral Performance in Farmworkers, a study of cognitive and psychomotor function in farmworkers.  This project began FWAF’s participation in community-based participatory research projects with academic partners.
1998    Co-founded the Florida Immigrant Coalition, a statewide immigrants’ rights action and advocacy network.FWAF continues to serve on the Board of FLIC.

1998    Co-founded Southern Partners Fund, a social justice foundation committed to supporting rural communities in the southeastern United States.  FWAF continues to serve on the Board of SPF.

1998    Initiated the Lake Apopka Dislocated Workers Project, after the farms around Lake Apopka were closed for environmental restoration of the lake and surrounding areas, which outreached to over 1,200 farmworkers to address re-training/re-employment needs.  FWAF also secured relocation assistance for approximately 70 dislocated farmworker families who lived in company housing.    
1998-2003    Partnered in a community/academic research project, Together for Agricultural Safety, with the University of Florida, which focused on the handwashing behaviors of nursery and fernery workers in Apopka and Pierson.    
1999    Began the Farmworker Vocational Rehabilitation Project in Apopka, which helps injured farmworkers to access educational and medical resources.
1999    Co-coordinated the Sustainable Tomatoes Campaign, in collaboration with Friends of the Earth, Farmworkers Self-Help, and Florida Consumer Action Network, to raise awareness about the dangers of methyl bromide and to advocate for banning the use of methyl bromide.

2001    Participated in the United Nations World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance, which took place in South Africa.

2002    Secured passage of the Farm Labor Contractor Law, which made it illegal for crew leaders to charge workers for tools and supplies needed to perform the job.
2002-2012    Partnered in a community/academic research project, the Partnership for Citrus Worker Health, with the University of South Florida/Prevention Research Center, which focused on preventing eye injuries among citrus pickers in south and southwest Florida.

Third decade 2003 - 2012

2004    Began working in Fellsmere, Indian River County, in response to hurricane damage to farmworker housing and employment.  Fellsmere was adopted as an official chapter of FWAF in 2008.

2004    Secured passage by the Florida state legislature of the reinstatement of the Florida Right-to-Know Law, also known as the Alfredo Bahena Act.
2005    Conducted a community-generated health survey with nearly 150 former Lake Apopka farmworkers to document and address their environmental health issues.

2005 & 2007    Participated in World Social Forums in Brazil and Africa.

2006    Conducted the first of many trainings for health care providers on the identification, diagnosis, treatment and reporting of pesticide-related illness in farmworker communities.  More than 300 health care providers have been trained.

2006    Secured passage of the Farmworker Transportation Safety Act, which requires seatbelts in mini-vans used as farmworker passenger vehicles.
2006    In solidarity with the nationwide immigrants’ rights movement, organized the May 1st Immigrants’ Rights Rally in downtown Orlando with more than 20,000 participants, the largest rally ever in the city of Orlando.
2006    Joined the Board of Directors of the Domestic Fair Trade Association; and joined the Advisory Committee of the Agricultural Justice Project in 2009.

2007    Participated in the first U.S. Social Forum in Atlanta, Georgia.

2007    Organized voters in Fellsmere to change the composition of the local government to better represent the needs and concerns of minority, low-income community members.

2007    Hosted the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants at the FWAF office in Immokalee, and organized community members to give testimony about human rights abuses, along with testimony from allied organizations.

2008    Presented testimony to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia & Other Forms of Related Intolerance about environmental injustice and the discriminatory nature of farmworkers’ exposures to pesticides.
2008    Became a ratified member of La Via Campesina, an international movement of farmworkers, farmers, peasants, and landless peoples, and began participating in La Via Campesina’s North American and International conferences.

2008-12    Implemented the Latino Small Farmers Initiative, which provided education and technical assistance to Latino immigrant small farmers in Pierson and Homestead to improve their farm operations and business opportunities.

2009-11    Operated the Youth Empowerment Program, an HIV prevention education program with Latino and Haitian youth and parents in Central and South Florida.

2009-present    Began a community/academic research project partnership with Emory University, Reproductive Health in Farmworker Women, which focuses on the impacts of farm work on pregnancy.
2009    Initiated the Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilts Project, which has included the creation of two vibrant quilts to memorialize farmworkers who worked on the farms of Lake Apopka.

2010    Defeated the Homestead Housing Authority’s efforts to close a migrant student after school and summer program.
2010    Initiated the Fellsmere Community Garden, a chemical-free community garden project by and for farmworker families.
2011    Initiated the Apopka Community Food Assessment to research barriers to low-income families’ access to and consumption of fresh foods.

2011    Submitted testimony to the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT—an international people’s court) in India, detailing the history of the former Lake Apopka farmworkers, their health problems, and the use of chemical pesticides on the Lake Apopka vegetable farms, which resulted in pollution of the lake, alligator deformities, a massive bird kill, and remaining toxic hot spots.

2012    Joined the Food Chain Workers Alliance.

2012    Constructed and opened the Farmworker Disaster Storage Center at the FWAF office in Pierson.

2012    Over the previous approximate 15 years, trained more than 5,000 farmworkers on workplace safety and exposure to pesticides.