Toxic Entanglements

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Title: Toxic Entanglements Florida's Farmworkers and the Fight for Environmental Justice
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Chillaron, Samuel
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: Farmworkers
Environmental Justice
Lake Apopka
Farmworker Association of Florida
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Environmental Justice is the pursuit of equitable treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and income in questions of environmental regulation, management and public health. This thesis explores the environmental justice issue of pesticide exposure amongst Florida�s farmworkers, with an ethnographic and historical focus on the activism of the Farmworker Association of Florida and the former farmworker community of Lake Apopka�s muck farms. From the early 1940s to the late 1990s, not only did Lake Apopka�s farmworkers endure low wages, substandard living conditions, and exposure to a variety of hazardous pesticides, but were also excluded from policy decisions regarding the management of Lake Apopka�s polluted waters, resulting in the loss of nearly 2,500 farmworker jobs when the muck farms they worked on were bought out by the state of Florida for an environmental restoration project. Challenging the traditional apolitical narratives regarding pesticide use and environmental pollution, I argue for a closer look at how race, class and structural oppression influence environmental outcomes in the state of Florida.
Statement of Responsibility: by Samuel Chillaron
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Dean, Erin

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 C53
System ID: NCFE004369:00001

Permanent Link:

Material Information

Title: Toxic Entanglements Florida's Farmworkers and the Fight for Environmental Justice
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Creator: Chillaron, Samuel
Publisher: New College of Florida
Place of Publication: Sarasota, Fla.
Creation Date: 2011
Publication Date: 2011


Subjects / Keywords: Farmworkers
Environmental Justice
Lake Apopka
Farmworker Association of Florida
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation


Abstract: Environmental Justice is the pursuit of equitable treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and income in questions of environmental regulation, management and public health. This thesis explores the environmental justice issue of pesticide exposure amongst Florida�s farmworkers, with an ethnographic and historical focus on the activism of the Farmworker Association of Florida and the former farmworker community of Lake Apopka�s muck farms. From the early 1940s to the late 1990s, not only did Lake Apopka�s farmworkers endure low wages, substandard living conditions, and exposure to a variety of hazardous pesticides, but were also excluded from policy decisions regarding the management of Lake Apopka�s polluted waters, resulting in the loss of nearly 2,500 farmworker jobs when the muck farms they worked on were bought out by the state of Florida for an environmental restoration project. Challenging the traditional apolitical narratives regarding pesticide use and environmental pollution, I argue for a closer look at how race, class and structural oppression influence environmental outcomes in the state of Florida.
Statement of Responsibility: by Samuel Chillaron
Thesis: Thesis (B.A.) -- New College of Florida, 2011
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The New College of Florida, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Local: Faculty Sponsor: Dean, Erin

Record Information

Source Institution: New College of Florida
Holding Location: New College of Florida
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: local - S.T. 2011 C53
System ID: NCFE004369:00001

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Toxic Entanglements: Floridas Farmworkers and the Fight for Environmental Justice BY SAMUEL CHILLARON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida In partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology Under the sponsorship of Dr. Erin Dean Sarasota, Florida December 2010


Dedication: For all farmworkers, past and present. Si se puede! Yes we can! ii


Acknowledgements: This thesis truly has been an adventure of the mind and spirit. The people I met and the places I saw have marked me in a profound and beautiful way. And for this I have many people to thank. First, I would like to th ank my academic advisor and thesis sponsor Erin Dean. From the moment I began to fo cus my studies on Anthropology to the completion of my thesis, Erin has been a wellspring of knowledge and encouragement. As my biggest supporter wh ile I was writing, and when I should have been writing, I could not have finished the thesis without her. I also thank the members of my baccalaureate committee, Maria Vesperi and Bob Johnson, for their support and guidance throughout the thesis process. I would like to tha nk all of the staff members of the Farmworker Association of Florida for allowing me to work amongst them and join their struggles. I would especially like to thank J eannie Economos for her endless assistance in the field, inspirational attitude and unwavering commit ment to justice. Jeannie, youve truly opened my eyes to the power of community organizing. I could not have asked for a better mentor and friend. I am grateful to the former farmworker communities residing in South Apopka and Indian Town, Florida. Thank you for inviting me into your homes and sharing your experiences with me This thesis is just as much the product of your hard work as it is mine. I would especially lik e to thank Geraldean Matthew and Linda Lee for taking me in as one of their own a nd showing me first hand the world through farmworkers eyes. Their friendship con tinues to strengthen and guide me in everyday life. Thank you to my parents, Sonia Marr o and Antonio Chillaron, my sister Melanie, and my hometown hero Ferna ndo Carillo. When I was down your optimism and support helped me back up. I love you all so much. To my friends and roommates at New College, Taylor Kennedy, Casey Schelhorn, Kirk Lohbauer, Ashley King, Kaitlyn Bock, Chris Wilson, Jessica Wheeler, Jacob Long, Aaron Amram, Dinah Juergens, Jeremy Zorn, Sarah McManus, Jeremy Evens, Ian Hamilton, David Krane, Nathan Wilson, Jack ie Aldrich, Mallika Nair and too many more to list, thank you for wacky adventures and wonderful memories. I look forward to crossi ng paths with you all again soon! And last, but certainly not least, a ve ry special thank you to Sara Henry, who provided emotional and intellectual support throughout the whole thesis process. Sara, I am so grateful for our adventur es in environmental activism and I look forward to many more in the future! iii




LIST OF FIGURES Page Figure 1: Map of Lake Apopka Restoration Area 94 Figure 2: Map of South Apopka and Adjacent Waste Facilities 98 Figure 3: Linda Lee gives a presen tation to a youth group 133 Figure 4: The Main Organizers of the Quilt Project 138 v


vi TOXIC ENTANGLEMENTS: FLORIDAS FARMWORKERS AND THE FIGHT FOR ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE Samuel Chillaron New College of Florida, 2010 ABSTRACT Environmental Justice is the pursuit of equitable treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, ethnicity, gender and income in questions of environmental regulation, ma nagement and public health. This thesis explores the environmental justice issu e of pesticide exposure amongst Floridas farmworkers, with an ethnographic and historical focus on the activism of the Farmworker Association of Florida and the former farmworker community of Lake Apopkas muck farms. From the early 1940s to the late 1990s, not only did Lake Apopkas farmworkers endure low wages, substandard living conditions, and exposure to a variety of hazardous pesticid es, but were also excluded from policy decisions regarding the management of Lake Apopkas polluted waters, resulting in the loss of nearly 2,500 farmworker jobs when the muck farms they worked on were bought out by the state of Florida for an environmental restoration project. Challenging the traditional apolitical narratives regarding pesticide use and environmental pollution, I argue for a closer look at how race, cl ass and structural oppression influence environmental out comes in the state of Florida. Dr. Erin Dean Division of Social Sciences


Introduction: When Worlds Collide Its not hard to imagine what must go through the average Americans head when you mention the words Central Florida. A middle class family might think of a marvelous vacation complete with images of theme parks featuring whales, roller coasters, and iconic cart oon characters. A savvy investor might see a set of real estate and business opportunities waiting to ride on the back of the areas booming tourism industry. Retirees from all over the United States call it home. Praised for its youth-giving qualities and pleasant climate since the end of the Second Seminole War, and boosted heavily after World War II, the general consensus seems to be that Central Florida is paradise on earth. While less well known, another one of Cent ral Floridas most important features is its agriculture. Orange groves, foliage nurse ries, and fruit and vegetable farms, are just as characteristic of Central Florida as large mouse ears. Travel beyond the Orlando Metropolitan Area, into the more rural areas of Orange or Lake County and youre likely to find, in between budding housing sub-divisions endless fields that reach into all horizons. Indeed, the state of Florida is the nations second largest pr oducer of fruits and vegetables1, yielding an average of $7 billion per year (Bowe 2007:7). Journey to places farther south of Lake Okeechobee like Belle Glade or Immokalee, where sugar cane and 1 California is the largest producer of fruits and vegetable in the United States. Consequently, it is also the state with the largest number of farmworkers (Califor nia Department of Food and Agriculture 2010). While this ethnography will focus mainly on farmworkers in the Southeastern United States, and particularly in Florida, it is worth mentioning that there is a rich history of political organizing amongst farmworkers in California. The work of Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee stands out in particular. Many of the social, economic and environmenta l issues discussed in this ethnography also affect farmworkers in California. 1


tomatoes are grown by the hundreds of acres and this fact becomes all the more apparent. Like the large Iowa cornfields descri bed by Michael Pollen in The Omnivores Dilemma (2006), however, these fields resemble factories more than wholesome family farms. Large crop dusters fly overhead. Huge p acking houses can be seen in the distance. Trucks filled with watermelons, cucumbers, and green beans noisily pass by on major highways. These farms are highly industrial ized operations and like all industrial operations, they have their industrial workers: Floridas farmworkers. From the early morning until the late afternoon, these hard-working men and women can be seen vigorously moving from row to row, hedge to hedge, picking, cutting, bunching, and packing the harvest. A truck moving slowly behind them with a boss-looking figure at the helm acts as a sink for the buckets, crates, and bunches of produce. Farmworkers bushels are exchanged for the crew leaders colored coins, which indicate how much the farmworker picked and are later exchange d for wages; and the process repeats itself over and over again, as farmworkers sprint back and forth between truck and crop. The work is monotonous, tiring and made all the more difficult by the hot Florida sun. At the end of the day, workers crowd around open lots to be paid. Those same lots are crowded early the next morn ing, as buses pick farmworkers up to begin earning the next days wage. Farmworkers are some of the nations hardest working people. They are an integral part of Americas food system and infinitely better than m achines when it comes to picking and processing fruits and vegeta bles. Despite the crucial role they play, however, they are some of the nations mo st underpaid and overexploited workers. The 2


average farmworker in America earns be tween $8000 and $9000 per year for labor, and those without steady work earn far less (Ril ey 2002:51). Legally barred from forming unions, their standard of living is difficult to improve. Many live in seasonal labor camps, where dilapidated and unsanitary trailers are the norm. Harsh working conditions including exposure to pesticides, climate ex tremes and grueling physical labor are every day facts of life. The life expect ancy of a farmworker is thirty years less than the average American (Riley 2002:105, Bowe 2007: 8, Arcury and Marn 2009:21). It is here in these fields and r un-down rural neighborhoods where Central Floridas images of a homeowners paradise and a tourists dream destination seem to erode to more sobering ones based around da y to day living and survival. But what happens when these images of Florida collide? When the industrial agricultural state of affairs is challenged by those espousing th e values of eco-tourism and sustainable development? When farmworker labor interests run up against those of environmentalists? What follows is the story of one such collision. Just west of Orlando, in Northwest Or ange County, lies Lake Apopka, a body of water known internationally for its ecologica l problems and its dysfunctional restoration program. Its pea green color, the result of excessive algae buildup, represents only the tip of the iceberg for a lake whose problems have included chemical pesticide spills, hormonally altered alligators, decimated fi sh populations, and massive wading bird deaths. Blaming Lake Apopkas problems on the enormous agricultural industry that was located on the banks of the North Shore, The Friends of Lake Apopka, an environmental group, working with the state of Florida and th e St. Johns Water Management District, an 3


