By Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF)
Farmworker Association of Florida recently hosted a visit on the cross-country Freedom to Breathe Tour calling attention to the dangerous impact of climate change and rising temperatures on farmworkers in Florida. Read their report on the Tour’s stop at Lake Apopka, where the use of toxic pesticides has damaged the environment and the lives of many farmworkers and their families.
The beautiful and magnificently, artistically painted bus rolled into our Apopka parking lot on Sunday, August 26th on a sunny Florida summer day. Inside the bus was a team of experts, advocates, and reporters from Climate Nexus, Nexus Media, and Think Progress on the Freedom to Breathe Tour to highlight the dangers and impacts of climate change and rising temperatures on vulnerable populations, including farmworkers, in the South. And Sunday was a perfect day for the crew to experience some of that heat first hand.
Embarking on a Lake Apopka Toxic Tour that included visiting the former Lake Apopka farm lands; Magnolia Park where you could see the lake itself covered in algae, making the water opaque; and returning to the Farmworker Association office, the team learned of the harsh realities farmworkers face every day – past and present – in order to provide food for the rest of the nation. In addition to pesticide exposure, farmworkers increasingly battle high temperatures, increasing annually due to climate change, and humidity that make heat stress and heat stroke a serious health concern related to short and long-term health consequences.
Standing in the blazing sun on the old Duda Farms property, at an entrance to what is now the North Shore Restoration Area hiking trail, each team member felt the intense heat as they learned the history of the Lake Apopka farmworkers and imagined what conditions were like when the farms were in operation. Unlike the farmworkers, however, everyone was able to then leave the hot environment and re-board the cool, air conditioned, comfortable bus, as they pulled away from the farms to continue the rest of the tour.
The last stop on the tour was the most important. Former Lake Apopka farmworker and community leader, Linda Lee, met the team at her home, where everyone sat outside in the shade to try to stay cool, while Linda recounted her memories of working on the farms and the harsh working conditions she endured. Speaking from the heart and recounting her stories and her experiences put a face to the facts. Reading statistics and scientific studies is one thing, hearing the voices of the people – well, that is the true story, and one that everyone needs to hear. For the crew, it was the most memorable part of their visit to Central Florida’s farmworker community, as they continued their travels around the state, crying the clarion call of climate change, rising temperatures, and the risk to human health of heat exposure.
Farmworker Association of Florida‘s long-standing mission is to build power among farmworker and rural low-income communities to respond to and gain control over the social, political, workplace, economic, health, and environmental justice issues that impact their lives. FWAF has been building power among Florida’s farmworkers for more than 25 years. With roots in the Hispanic, Haitian, and African-American communities across Central and South Florida, the organization has a solid history of leadership development and generating effective action for social change. As a grassroots, farmworker-membership, community-based organization, FWAF is lead and governed by the farmworkers communities in which they work. This story was originally published by FWAF under the title, “Climate Change and Lake Apopka Farmworkers – What Do They Have in Common?”