environmental regulatory agency, were able to achieve a state f unded buy-out of all the farms with the intended purpose of eventually restoring the lake to its former pristine state. Using the slogan Make it Clear, The Friends of Lake Apopka offered a new vision for the region, one that held the promise of sustainable development, and an economically viable future. That economic fu ture did not include everyone, however. The buy-out of the muck farms meant the loss of employment for nearly 3,000 farmworkers, some of whom had been working on them for generations. It meant a drastic change for an entire region and for an entire group of people. Farmworkers and their allies did not stand idly by as such enormous forces were at work. Active in the debate regarding the Restoration of Lake Apopka was the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWA F), a grassroots non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of farmwo rkers across the state. FWAF put forward numerous alternatives to the dominating di scourse of the farm buy-out and restoration. These included the use of run-off mitigating ag ricultural techniques, the adoption of more sustainable agricultural practi ces, and the proposal of a five-year labor plan for the gradual, as opposed to the s udden, shut-down of the muck fa rms. Despite their efforts, however, FWAF was excluded from any m eaningful environmental policy making regarding the lake. After the buy-out of the muck fa rms was completed, unemployed former farmworkers and FWAF adopted a position that sought Environmental Justice. Environmental Justice is a political framework that proceeds from the belief that all people, regardless of race, class or gender, ha ve the right to a hea lthy environment, that this is only achieved when all groups ar e meaningfully involved in environmental 4


decision making, and that inequitable distri bution of environmental burdens, such as pesticide exposure, both in the past and in the present must be resolved. Left destitute by the buy-out, many former farmworkers were forced to migrate to other parts of Florida in order to find wo rk and affordable housing. Those who remained encountered a state-funded job retraining program ill-suited towards filling both the communitys immediate and long-term needs. Simultaneously, many former farmworkers, mostly older African Americans, Hispanics and Haitians residing in the townships of South Apopka, Indian Town and Zellwood, became concerned about the unusually high frequency of chronic illness and death in their communities and its possible relation to the envir onment of pesticide exposure th at existed prior to the buyout of the muck farms. These concerns intensified in 2001 after nearly 1,000 bird deaths that occurred in the Lake Apopka Restoration Area were lin ked to the presence of organochlorine pesticides, the same substances farmworkers were exposed to during the length of their working careers. Shortly af terwards, FWAF, along with key farmworker community leaders, began the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Environmental Health Project, an initiative aimed at addressing the health concerns and needs of the former farmworker community. The next couple of years saw numerous attempts by FWAF and former farmworkers to encourage local, state, and fede ral agencies to undertake a biophysical health assessment and study of the Lake Apopka farmworker co mmunity. A health study, they felt, would help to shed light on reasons for wide sp read illness and death in the community. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, they felt a study would provide a solid base upon which the community could demand much-needed healthcare assistance. 5


The communitys claims of pesticide exposure and disproportionate chronic illness, however, were met with skep ticism and non-responsiveness by state environmental and health agencies. Many agenci es told them that they did not have the statistical evidence to support their claims and that what they were reporting was not out of the ordinary. Despite these discouraging remarks, FWAF and community leaders felt they could build their case if they could complete a health study of their own, one that would carefully document the health and pest icide exposure of former farmworkers and whose data could be used as an organizing tool. From 2002 onward FWAF began to hold work shops and meetings with the former farmworker community in an effort to develop and implement a health survey. Organizing and training participants for the community-based research project, however, proved to be very difficult. By this time, the former farmworker community was already greatly dispersed and many were struggling to meet daily needs. Complicating matters further, was the widespread belief amongst fo rmer farmworkers that the state was going to provide them with the same assistance that it provided the muck farmers during the buy-out. Funding for the Lake Apopka Farmwo rkers Environmental Health Project eventually diminished and the health survey was put on hold. Finally, in 2005, with renewed funding, the staff of FWAF, unde r the direction of local community leaders and Ron Habin, an independent anthr opologist, designed and implemented a health survey in which 148 former Lake Apopka farmworkers were interviewed to assess their health problems and their exposure to pesticides and other environmental contaminants. The report on the community health survey was released in May 2006 with the hopes that it would prompt fu rther investigation, increase interest in 6


the communitys concerns, and eventually l ead to constructive actions that would improve the health of individuals and the community as a whole. Nearly four years later, however, little has change d for Lake Apopkas former farmworkers. While the health survey was successful in developing organizing skills within the former farmworker community a nd in refining the goals of the Lake Apopka Environmental Health Project, it has so far been unsuccessful in garnering any assistance from the state. Since the report was rel eased, many former farmworkers have grown distant from the Lake Apopka Farmworker s Environmental Health Project and many have passed away. Nonetheless, a small number of community leaders remain active and have been successful in attracting the attention of colle ge students and volunteers. In general the group has shifted its emphasis towards educating the public spreading awareness about pesticide exposure, and lobbying for policy changes. Since 2006 FWAF and community leaders have given numerous Toxic Tours of the former Lake Apopka muck farmlands and in 2008 a group of undergraduates from Rollin s College created Out of the Muck, a short documentary about the environmental ju stice issues faced by Lake Apopkas former farmworker community. More recently, FWAF, community leaders and volunteers have been working on the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Memorial Quilt Project. Serving as both a memorial for those who have passed away and as a tool for educating the public about pesticide exposure and farmworker environmental ju stice issues, the quilt project has been exhibited at numerous venues in the state of Florida and has been part of multiple university conferences on e nvironmental justice issues. 7


*** This thesis is an ethnographic project on th e environmental justic e struggles of the former farmworkers of Lake Apopka, the Farm worker Association of Florida, and their allies. It is based on interviews, archival research, participantobservation and direct involvement in the groups activism and co mmunity organizing during the months of June, July and August 2009. An activist anthropology approach has b een described by Charles Hale (2006) as one in which a political alignment is affi rmed with an organized group of people in struggle, and in which the researcher engage s in a dialogue that informs how each phase of the ethnographic project is carried out and later presented. Th e idea behind activist anthropology is that the anthropologists resear ch should be useful, in a political sense, to the group being studied. This ethnography represents an attempt at such an activist appr oach. As such, its political alignment with the former farmwo rkers of Lake Apopka and FWAF presents both benefits and drawbacks. The benefits draw largely from the fact that it allows for greater focus on a perspective regarding Lake Apopka restoration and pesticides that has not received as much attention in both the media and scholarly account s. It is a unique perspective, and one that I will argue is a valid contribution to thinking about environmental issues in the Southeastern Un ited States. The drawback to this political alignment is that it limits the ability to obt ain responses from groups such as the Friends of Lake Apopka or the St. Johns Water Management Distri ct, who may disagree markedly with some of the things written he re. An explicitly political perspective can also, at times, lead to analytical blindness. 8


The political assumptions I make for this ethnography should thus be stated plainly and from the outset. Firstly, I believe that Lake Apopkas former farmworkers, regardless of whether pesticides are the causes of illness or not, deserve health care assistance in recognition for their services. S econdly, that the buy-out of the muck farms was an exclusive process whose full circumst ances, details and mo tivations cannot be fully known. And lastly, that environmental just ice is a more equitable and emancipatory framework than traditional environmentalism. Fieldwork in Apopka, Florida My interest in doing ethnographic fiel d work with an environmental justice community stemmed from a more generalized interest in the intersection of ecological and social justice issues that I had begun to develop after taking a course on environmental anthropology in the fall of my th ird year. Two of the courses readings in particular inspired the ISP project that w ould later develop into this thesis project: Polluted Promises: Environmental Racism and the Search for Justice in a Southern Town by Melissa Checker (2005), an ethnography of an environmental justice community in Georgia, and The Politics of Exclusion: Place and the Legislation of the Environment in the Florida Everglades an article written by Max Kirsch (2003), that placed Everglades Restoration within a framework of human rights and concerns over globalization. For my ISP project, I wanted to de velop an informational portfolio on an environmental justice issue with in the state of Florida. Kirs chs (2003) article directed my attention towards environmental issues and how they affected agricultural workers, 9


while Checkers (2005) ethnogr aphy provided me with a way to present and situate myself in relation to local communities: ac tivist anthropology. I was interested in farmworker communities because of my previo us involvements with actions coordinated by the Student Farmworker Alliance and the Co alition of Immokalee workers, as well as a service trip I had taken to Immokalee2. Finding a field site: In 2008, during the month of December, I began my search for a farmworker community group that, in addition to economic and social justice, had environmental justice as part of their orga nizing efforts. I initially made phone calls to a number of farmworker aid agencies across the state. Ev entually, I was able to make contact with Greg Schell, an attorney belonging to the Migrant Farm worker Justice Project. In addition to giving me a general description of the political landscape of farmworker aid and advocacy in the state of Florida, he was able to point me in the direction of the Farmworker Association of Florida, and in particular to Jeannie Economos, the organizations Pesticide Safety and Envir onmental Health Project Coordinator. The conversation I had with Greg Schell was also the first time I had heard about the issues surrounding Lake Apopka3. 2 I can honestly say that these experiences have had a profound affect on my life. Indeed, my orientation towards research on farmworker communities has been motivated by a desire to aid, in any way possible, a group whos social and economic struggles Ive become increasingly familiar with. 3 Greg Schell is a Harvard trained lawyer, and a long time advocate of farmworker issues in the state of Florida. When the large fruit and vegetable farms on the north bank of Lake Apopka were shut down, he was pivotal in finding housing and new jobs for many of the areas former farmworkers. In our conversation, he mentioned that there is seldom a meeting in the Apopka area, regarding farmworker issues, where the aftermath of Lake Apopkas farm buyout is not discussed. It may further be of interest that he described Jeannie Economos as a friend and also as an aging hippy of sorts. 10


Continuing on my search, I phoned the Farm worker Association of Florida and introduced myself and my research interests to Jeannie Economos. We discussed how the prime environmental justice issue for farmworker s was exposure to pesticides at the work place and at home. As it turned out, the FW AF was one of the only advocacy groups in the state that had environmental health and pe sticide safety as part of its overall mission statement4. Jeannie described in brief detail the issues surrounding Lake Apopka, and the hardships many of the areas former farmworkers experienced and continue to experience. She showed interest in my projec t, and I was able to organize a visit to the organizations central location in Apopka. The sa me day of my initial visit was also the date of a community meeti ng being held by the Orange County Environmental Health Department to address environmental health concerns. Jeannie suggested that I go, as many of those who were likely to attend would be former Lake Apopka muck farm farmworkers. On the day of my visit, I was given a t our of the FWAF office building and a brief description of the programs and activities that occurred there. It was a tour that I would later see given multiple times as visitors came frequently. I met Tirso Moreno, the general coordinator of FWAF, as well as many of the orga nizations individual program directors, such as Quina, who detailed to me the FWAFs recent accusations of racial profiling against the Lake County Sheriffs Of fice and how they were working with the 4 Most farmworker organizations focus on economic ju stice, housing and health care. As will be discussed later, the reason for this is that most farmworkers are not immediately concerned about occupational safety. One of the reasons the FWAF has environmental justice as part of its community organizing efforts is because of its long establishment in the central Florida area, and its focus on serving communities of fixed seasonal farmworkers. 11


Orlando chapter of the ACLU to help victim s. The office was filled with activity and individuals working on specific programs. Later Jeannie and I sat down to discu ss further what her duties were as the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Pr oject Coordinator, and I was given a brief history of the FWAFs involvement with the Lake Apopka farm buy-out and an explanation as to how the agricultural practic es on the Lake Apopka farms were connected to the current health maladies suffered by former farmworkers. The conversation served as a kind of briefing for the individuals I would soon meet. We later proceeded to the community meeting which was held at the John Bridges Community Center located in Unincorporated Apopka, otherwise known as South Apopka. On the way we picked up Betty Dubose, a former Lake Apopka farmworker and an active community leader. I introduced myself to her, but she had few words for me. When we arrived at the John Bridges Community Center, people were still filling up the main auditoriums many seats. The seats were arranged so that they were facing towards a small rising stage that had a podium and a projector screen behind it. Next to the stage was a table with a variety of business cards from the Orange County Government officials that were to speak as well as a number of brochures for social service programs. In the moments before the meeting starte d Jeannie introduced me and my interests to Bryan Smith, the son of two former Lake Apopka farmworkers and a vocal advocate for community health issues. Given the occasi on, he spoke to me about what was on his mind. He described how one way the former farmworker community could prove to the Orange County Health Department that many of their health problems today are the result 12


of a legacy of pesticide exposure, would be to conduct simple blood tests on everyone. He maintained that nine out of ten people c ould get this done on thei r health insurance, and that the only thing needed was transpor tation. He talked about the rashes, heart attacks, strokes and birth de fects he witnessed in his co mmunity on account of the pesticides, and how additionally they now are harassed by the odor emanating from a garbage incinerator near their home. Every time we demand answers from our officials, we get a dirty look and are told to get out their face, he said. I did get a chance to talk to Betty Du bose before the meeting. At 54 years old, Betty told me she started doing farm work in 1966 at the age of ten. She was at the meeting because she wanted answers. She didnt understand why her father died at 51 years old, or why her two brothers passed away at the ages of 36 and 39; nor why most of her friends, who also worked on the muck farm s, were dead. She wanted to know if there was any connection between her pesticide exposu re in the fields and her current health maladies, or whether her exposure had anythi ng to do with her gra ndchildrens learning disabilities. It was confusing, to say the least, to hear all these things being said at a meeting whose officially stated purpose was to address environmental health concerns as they related to a number of waste facilities in the area. I thought to myself: how are pesticides and landfills related? As the seats began to fill up, Jeannie gave me fliers to pass out to the general audience. In addition to notices about comm unity services, I passed out fliers that detailed the many toxins known to be emitte d from medical waste incinerators and landfills. The meeting eventually started w ith a prayer and some opening remarks by the Orange County Health Departme nts Director of Environmen tal Health, David Overfield. 13


He requested that everyone be given a chan ce to speak and that ev eryone carefully listen to one another. Jeannie remarked on how David Overfield had been especially responsive with the South Apopka communitys concerns and had been the most help they had seen in years. Despite the positive opening however, what proceeded to occur was a series of heated discussions and arguments between re sidents and county o fficials. To provide further context, the meeting was held to spec ifically address the he alth concerns South Apopka residents were having with the loca tion of two landfills and a medical waste incinerator. In addition to horrible smells from all three facilities, residents complained of debris falling on their homes, low birth wei ght babies born from wo men living near these facilities, and contaminated water. With the exception of David Overfield, who did not have clear cut responses, most of the county government officials assure d residents that ther e was nothing wrong and that the companies operating the facilities were well within compliance. Leroy Bell, a local environmental justice activist and ACORN organizer, openly rejected the claims of these officials and showed a homemade film depicting an occurrence of illegal dumping in one of the landfills. Other community me mbers followed suit with many claiming that operating in compliance really meant that companies were just barely meeting regulations, and perhaps even falling short. In general, many community members were upset that these facilities we re present in their neighborhoods in the first place and that they had no say in their placement. What I found most interesting about the meeting, however, was how the topic of discussion frequently shifted to pesticid e exposure and the environmental injustice 14


experienced by the former Lake Apopka farmwork ers. Later I learned to be less surprised about this, as some of the people affected by the waste faciliti es were also once farmworkers. But the talk of pesticides, of how unfair it was that wildlife were given more consideration than farmworkers, and that an entire group of people was left unemployed in favor of environmental go als, seemed to haunt everyone who was present. It spoke to the signifi cance of Lake Apopka as an important symbol to the recent history of Northwest Orange County and to the people who live there. It was my interest in Lake Apopka and in peoples relation to it that drew me into studying the areas myriad social and environmental issues. Entering the Field: A new question thus needed to be an swered: how was I going to enter this community and what was I going to be able to offer it? My answer would not only determine the kind of research I could do, but would also determine, to some extent, the identity I carried in the field. Additionally, who exactly was I going to study? My visits to the Farmworker Association of Florida s main office and my attendance of the community meeting indicated to me that th ere was no discrete population experiencing what could broadly be termed as environmen tal injustice. Furthermore, the designation of farmworker seemed to be used loosely. What I saw during my first visits could be more accurately described as a set of themes and basic ideas shared by individuals and groups of individua ls, who at the same time interpreted and reinterpreted these them es and ideas in their own unique ways and according to their own motivations. The focus of my research then was to be on these 15


themes, the interstices between their various forms and the interactions between groups that refer to and modify them. I eventually settled on entering this series of layered communities as an intern for the Farmworker Association of Florida. As an organization that broadly advocates and organizes around farmworker rights and envi ronmental justice, the FWAF serves a diverse array of local communities while simult aneously being a part of a transnational grassroots network fighting for social justice. The FWAF was thus a crossroads of sorts, a place where ideologies fused and fragment ed, yet still mainta ined a sense of cohesiveness. By observing and participating in the orga nizations activities, I felt that I would be able to focus on these general themes as they arose in context. I would also have access to the many local communities that asso ciated with the FWAF. Furthermore, my identity as intern would f acilitate the process of incor poration and allow me a certain air of legitimacy when talking with public o fficials. At the same time, however, this identity would have important limitations and repercussions, as access to groups politically opposed to or weary of the FWAF would be more difficult. Lastly, an internship would provide a clear, semi-struc tured way for me to give back to the community being studied. In gi ving back, my goal was to practice a kind of activist anthropology advocated by Checker (2005). In this way, I worked with the FWAF and the communities it serves to furthe r political agendas of economic, social and environmental justice. In practice, I ended up working mostly w ith the African American portion of the former Lake Apopka farmworker community a nd more generally with specific leaders in 16


the South Apopka community as a whole. Th is emphasis, however, is well balanced by key moments during my experience where I was able to witness the presence of other local ethnic groups operating within the FWAF. Working in the field: As part of my activist approach, I began my internship at the FWAF by drafting a series of politically motivated goals with Jeannie Economos, who acted as one of my key informants and main collaborators. In the beginning, these goals were largely research oriented with a focus on interviews and the review of public documents. Later, as new developments occurred, my activities becam e more project-oriented and I engaged in some community organizing. When I began field work, it had been n early three years since the Lake Apopka former farmworker community had last e ngaged in any community organizing activity. According to Geraldean Matthew, one of the former farmworker communitys most outspoken leaders, organizing around issues of environmental health and justice in the past had been ineffective because too many issues were put on the table and none of them were effectively addressed. Additionally, too many promises were made by both the county government and organizers. People slowly stopped attending meetings because nothing was being done, and disappointment with actions in the past had caused people to become disenchanted. The consensus between Geraldean, Jeannie and I was that the former farmworker community needed to regroup, clearly outline the problems it faces today, and determine a way to move forward in terms of commun ity action. From the beginning, then, I was 17


implored to do research to figure out what was going on. To do this, I conducted interviews with both former farmworkers, pa st community organizers, and institutional researchers who had worked on the Lake Apopka Health Project. I had meetings with Orange County Health Officials to inquire about the status of public health programs that impacted former farmworkers and South A popkan residents, and reviewed both public and historical documents pertaining to Lake Apopka, the waste faciliti es located in South Apopka and Orange county agriculture. While simultaneously figuring out wha t was going on, I participated and observed the activities of the FWAF. This involved attendi ng staff and board meetings, attending the meetings of local labor groups such as Jobs With Justice, running fliers about social services to local agencies, attending even ts organized by the FWAF, representing the FWAF at an environmenta l justice conference, and observing Pesticide Safety Training Workshops for Farmworkers and Farmworker Healthcare Provider Trainings. As my fieldwork progressed, I began to wo rk more and more closely with South Apopka community leaders and the African American former farmworker community. Towards the second half of my fieldwork peri od, an issue arose in which Orange County Solid Waste Division designated an area near the landfills and medical waste incinerator in South Apopka as fit for the construction of a new garbage transfer station. Arguing that another waste facility would simply add more pressure to an ar ea already overburdened by waste facilities, we drafted a petition to be sent to the districts commissioner. This petition was then spread at a subsequent, but entirely unrelated, community event entitled National Night Out, which I also helped to organize. 18


It was eventually decided that the next step the former farmworker community should take would be to re-launch the La ke Apopka Quilt Project. I was tasked with much of the projects preliminary logistical planning, and I organized community meetings to begin an attempt at creating an as-inclusive-as-possible artistic vision for the quilt. Since the end of my 2009 summer fi eldwork, the Lake Apopka Quilt Project has proceeded at a steady pace. During the 2009 Fa ll semester I visited Apopka and Indian Town a number of times to help out with the proj ects progress. Organization of the Thesis: The data that I collected during my fi eldwork period is organized into four chapters and a conclusion. The first three chapters of this ethnography take seriously the environmental justice issue of farmworker pe sticide exposure. For farmworkers, pesticide exposure is an issue of environmental justice because they often have little knowledge of it and little control ov er when and whether they are exposed. Farmworkers must work and their families must live in environments co ntaminated by pesticides in order to make a living (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:103). In chapter one, I discuss the context of pesticide exposure with an emphasis on how farmworkers get exposed a nd the effects pesticides may have on farmworker health. In particular, I highlight th e lack of toxicological knowle dge regarding pesticides, the difficulty in determining links between pest icides and illness, and the fact that farmworkers unjustly must bear the burden of the scientific uncertainty surrounding pesticides. 19


In chapter two, I discuss the social dimens ions of pesticide exposure. Contrary to the current policy paradigm, Farmworkers are no t exposed to pesticides because they are ignorant of the potential health effects nor because they lack the knowledge to properly protect themselves. At its core, pesticide e xposure is due to farmworker powerlessness at the workplace. Stemming from the exclusion of agricultural laborers from the collective bargaining provisions of the 1930s and the s ubsequent state-sponsored importation of foreign labor after World War II to break farmworker labor protests, farmworkers, stripped of their power to form unions, are se ldom able to improve working conditions. In this chapter I also discuss the various cultural variables that can lead to pesticide exposure. Chapter 3 describes and analyses the pest icide environmental justice activities of FWAF and its allies. Special attention is gi ven to the way FWAF trains farmworkers in pesticide safety, and the way it trains health care providers in identi fying pesticide-related symptoms. Furthermore, the chapter briefl y discusses FWAFs cross-organizational work. Utilizing a heavy amount of archival research, chapter 4 deconstructs the dominant narrative associated with Lake Apopkas despoliation and restoration, and makes the attempt to sift out the political and cultural undertones that were at work during the mid-to-late 1990s. I argue that Lake Apopkas restoration played out the way it did for specific political, economic and cu ltural reasons; there wa s nothing natural, logical or just about it. I s how how the environmental justi ce issues pushed by the former farmworker community, the FWAF and their allies serve as a count er-narrative to the 20


restoration rhetoric pushed by Friends of La ke Apopka, the State of Florida and the St. Johns Water Management District. The conclusion serves as an update on the Lake Apopka former farmworker community and its more recent activities. Pesticides remain a primary concern for former farmworkers, but in recent years the commun ity has become focused on issues pertaining to a number of waste facilities in South A popka, a town where many former farmworkers live. This chapter also discusses the Lake Apopka Quilt Project as a new community project and details its progress. In the conclusion, I also reflect on my time spent in Apopka and discuss the benefits and drawbacks of an activist a pproach doing ethnographic fieldwork. In so doing, I discuss the role anthropology and an thropologists might play in furthering the goals of environment justice and I highlight wh at I perceive to be an emergent trend in Floridas environmental politics. Throughout the chapters, vignettes, quotes and anecdotes from my experiences will be used to texture particular descript ions and discussions. Ive chosen this style partly because it fits best with the information I present, but also because of the fragmentary nature of my fieldwork. As such this study should not be seen as absolutely definitive of the former Lake Apopka farmwork er community. Instead, it is the beginning of what could, in the future, be a much larger study. 21


Chapter 1: Working Amidst Poisons It was a chilly morning, and Minnie wanted to go back into the house to get another t-shirt to put over her blouse, but her mother assured her that it would get warmer once the sun got higher in the sky. Besi des, the whole family needed to stay put if they hoped to get work that day. Times were hard, and the crew bosses played no favorites when the crowds were big at th e corner of Central and Lake Avenue. When the trucks pulled up, the crew leaders didnt even bother shouting out wages for the day. Leaving the rest of th em behind, Minnies father briskly moved forward through the crowd to claim a place for his family in one of the truck beds. They waited patiently and nervously. Were worki ng corn today! shouted her father, and grabbing both Minnie and her brother John, her mother raced to be seated next to her husband. Being amongst large rows of corn stalks wasnt a new experience for Minnie. When she and her brother were much younge r, the fields were a playground with her mother or father always laboring close by At the ages of twelve and thirteen, however, Minnie and her brother John were no longer a llowed to play, they had to work. Another day on the muck of Lake Apopkas farms was to begin. Working amongst other groups of farm workers, Minnie and her mother, armed with small knives, were ahead of her brother and father, cutting down long stalks to get to the corn at the top. Gathering together the green ears of corn, her brother and father 22


packed them tightly into wooden crates with strips of metal wire. A truck followed close behind to receive them. The work was hard and unrelenting. Any breaks were at the peril of the familys earnings, which were by the crate and not by the hour. Minnies hands, that day bare, tingled after about the thirtieth crate of co rn was packed. Moments later, her brother complained about two small cuts on his hands that wouldnt stop burning. Some water that her mother poured over their hands helped, but the tingling and burning still lingered. We cant stop, said her mother, t heyll take us out of the line. Few people took the time to worry about such usual disc omforts. They believed that as long as they worked hard and made it through to the end of the day, everything would turn out fine. As the sun rose higher in the sky, tall ro ws of corn stalks transformed into paths of debris-covered earth. From above Minni e and her family along with many other farmworkers must have looked like small aphi ds chewing through the green flesh of a leaf. Half-way through a row of corn, Minnie be gan to hear a loud noise that seemed to be getting closer. Others around her seem ed unfazed and continued about their work, their gaze set downward and forward. Keep working said her mother, its nothing. Resisting the urge to look over her shoulde r, Minnie continued to cut corn and pass it backward. When the noise seemed to be right next to them, however, her curiosity got the best of her. Standing up and look ing to her right, she saw a small airplane fly by with what seemed to be white smoke coming from its rear. She was amazed by how close the airp lane had gotten to them and by the sudden fogginess that overtook the fie lds. Suddenly she began to feel a burning sensation well up 23


in her eyes, nose and mouth. This time it was a pain she couldnt ignore. With tears in her eyes she quickly turned to her mother and called for help. Rushing to the nearest water hose, her mother drenched Minnies fa ce in water. Slowly the burning sensation became less intense. I told you not to l ook up! said her mother. Now get yourself together! We still have a lot of work to do! Since then, Ive had problems with my eyes drying up all the time, Minnie tells me as I interview her in the kitchen of a co mmunity leaders small home in Indian Town, Florida. Now a 37-year-old woman, she take s prescription eye drops daily, along with a cocktail of medications for various chronic c onditions such as di abetes, arthritis and lupus. Her brother John passed away when he was 35, and her father died at the age of 40. Minnie is but one of the many farmworkers who cite past exposur e to pesticides as the cause for much physical pain today. *** Since the end of World War II, the us e of synthetic chemicals has become ubiquitous to agriculture the world over and perhaps for good reason. In a business riddled with uncertainty and risk, the elegan tly crafted molecules help to improve crop yields, enhance their aesthetic quality and allow tighter cont rol of agricultural production. Fertilizers with masterfully constructed NPK5 ratios reduce dependence on innate soil quality, and pesticides ensure th at large scale operations rema in profitable and efficient. In many countries, the systematically planne d use of pesticide helps to save thousands from insect vector-borne diseases, such as malaria and dengue fever. Indeed, synthetic 5 NPK refers to the amounts of three specific nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium, found in any commercially sold fertilizer. These nutrients are required for the healthy growth of plants. 24


pesticides6 and fertilizers, acting as environmen tal enhancers, work to safeguard the health and food supply of the worlds popula tion. Or so goes the rhetoric of large multinationals like Monsanto or DuPont Chemical Company who directly benefit from their sale. Nearly half a century of environmental research and activism seems to provide a more balanced perspective on these powerful s ubstances. It is now widely known that the liberal application of synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, often the cas e in an industry that focuses on overproducing to keep prices low, leads to a number of severe environmental consequences. As indiscriminant biocides, pes ticides do not only kill nuisance insects and weeds in the fields, they impact entire ecosystems. Internationally, it is estimated that over 98% of sprayed insectic ides and 95% of herbicides do not reach their planned targets. This excess drifts into waterways, fo rests and adjacent fields, where it decimates native plant and wildlife populations and disrupts local ecology. Furthermore, many pesticides are persistent organic pollut ants whose long-term effects are still unknown (Miller 2004:211-16). Inorga nic fertilizers, while not directly toxic, deplete soils of their organic matter and pollute adjacent waterw ays by providing the fodder for massive algal blooms, which in turn adversely imp act biodiversity (Hemenway 2009:80-1). The consequences of pesticide use are often conveyed with images of dead birds and cracked egg shells, but Rachel Carson (1962 ), the first to warn about the impact of pesticides, suggested that the greatest threat they represent is towards human life itself. Pesticides do not only poison wildlife, they also poison people. A ccording to the World 6 The US EPA defines pesticides as any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. It incl udes insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and various other substances used to control pests. Also included under the heading pesticides are any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plan t regulator, defoliant, or desiccant (US EPA 2010). 25


Health Organization (2004), an estimated three million cases of pesticide poisoning occur every year, resulting in about 250,000 deaths wo rldwide. No group feels these statistics more than agricultural workers, who come into contact with pesticides on a daily basis and face the greatest threat of pesticide related illne ss (PANNA 2009:143; Arcury and Quandt 2009b:108). Every year in the United St ates alone, twenty thousand farmworkers require medical treatment for acute pestic ide poisoning, and at least twenty thousand more cases go unreported (Bowe 2007:8). Pesticide exposure is a ma tter of environmental justice. Farmworkers have very limited knowledge about the pesticides to wh ich they are exposed and have no control over their pesticide exposure at work and in their homes. The grower or farm owner decides what pesticides to use, where and wh en they are going to be applied, and seldom informs workers of these decisions. Regulations that are in place to protect farmworkers are seldom enforced, and only a minimal effort is made to educate farmworkers about the risks of exposure. Furthermore, farmworker s have very little know ledge of the potential health effects of their pes ticide exposure and lack the resources necessary to seek adequate health care. Because farmworker wages are so low, and because farmworkers often have few employment choices, pesticid e exposure forces them to deal with enormous health risks in order to make a living (Arcury and Quandt 2009b; Austin 2002; Riley 2002). Like so many other examples of environm ental injustice, the problem of pesticide exposure is only part and parcel of the many problems associated with the exploitation and marginal socio-economic status of farmworkers. During my fieldwork period, however, I learned that the fight for social justice is multi-pronged and must take place on 26


many fronts, including environmental ones. While perhaps the most salient and best publicized issues for farmworkers is the lack of a living wage and immigration reform, pesticide exposure cuts to the core of what is most valuable to many people: personal health and the health of family members. Most Americans may see farm wo rk as a monotonous, toilsome, and thankless job that one should try to leav e immediately, but for those whom farm work is one of the only options, it is seen as a dignified and honest way of earning a livi ng that deserves the same amount of legal protection as any other job. Farmworkers and their advocates argue that pesticide poisoning and dangerous work c onditions are not inevitable features of the present agricultural system. Farms can be better regulated for safety and viable alternatives to dangerous pest-control practic es can be found. Embedded in these views is the firm belief that everyone, regardless of r ace, ethnicity, gender and class, has the right to work and live in a healthy environment. In chapters one, two and, three, I seek to provide an overvie w of the issue of farmworker pesticide exposure in the south eastern United States, with an ethnographic focus on the roles played by the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) and Lake Apopkas former farmworkers. In so doing, I explore two intimately tied lines of inquiry. First, what is the context of pesticide e xposure? How does it happen? Who does it happen to, and to what extent? What are the conse quences for farmworker health, and how has it affected farmworker communities? Over the past decade, much research has been done in an attempt to better understand the problem of pesticide exposure and to develop mitigation procedures, but little attention has been paid to how pesticides actually impact farmworkers lives. Drawing upon this literatu re as well as my own interactions with 27


former farmworkers, farm work and FWAF, I attempt to go beyond the health studies and survey statistics and provide the reader a sens e of what it is like to be working and living in fields that are sprayed with pesticides. The second line of inquiry I wish to explore is how fa rmworkers and their advocates are fighting for environmental justi ce. What is the context in which pesticide environmental justice is fought for? What fo rms of organized resistance have emerged and what challenges do activists face in fighting for protections and polluter accountability? To begin answering these questions, I will draw upon my experiences participating directly in pesticide safety programs implemented by the FWAF, as well as interviews with former farm worker community leaders, FWAF staff, and their allies. As I hope to show, the issue of pesticid e exposure, rather than being a symptom of larger forces shaping farmworker lives, su ch as immigration and free trade, has taken on a life of its own. Farmworkers, on ce silent about the problems surrounding environmental health, are contributing a fres h and humanistic pers pective to standard environmentalism. In some respects, the alliances and coalitions forming around the environmental justice issue of pesticide expos ure make the case for an emerging form of farmworker agency. Farmworkers, whose labor and quality of life concerns were once ignored by the ideological shouting match between the agricultural industry and environmentalists, are emerging as advocates of a more powerful vision: agriculture centered on principles of worker he alth and sustainability. 28


The Context of Pesticide Exposure Pesticides are pervasive in the enviro nment, and most people experience a degree of pesticide exposure on a daily basis. Ju st by consuming conventionally produced food products7 or simply walking outside8, one is exposed to a variety of chemicals (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:104). Before you don a hazmat suit and change your diet completely to organic foods, however, it is important to understand toxicologically the relation between exposure and dosage. Pesticide exposur e refers to the tota l amount of pesticide one encounters in a given environment, fo r example at the workplace, home or on clothing, while dosage refers to the amount of pesticide that actually enters the body and has the potential to cause health problems. Dosage of pesticides or any other toxic chemicals can be kept low if proper safety and hygiene procedures are implemented, but high exposure typically leads to high dosage (Arcury and Quandt 2009b: 106). Most people are exposed to pesticides, but seldom does your average person frequent environments in which there is a hi gh amount of them in th eir active chemical forms9. In fact, in the United States there are many government-enforced regulations in place to protect individuals from incidences of high exposure to toxic chemicals. Well known examples are the many regulations in pl ace regarding the presence of asbestos in old buildings and the meticulous safety protoc ols for handling and storing toxic materials in laboratories, hospitals and other technical facilities. 7 The United State Environmental Protection Agency sets maximum pesticide residue levels that can legally remain in or on foods (US EPA 2010). 8 A surprisingly large amount of insecticides and herbicides are applied to lawns and urban landscaping. 9 With the exception of persistent organic pollutant s (like DDT and dioxin), most manufactured chemicals begin breaking down the second they come into contact with air and water. Furthermore, these environments are not constantly having fresh chemicals introduced to them. 29


Comparatively, farmworkers are at th e extreme margins of environmental protections such as these. They work and oftentimes live in environments where pesticides are applied frequently and with little regards for sa fety. In addition, little effort is made to educate farmworkers about the dangers of pesticides and of ways they can reduce their exposure. As a resu lt, their dosage of pesticides is much higher and therefore much more dangerous (Arcury and Marn 2009, Riley 2002, Austin 2002). A closer look at farm work and the different routes of pe sticide exposure help us to appreciate how great a threat pesticides can be for farmworkers. Farmworkers, farm work, and the routes of pesticide exposure: In the eastern as well as the western coastal United States, the hand labor of farmworkers is necessary for the production of many high-value crops. While much agriculture has become fully mechanized, such as corn, soy and wheat, there are still many commodities in which hand labor is th e only economically f easible option. These commodities include fruits, such as strawberries, tomatoes, and oranges; vegetables, such as peppers, cucumbers and squash; and also non-food commodities such as Christmas trees, ferns and tobacco (A rcury and Marn 2009:21). Most conventional farms ar e large scale operations w ith only a small staff of permanent workers operating machinery and ot her infrastructural elements. The vast majority of farm labor is hired during the growing season on an as needed basis to do work such as planting, picking, or packaging produce. In the past farmers themselves would go out and procure workers to pick pr oduce, a situation that allowed farmworkers 30


to negotiate better wages (Hamhamovitch 1997), but today they rely primarily on labor contractors and crew bosse s who act as middlemen and farmworker managers. In the fields, farmworkers, rather th an having hourly wages, are paid by the amount of produce they pick in a day. This system typically involves farmworkers filling uniform sized containers and then giving the co ntainers to a crew l eader who weighs and evaluates the quality of th e produce and either records the amount delivered by the farmworker or throws the farmworker a token which can be exchanged for wages later. In Immokalee, Florida, where an enormous number of the tomatoes sold in the eastern United States are grown, farmworkers are ty pically paid 45 cents per 30 pound bucket of tomatoes. On the farms of Lake Apopka dur ing the 1980s, a hamper of green beans ran for about 20 cents. The going rate for othe r kinds of produce isnt much better, and farmworkers in general havent received a ra ise since the 1970s. Just to make minimum wage, a farmworker must pick about two to three thousand pounds of produce a day. When they cannot, the boss or crew leader si mply alters the numb er of work hours to reflect the amount of produce picked. On top of this, farmworkers are not even guaranteed a steady number of work hours per week. Piecemeal pay at such low rates makes farm work one of the lowest paying jobs in America. The average seasonal farmwo rker in America earns between $8,000 and $9,000 per year for labor; an income well be low the poverty line. For both farmworker activists and their allies, inadequate wages represent one of the greatest challenges farmworkers face today, as low pay is directly related to inequities in housing, education, healthcare and even the procur ement of basic human needs such as food and clean water (Riley 2002: 48-52; Bowe 2007). 31


Piecemeal pay also makes for dangerous working conditions as farmworkers will strain themselves physically and forego safety procedures to make as much money as they possibly can (Riley 2002:50). The kinds of danger farmworkers put themselves through is made all the more understandable wh en work must be procured on a day to day basis, and one days wages may be the whole weeks earnings. While the situation most certainly is desperate, many farmworkers I discussed the issue wi th took pride in the amount of produce they could pick in a da y. For many farmworkers, it was a way of measuring their worth in relation to othe r workers, and even other professions. When talking about their experiences on the muck farms, former farmworker women would often remark on the strength th ey had in their yout h and how many pounds they could pick in a day. They contrasted th is with the poor health they find themselves in today, and see it as a solid indi cator of injustice against them. Piecemeal pay also indirectly leads to an increased rate of pesticide exposure. The reason for this lies with both the tight production demands of growers and the tight financial needs of farmworkers. In the i ndustrial farm setting, growers must use high volumes of pesticide to safeguard acres of a single crop from insects, disease, and nematodes. The amount of pesticide used us ually depends on the t ype of pest problem and the potency of the chemical itself, but it also has a lot to do with the cultural perception of the grower. Since DDT b ecame widely used, a common belief amongst large-scale farmers was that the use of more pesticide directly correlated with greater crop yields. While this has since been proven untrue and even detrimental to yields, as liberal pesticide use also kills various bene ficial organisms and genetically selects for pesticide-resistant insects, th ere are still many growers who se e pesticides as direct yield 32


enhancers. The result is that on some farm s an amount of pesticide greater than that recommended by the manufacturer is applied. No study has been conducted to verify th is claim, but statis tically, the use of pesticides has only increased. The USDA reports that pesticide use has tripled from 215 million pounds in 1964 to 588 million pounds in 1997. At the same time, however, the effectiveness of pesticides has decreased with their widespread use. From 1945 to 1985, the number of crops destroyed by insects rose from 7 percent to 14 percent, and where in 1980 a ton of fertilizer would help to yield an average of 15 to 20 tons of corn, now the same ton yields only 5 to 10 t ons of corn (Bowe 2007: 46-7). Exposure of farmworkers to pesticides on the job, however, is largely determined by grower adherence to regulations regardi ng restricted entry intervals (REI) the number of hours or days before an individual can enter a field after the pesticide has been applied without wearing speci fied personal protective equipment. According to the EPAs Worker Protection Standard (WPS) the grower is required to verbally tell workers when and where they apply pesticides, the pesticide that has b een applied and the duration of the restricted entr y interval; alte rnatively they must post all the information, both in English and Spanish, in a central lo cation where all workers have access (Arcury and Quandt 2009:111). In practice, however, these regulations are seldom followed or enforced. Because growers are looking to get thei r produce to the market as soon as possible, and because farmworkers are trying to earn as much as they can, the restricted entry interval regulation is of ten ignored and farmworkers enter fields while there are still chemically active pesticides on the foliage and fruit of crops (PANNA 2009:147). Even 33


when the restricted entry inte rval has passed, there are still pesticides present, but at lower quantities (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:108). In this way, farmworkers may receive a dosage of pesticides through th e skin when they harvest crops barehanded, when they inhale pesticide fumes, or when they ingest them because of contaminated hands (Austin 2002: 200, Arcury and Quandt 2009b:104) Exacer bating the problem is the fact that farmworkers have an incentive to harvest recently sprayed crops, because growers pay the most for the first picking. Subsequent harvests yield fewer pounds of produce, and therefore mean less pay (Riley 2002:50). One of the most severe incidents of pest icide exposure in recen t history occurred on a farm in Balm, Florida in 1989, when a labor contractor and his crew entered a cauliflower field that had been recently sprayed with phosdrin, an organophosphate insecticide which acts by attacking the ner vous system of insects. The EPA requires a minimum wait of forty-eight hours before worker s are allowed to re-enter a field sprayed with phosdrin, but the labor crew re-entered after only nineteen hours. After only an hour and a half in the fields, numerous workers had to be rushed to the nearby farmworker clinic and hospital to be treated for poisoni ng symptoms. Many of the farmworkers in the labor crew were extremely nauseous and di zzy and experienced blurred vision and head swelling. One young woman went into a coma and nearly died. On that day, nearly eighty-five farmworkers were checked into hospitals all across Balm. When many of the labor crew s workers did not return for the next couple of weeks, following the advice given to them by the doctor, the grower fired all of them, claiming that the symptoms they reported were simply excuses to get out of work. Those workers who did return experienced fu rther nausea and swelling, and one woman 34


miscarried. According to the labor crew, the grower had failed to notify them about the pesticide that was sprayed. In the past, they had worked in fields that were sprayed and experienced minor effects such as head swel ling, but they never expected to have an experience like they did. After a lengthy li tigation process, the workers were able to receive a minor sum of money and the gr ower was fined five thousand dollars (Rothenberg 1998:50-4), but no action was ta ken to improve the enforcement of regulations. Unfortunately, the work place is only th e most obvious pathway for farmworkers to be exposed to pesticides. Arcury and Quandt (2009b:108-9), two anthropologists who have worked extensively around the issue of pesticide exposure w ith farmworkers in North Carolina, identify three additional pathways of pesticide exposure that often overlap with one another: paraoccupational, environmental and residential. Paraoccupational exposure refe rs to pesticides that carry over from the workplace. This includes pesticides that are brought in to the home through sk in, clothes, boots or other objects and by contaminated floor surfaces and vehicles. This type of exposure is particularly significant because it also a ffects non-farmworker family members and especially the children of farmworkers. A study conducted by Quandt et al. (2004a) in North Carolina showed substantial numb ers of organochlorine, organophosphate, carbamate, and pyrethroid insecticide residue s in farmworker dwellings, as well as metabolites of pesticides banned since 1986 in the urine of farmworker children10. One route of paraoccupational exposure mentioned to me by Geraldean Matthew, a former Lake Apopka farmworker and co mmunity activist, was through pesticide 10 According to Arcury and Quandt (2009b:122), the most plausible explanation for the number and variety of pesticides found in these farmworker children is the long-term deposition of these substances in the dwellings in which these children lived. 35


containers that farmworkers woul d bring home to use as jugs fo r drinking water. A lot of people just didnt know about the danger. Folk s were so poor that they would use what ever kind of thing they could. But we were just never told that those things were bad for us. I know that its part of why a lot of us are sick and dying now. The term environmental exposure refe rs to pesticides prevalent in the farmworker environment and includes exposure from long-term deposition of pesticides in houses and vehicles, as well as exposure from pesticide drift from fields adjacent to where the farmworker is working or living. A ccording to the Pesticide Action Network of North America, most reported incidences of poisoning happen because of airborne pesticide drift from aerial applicators (PANNA 2009:143, Austin 2002:200). In a North California study, Ciesielski et al. (1994) found that one-half of farmworker participants reported being sprayed and noticed a strong ch emical smell in the fields where they worked. In the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Envi ronmental Health Project Report on Community Health Survey, over 80% of thos e interviewed reported being sprayed with pesticides by airplanes overhead (Matthew and Habin 2006:4). In a series of interviews conducted with former Lake Apopka farmworkers in Indian Town, Florida, the vast majority of interviewees remarked on how th e growers would spray regardless of whether there were people working in the fields or not. The retelling of one womens story, which opened this chapter, was the most dramatic instance of overhead spray exposure I heard. Furthermore, many of Lake Apopkas form er farmworkers lived and continue to live adjacent to the greenhouses and nurseries that make up Apopkas enormous foliage industry, as well as three waste facilities. While chemical drift from these industries has 36


never been recorded, many former farmworker s feel that there is good reason to believe they are exposed to contaminants emanating from these sources. In chapter three, I describe these environmental justice issues in more detail and describe the organizing activities community leader s have been engaged in. Perhaps an account of one of my own experiences can furt her lend descriptive texture to the problem of environmental pest icide exposure. During my field work period, I had the opportunity to join a student group fr om Full Sail University on an activity in which we worked for two hours at a local foliage nursery. The professor leading the students had organized the trip with FWAF as a hands-on exercise for a business class on corporate social responsibili ty. When we entered the large-scale greenhouse, I was immediately taken aback by a pungent chemi cal smell, familiar to anyone who has walked into a wholesale nursery before. On e of the managers had us work with an employee who guided us in arranging potted pl ants by irrigation lines. As we worked, at a very quick pace, I saw the irrigation lin es on the other side of greenhouse begin spraying water and I noticed th at the chemically smell had become more prominent. I asked the employee if we should stop because of the irrigation spray, but he insisted that we finish because he was responsible for finishing the work. According to Jeannie Economos, the coordinator of FWAFs Envi ronmental Health and Pesticide Safety Project, farmworkers are particularly prone to receiving a high dosage of pesticides while in greenhouses because of the enclosed environment. Another source of environmental pesticide exposure, particularly in the case of Lake Apopka, but perhaps in other areas as well, is the dose that is received indirectly from the bodies of fish and wildlife. A fair portion of farmworker families relied and 37


continue to rely on fish and other anim als hunted around Lake Apopkas perimeter to supplement their diets. In this way, increased amounts of pesticide from both farm runoff and contamination from chemical spills11 can enter farmworker bodies through the local food they procure. Finally, there is the chance for exposure from the applic ation of pesticides to farmworker residences. Many farmworker fa milies live in sub-standard dilapidated housing that is provided by either the grower or the labor contractor s. To increase the life-span of these dwellings, usually trailers, the landlords will appl y pesticides liberally. As mentioned previously, over time these pesticides can build up in the home and increase farmworker exposure, especially for children, who are smaller and play in parts of the home where pests may dw ell (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:109). Combined, these pathways of pesticide e xposure make for a marked increase in the risk of pesticide-relate d illness amongst farmworkers an d their families. Perhaps one of the biggest problems, however, is the inab ility to effectively measure this increase. While there have been advances in pesticid e toxicology, there are st ill many barriers to understanding the impact pestic ides are having on farmworker health. Nonetheless, many researchers and activists have put forth a valuable effort in trying to link pesticides with experienced illness. I now turn towards a review of these efforts and describe what is known about the health outcomes of Lake A popkas former farmworkers. Sociologically important is the fact that farmworkers are the group who must b ear the burden of the 11 Bordering Lake Apopka on its south and north shore are two EPA-designated superfund sites: the 30-acre Tower Chemical Company superfund site and the Dr um Chemical Company superfund site. The EPA has provided evidence that both sites have leached orga nochlorine chemicals such as DDT and DDE into Lake Apopka (Habin and Matthew 2006:32). 38


radical scientific uncertainty that accompanie s the use of pesticides and the development of new ones. Pesticides Exposure and Farmworker Health Outcomes The Problem of Scientific Uncertainty: The whole problem of pesticide poisoning is enormously complicated by the fact that a human being, unlike a laboratory animal living under rigidly controlled conditions, is never exposed to one chemical alone. Between the major groups of insecticides, and between them and other chemicals, there are interactions that have serious potentials. Whether released into soil or water or a mans blood, these unrelated chemicals do not remain segregated; there are mysterious and unseen changes by which one alters the power of another for harm. Rachel Carson, Silent Spring 1962:195 While the threat of pesticide exposure to the health of farmworker families is acknowledged by government agencies (US-EPA, USDA, OSHA) and non-profit organizations (FWAF, UFW, PANNA), very li ttle formal research has investigated pesticide exposure or its hea lth outcomes among farmwork ers (McCauley et al. 2006). No publicly funded Agricultural Health Study has been implemented that addresses the exposure and health effects of pesticides for farmworkers, and no longitudinal study has ever been conducted. For Arcury and Quandt (2009b:108) the lack of research and funding for research in of itself is indicative of environmental injustic e, and I am inclined to agree with them. In the words of one FWAF staff member, its as if the agricultural industry and the government agencies that support it are conducting one large experiment, and farmworkers are the guinea pigs. Empirical evidence has shown that pestic ide exposure can have both immediate and long-term effects on healt h, with the severity of the effect dependent on the number of doses and strength of th e pesticide (Reigart and Robe rts 1999; Sanborn et al. 2004). 39


When the dose is large, the immediate effect s are severe and can in clude inducement of a coma or even death; when it is smaller the effects are less severe and can include rashes, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and muscle wea kness. For pregnant women, however, even small doses can be severe, resulting in ne gative birth outcomes such as spontaneous abortion or even birth defects. Long-term health effects as the result of repeated exposure over multiple years include the increased risk for numerous cancers, sterility12, neurological decline in adults and retarded neurobehavioral development in children, as well as a variety of birth defects, including autism and limb deformities13 (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:106). While statistical information linking pest icide exposure to health outcomes in farmworkers is lacking, The Agricultural Health Study, conducte d by Alavanja et al. (1996), which included over 80,000 licensed pest icide applicators (typically permanent farm employees, not farmworkers), provides some insight. Notable reports on the study have shown the association of self-reported pesticide exposure to increased risk for several forms of cancers (Ala vanja et al. 1994, 2004; Bonner et al. 2005, 2007; Lee et al. 2007; Mahajan et al. 2006; Purdue et al. 2007), respirat ory disease (Hoppin et al. 2006b,2007a, b, 2008, Valcin et al. 2007), vision problems (Kirrane et al. 2005), neurological symptoms (Kamel et al. 2005, 2007), reproduction problems (Farr et al. 2004, 2006; Saldana et al. 2007), and de pression (Beseler et al. 2006). 12 For example, five legal cases have been brought against Dole Fresh Fruit Co. and Dow Chemical by over 5,000 farmworkers from Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama who claim that the overuse of DBCP pesticides have led to thei r sterility (Andreatta 1998; Schwartz 2007). 13 As with most toxins these health effects differ depending on the age of the individual as well as genetic factors; children being at greatest risk due to large surface to volum e ratio, fast metabolism and ongoing development (Eskenazi et al. 1999). 40


Based on the knowledge of what types of chemicals are applied on farms, it can be said that farmworkers are most exposed to non-persistent pestic ides, substances that are metabolized in days and degrade when exposed to sun and water. These are opposed to older persistent pesticides like DDT, which remain in the human body and in the environment for a long time (Arcury and Qu andt 2009b:104). That is not to say, however, that non-persistent pesticides do not have long-term affects on human health or that they are significantly less toxic than persistent pesticides. Of the pesticides in which farmworkers are exposed today, fumigants and organophosphates have proven the most hazardous. Organophosphates are insecticidal ne rve toxins, and fumigants are used to sterilize the soil before planting crops (PANNA 2009:145). Persistent pesticides, however, must not be ruled out of consideration just because they are no longer widely used14. An important differen ce between the pesticide exposure of the former African American farmworker community and the contemporary, predominantly Hispanic, farmworker community are the types of pesticides they have been exposed to over time. In the history of American farm work, and certainly Lake Apopkas muck farms, African Americans have been farmworkers for far longer than any other group and therefore have been e xposed since the 1940s to persistent organochlorine pesticides such as DDT. For example, parathion, a toxic nerve gas developed by the Germans during World War II, came on the market in 1943 and was responsible for more poisonings and deaths th an any other pesticide in history (Riley 2002:134). To date, little has been written on this potentially t oxic legacy and its ramifications for retired farmworkers and th eir relatives. There is good reason to believe 14 In the United States DDT was banned in 1972, and years later was subsequently banned globally under the Stockholm Convention. Limited and controversial use in disease vector control still continues. 41


that Lake Apopkas African American former farmworker community is suffering from exposure they may have experienced as teen agers or even from exposure that their parents experienced. While scientific research that could identify links between pesticide exposure and illness is lacking, there has not been a shortage of lawsuits and community-based efforts seeking to make pesticide manufacturers and growers accountable for their negligence. In 1996, Juan and Donna Castillo, a farmworker c ouple, sued DuPont and Pine Island farms when their son John was born with no eyes, a condition known as microphthalmia. In November 1989, while she was seven months pregnant, Donna was soaked with the pesticide Benlate 50 DF by a tractor as she walked to her South Florida home. In the end, the prosecution won the case and the couples son received $4 million in damages. However, it wasnt until 2001 that Dupont ceased to manufacture the chemical and then only because they were receiving complain ts from growers who reported that the chemical was destroying their crops. Many cases eerily similar to that of the Castillos have been brought up in Ireland and New Zeal and, yet still no formal statement by the EPA has linked Benlate to birth de fects (Riley 2002:129). Another prominent example in the state of Florida includes a number of legal cases brought against the corporation AgMa rt for the alleged connection between the pesticides used on their fields and the birt h defects experienced by the children of three farmworker women. Before, during, and after the time of their pregnancy, all three women worked for AgMart and were exposed to a cocktail of restri cted-use pesticides. None of them had a familial hi story of genetic disorders. 42


The most publicized case was that of one family whose son was born without arms or legs, a condition known as tetra-ame lia. The case settlement report reveals that the childs mother and father were ordered to enter fields before the designated re-entry interval, were not given prot ective equipment, were not no tified about pesticides used, were allowed to work in the fields while pesticides were be ing sprayed, and were threatened with the loss of their temporary grower-owned housing if they did not report to work because of illness. Furthermore, AgMart consciously knew that they were overusing EPA designated Class I pesticides (the most dangerous to human health) and that many of these substances were known to have caused birth defects in laboratory animals (Hererra and Candelario vs. Ag-Mart Product, Inc. 2008). In the end, the family received compensation in the form of lifetime healthcare support for their son, but like the previous case, there were a series of politically significant compromises. While AgMart disconti nued the use of the pesticides that were putatively linked to the birth defects, na mely penncozeb, sencor, monitor, agrimek, spintor and dithane, health officials in Collier County concluded that there was no verifiable link between these pesticides and the birth defects experienced by the children. In addition to this, whereas AgMart wa s originally fined $110,000.00 by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services for numerous vi olations discovered during the legal investig ation, a Florida administrative law judge drastically lowered it to $8,500.00 (Stapleton 2008). Finally, during the time of the investigation into AgMarts production practices, numerous articles in the Palm Beach Post reported the lax enforcement of regulations by the Florida Department of Agriculture and highlighted the 43


inability of the agency to effectively m onitor farms (Lantigua 2005), yet after the case was settled little was done to impr ove the situation. In Apopka, FWAF approached the lack of research and public concern through a community-based participatory research strategy15. Enlisting the expertise of Ron Habin, an independent anthropologist, and seve ral community leaders, led by Geraldean Matthew, FWAF designed and implemented a h ealth survey in which 148 former Lake Apopka farmworkers were interviewed to asse ss their health problems and their exposure to pesticides and other environmental contaminants. The surveys stated intention was to give voice to the concerns of Lake Apopka s former farmworkers and to generate increased public interest leading to construc tive actions that would improve the health of individuals and the community as a whole. The resulting publication reported a number of dist urbing statistics. Of the participants surveyed, over 92% reported experiencing some kind of pesticide exposure, including entering unlabeled sprayed fields, through hand lacerations, and from direct spray from airplanes. Over 85% of those interviewed felt that their exposure to pesticides had affected their health and 79% felt that their exposure to pesticides was directly related to their current health problems. Th ese included frequent sinus problems, throat problems, allergies, rheumatoid arthritis, urinary problems, diabetes, skin problems/recurrent rashes, being overweight depression, respiratory problems, asthma, amnesia, acid reflux, and thyroid problems. In addition, a high number of community members reported being diagnosed with l upus, a serious auto-immune disease. The 15 Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is a new approach within environmental health and various other applied fields that seeks to develop an equal partnership between traditional researchers and the community being studied. Within this framework, outside researchers and communities work together in forming research questions, designing studies, and gathering and analyzing data. The end purpose is to develop knowledge that is useful in achieving the communitys goals (OFallon and Dearry 2002). 44


results of the survey indicated that 11% of the respondents live in homes where one or more people have lupus (Habin and Ma tthew 2006). While a connection between pesticide exposure and lupus has not been determined, research shows that African Americans are disproportionately affected by the disease and that many groups with the disease have had past exposure to chlorinate d pesticides such as DDT or experienced ongoing exposure to organophosphates (Colarossi 2001). Another set of important findings, ones th at resonate with the two legal cases mentioned above, are those that have to do with reproductive healt h. Of those surveyed, 13% indicated that they had a child born with a birth de fect, 21% had one or more problem pregnancies, 14% had complicated pr egnancies, 16% had mi scarriages, and 8% had general reproductive problems. Furthermor e, many survey participants indicated great concern over whether their exposure to workplace chemicals has produced multigenerational health effects and particularly effects on the cognitive abilities of their children. Of those interviewees with children, 26% indicated that th ey had one or more children with a learning disabi lity, and of those with gra ndchildren, 37% indicated that they have a grandchild/grandchildren with a learning disability (Habin and Matthew 2006). The community health survey report concluded with more questions than answers: How many community members may be su ffering from diseases that have gone undiagnosed? Which illn esses can be linked to pesticide exposures or immune system suppression due to exposures over long periods of time? What part do organochlorine pesticides play in health problems of this community? Have endocrine-disrupti ng chemicals had an impact on the second or third generations of farmworker families? What cumulative and synergistic impacts have exposure to the various agricultural chemicals 45


had on the communitys overall health? What health hazards have these farmworkers endured to enable an a ffordable and reliable food supply? (Habin and Matthew 2006:5). Despite praise from the EPA and certain sympathetic officials within the Orange County Department of Environmental Health, to date the report on the community health survey has not drawn attention from an institution with the resources to conduct a more thorough health study. Why not? For Lake Apopkas former farmworker community, the lack of attention is a source of bewilderment and di sappointment. The community health survey had already set up a number of hypotheses that could be tested, and more than a hundred people could be mustered up in a short amount of time. Thinking back to the public meeting on environmental health I attended at the John Bridges Center in January 2009, the answer seemed to be plain and simple. Im reminded specifically of the words of an Orange County epidemiologist who was pr esent: Even if we had the money to do medical tests on a substantial por tion of this community, it would be nearly impossible to determine causality between exposure to polluta nts and chronic illnes s. There are simply too many factors at play. While the epidemiologist may be correct in stating that clear cut conclusions can not be obtained from scientific health a ssessments, it is unsatisfactory to use this statement as an endpoint for the discussion re garding toxic substanc es and human health. I would like to argue that the issue is not simply a lack of research or technology. The issue is that the burden for the radical scientific uncertainty surrounding synthetic chemicals and their effects on both th e environment and human bodies is disproportionately placed on minorities and especially women. Scientists, CEOs and 46


bureaucrats working for chemical manufacturers and regulatory agencies can afford to sit on the fence waiting for new research to confirm or deny allegations ag ainst this or that substance; the communities who are left cl ueless about what may be causing their ailments cannot. I cannot stress this argument enough. The reality is that human toxicity data does not exist for many of the pesticides that are freely available. While the US-E PA requires one hundred studies for different kinds of toxicity before any new agrochemical can be registered for the market (US-EPA 2010), there are a number of reasons why available data may not acc urately reflect the hazard potential to humans. First, humans can have vastly different reactions to substances than lab animals such as mice, dogs or rabbits. Second, different individuals have different susceptibilitie s to toxic substances. The EP A does build interspecies uncertainty factors in order to take into account the range of human susceptibility, but even these factors may not be sufficiently protective. As mentioned above, children and the developing fetus are particularly suscepti ble to the effects of toxic substances exposure that shows no observable effect on an adult animal can cause devastating birth defects or interfere with th e normal development of a child16. Additionally, fewer independent studies (those c onducted by a party other than the pesticide manufacturer) have been conducted on newly registered chemi cals, resulting in the appearance that they are less hazardous than those that have been on the market for a longer time and have been more thoroughly studied. Furthermore, lab studies only expose test animals to a single chemical, while in the environment humans are exposed to multip le toxins simultaneously, which can lead 16 The US-EPA tries to make up for this by building in a child uncertainty factor into evaluations, but even this may not be sufficiently protective because of a lack of knowledge of the mechan ism of toxicity in most cases (PANNA 2006). 47


to additive or synergistic effects (PANNA 2006). In 2008, an article published in the journal Oecologia by biologist Rick Reylea found that multiple pesticides can together lead to a highly toxic poisoning, even wh en administered in individual non-toxic amounts. Using only 2-16 parts per billion, levels designated safe by the EPA, of 5 commonly used insecticides and herbicides Reylea demonstrated a near 100 percent mortality rate amongst leopard frogs (Kelly 2008 ). Perhaps these data can be extrapolated to human bodies, perhaps not. Regardless, s ynergistic toxicity continues to remain relatively unstudied and unaccounted for in the regulation process. Another problem lies in the exclusionary nature of toxic s ubstance evaluations. The entire process by which chemicals are test ed for toxicity and evaluated is extremely reactionary and structured in such a way as to favor the chemical and agricultural industry. After a lengthy amount of time, certain pesticides will be re-evaluated for their efficacy and safety, and if substantial eviden ce is presented they may be included on an official toxicity list, which includes carci nogens, teratogens, etc. The process by which chemicals are prioritized for study or included on the toxicity list, however, can be as much political-economic as scientific. Some chemicals have escaped extensive scrutiny because of interference from the chemical or agricultural industry (PANNA 2006). This has largely been the case for Methyl Brom ide, a fumigant that has caused numerous farmworker and non-farmworker injury, but is supposedly invaluable for maintaining profitable tomato and strawberry yi elds in Florida and California. Most official toxicity rankings, for example the ones made by the EPA or the World Health Organization, are evaluated base d on the weight of the evidence. A panel of experts, entirely scientists with terminal degrees in their fields, evaluates all available 48


laboratory studies for a particular type of toxicity as well as any epidemiological or occupational data, and comes to a consensus ra ting for the hazard posed. This is the best system available today, but it has many faults. Fo r one it is expensive to assemble a panel with the necessary credentials, and a few of the scientists may have worked for industry and hence will have a bias. There must also be sufficient data for review, but unfortunately many chemicals have substantial data gaps. More complete info often only comes years after the chemicals have been used and chronic effects have had time to become evident. Furthermore, all of this, as mentioned before, occurs in a context that is highly politicized and loaded w ith private interests (PANNA 2006). Each state has its own Pesticide Review Committee that acts very similar to the national and international systems just menti oned. These too are exclusionary in nature and privilege radical scientific uncertainty even when public intere st groups confront them directly. Jeannie Economos, the coordinator for the Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health Program at FWAF, r ecounted her experience expressing concerns about farmworker pesticide exposure at Fl orida Pesticide Review Committee Meetings: They will have these meetings in one of the board rooms of the University of Floridas Institute of Food and Agriculture and immediately you feel intimidated because you understand that all of these guys know each other. Theyll go through all of these different procedures, and use all of this te rminology that you dont understand, and when they finally get to what you ca me to talk about, theyll dismiss whatever you have to say as non-scientific or not backed by evidence. The times that Ive gone theyve been co mpletely unsupportive and not like the shrewd scientists I wouldve expected them to be. Jeannies sentiments echoed those of a nother activist I had the chance to speak with during my research. According to Be tty MekDeci, founder and director of Birth Defect Research For Children Inc, an or ganization dedicated to providing the public 49


information regarding the harmful effects certain pharmaceuticals and chemicals pose towards children and developing fetuses, and who has worked on and off with the farmworker community over the past thirty years, one of the largest problems is that the Florida state government cares more about the financial success of growers than the social justice issues of farmworkers. In the institutional regulatory environm ent of pesticides and other conspicuous chemicals, the testimony of advocates and affected communities are given very little weight. Despite the difficulty of establishing causality between a disorder of some sort and a chemical, it doesnt necessarily take a scientist to see that chemicals are having an effect on someone, maintains MekDeci. The burden of proof is set high, but the resources needed to even come close to establishing some kind of statistical correlation are non-existent. MekDeci likened this partic ular aspect of the problem of pesticide related illness to the work she does around chem ically-induced birth defects. To establish some kind of correlation between a particular toxin and a particul ar disorder, large macro-scale statistics are needed for compar ison. Most of the time, these are simply not available. When the statistics are collected, howeve r, they have to be collected by some authoritative institution in order for them to be legitimate. Any kind of statistical work that is done by a concerned group of women [o r a community], will simply be dismissed [by regulators] as kitchen science, said MekDeci. In other words community research projects are dismissed because it is thought that they are socially produced in the strictest sense, and therefore loaded with bias and non-scientific. Me kDeci counters this assumption by asserting that the more legitimate scientific research into the toxicity of 50


chemicals is not unaffected by social processe s. Laboratories can be an arena of vicious competition; competing theories, researcher egos, gender inequity, lack of information sharing and the politics of f unding are all directly related to how scientific facts are produced.17 MekDeci also mentioned the uneven power relations inherent in legal confrontations between chemical companies and victims of chemical exposures. Again she referred to her work in birth defects: in many of the legal cases brought against chemical companies that have manufactured a teratogenic product the victim will often get blamed. Women especially are blamed for their childs birth defe cts. Stereotypes and widely held cultural assumption play a big role in this. Cor porations will always make a quick move to say that a he ightened occurrence of birth defects is caused by the poor health habits and lifestyle choices made by a specific population. In the case of farmworker pesticide-rela ted illness, the pestic ide industry pins the blame on workers themselves for being ignoran t of the risks and the appropriate safety procedures. In the pesticide-industry-backed paradigm that has become known as SafeUse, the solution is to train farmworkers how to properly handle pe sticides and how to protect themselves from dangerous leve ls of exposure (Murray and Taylor 2000). Because they emphasize worker training and sa fe field conditions, the regulations set by the EPA and OSHA directly reflect the tenants of the Safe-Use paradigm. The assumption that farmworkers are ignorant of the dangerous eff ects of pesticides, however, fails to explain why Safe-Use traini ng is not reducing the amount of pesticide related illness. A closer, more critical look reveals that pe sticide exposure is directly 17 My own thinking on the matter has been highly influenced by Laboratory Life: The Construction of Scientific Facts by Bruno Latour and Steve Woolgar, whose critiques of science echo those of MekDecis. 51


related to uneven power relati ons between farmworkers and their employers as well as a series of related assumptions held by both farmworkers and farmers. Critiquing Safe-Use: Two major sets of federal regulations ar e in place to reduce pesticide exposure among farmworkers. These are The Worker Pr otection Standard (WPS) instituted by the EPA in 1994, and the housing and field sa nitation regulations instituted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administra tion (OSHA). The WPS requires, in addition to posting re-entry intervals and specific pe sticide-use information, that agricultural workers receive pesticide safety training before they accrue five days of work. The training is supposed to be given by a licensed pesticide applicator, but in practice most growers just show their workers a video, an opt ion allowed as an alternative to an oral presentation (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:110-13). According to staff at the FWAF, most workers either sleep through the video or are unable to unders tand it because they cannot read the Spanish subtitles or they do not speak Spanish18. The OSHA housing and field sanitation laws require that agricultural employers with eleven employees or more provide near by drinking, toilet, and washing facilities for farmworkers while they are in the field. Thes e regulations are particularly important as frequent hand washing before eating and us ing the restroom coupled with post-work clothes-washing and showering, can greatly reduce the dose of pes ticide received each day at the workplace (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:112). 18 Migrants streaming into Florida are not a homogeneous group of Spanish speakers; many come from the highlands of Southern Mexico and Guatemala where dozens of languages are sp oken. To these migrants, Spanish can be a foreign language (Bowe 2007:11). 52


It is worth mentioning, that none of thes e standards would exist had farmworkers and their advocates not engage d in political action. Prior to 1987, agricultural employers were exempt from the requirements outlined in the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 (Frizvold et al. 1988, Sakala 1987) and the US EPA Workers Protection Standard did not exist. On many farms, from World War II well into the late-twentieth century working conditions were deplorable and farms lacked even the most basic amenities. In an interview, Geraldean Matth ew recounted to me how on the Lake Apopka muck farms, farmworkers had to bring their own drinking water into the fields, were never told about pesticides that were spra yed, and how women farm workers wore skirts over their pants to gain at least a little privac y when they relieved themselves in the field. On the national level, from the ear ly 1980s onward, farmworker advocates pressured both OSHA and the US Department of Labor to address the gaping disparity in worker protections and field sanitation. In 1985, responding to this pressure, the US Department of Labor commissioned a study wh ich found infectious disease levels in farmworkers equivalent to those found in developing countries. The study, coupled with a lawsuit and popular community organizi ng amongst several national farmworker organizations eventually led to the creation of legislation which forced growers to comply with the sanitation standards found in other industries (Arcur y and Quandt 2009b:113). In Florida, the struggle for farmworker protections was spearheaded by a small coalition of organizations led by FWAF. Afte r years of organizing and lobbying state law makers, the coalition succeeded in getting th e first Right to Know law passed in 1994, which codified the Federal Worker Protec tion Standard into state law (Riley 2002:126). For the first time, growers could face a fine if they did not orally or visually notify 53


farmworkers of the pesticides they sprayed in the fields. Following on the success had in 1994, FWAF and the coalition continued to or ganize, and in 2004 th e Right to Know law was renewed under the Alfr edo Bahena Act. Named in memory and in honor of FWAFs former Health and Safety Coordina tor, the Alfredo Bahena Act also makes it illegal for employers to retaliate agains t farmworkers if they request pesticide information, and it increased the amount of state field sanitation inspectors. Despite these minimal regulations and th e political action that it took to achieve them, however, research indicates that th ere is widespread uneven compliance by growers (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:113). Hence th e first part of th e critique of SafeUse: the lack of regulatory enforcement. In general, studies have shown that one-quarter to one-half of farmworkers indicate that th ey have not received any pesticide safety training, whether it be formal or informal. For example, about half of the farmworkers interviewed in 1998 and 1999 in eastern North Ca rolina indicated that they had received pesticide safety training (A rcury et al. 2001). In 2002-2003, three out of four women (76.8%) in western North Carolina farmwork er families indicated that at least one untrained worker lived in their households including 87 households (61.3%) with no trained workers (Rao et al. 2006). In 2004, among 60 farmworkers in eastern North Carolina with children less than six years of age, 38% of mothers and 28% of fathers who do farm work had not received pesticide safety training (Arc ury et al. 2007). Furthermore, very few farmworkers can name any pesticide used where they work. Fewer than half of farmworkers interv iewed indicated that they are told about pesticides that have been applied where they are working, that information on pesticides that have been applied is posted in an accessi ble location, or that warning signs are posted 54


around fields to which pesticides have been applied (Arcury et al. 2001). In Florida, a community study of farmworkers by Flocks et al. (2007) revealed similar conclusions with the majority of interviewees indicating th at they had not receiv ed pesticide training and did not know what kinds of pesticid es were being utilized in the fields. Unfortunately, very little research ha s been conducted to document field sanitation conditions in the United States, and evidence of conditions in the eastern US is even more limited (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:11 4). However, in-depth interviews and surveys conducted with North Carolina farmwo rkers, farmers, and cooperative extension agents in 2001 (Arcury et al.) revealed farm workers working in fields with inadequate field sanitation. Although most workers (90%) stated that drinking water is usually provided, fewer (66%) reported that the requir ed disposable drinki ng cups are usually provided (Arcury et al. 2001). Only one thir d of farmworkers stated that water for washing is always or usually available, and 40% said it was seldom or never available. Furthermore, 56% of workers reported that the same water source is often provided for drinking and hand-washing. This is especia lly problematic for those farmworkers who believe that washing themselves with cold water can cause rheumatism, arthritis, and other illnesses because drinking water is ofte n iced. According to farmworkers reports, toilets are often not available while workers are in the fields. Less than one third of workers said field toilets are always or usually available, and over half said they are seldom or never available (Arcury et al. 2001). Because these regulations are so rarely enfo rced, I believe that it is reasonable to say that at the present moment they do mo re harm than good. They provide a legalistic framework behind which regulators and the pe sticide industry can continue to blame 55


farmworker ignorance of pesticide exposure as the source of the problem. In truth, farmworkers are not as ignorant about the da ngers as regulators and pesticide companies would like to believe. Flocks et al. (2007) found that lay knowledge amongst farmworkers about pesticide-related illness in Fl orida is considerable and overlaps greatly with what is taught in pesticide safety trai ning. So why has pesticide related illness not decreased amongst farmworkers? I would like to argue that the reason is not simply a lack of training or awareness, but rather how the problem of pesticide exposure is officially perceived by regulators and the pesticide industry. As Murray and Taylor (2000) have critiqued, the tec hnocratic approach of the Saf e-Use paradigm is informed by a nave sociology that takes for grante d the uneven social relations between farmworkers and their employers. In other words, the real problem is that farmworkers, at the moment, lack the political power necessary to protect them selves at the work place. Even when farmworkers do receive protective materials a nd education, they must continue to face the pressures put on by the grower and must wo rk in conditions that are outside of their control. Growers may be reluctant to provide information regarding pesticides and safety because they do not want workers being overcautious or thinking that protective equipment is necessary as these measure often hamper production. Farmworkers are likely to reduce th eir exposure to pesticides by taking precautions and implementing safety measures, but only when they feel that they have some control over pesticide exposure levels in their work situations. Farmworkers, however, often have very little ability to ch ange their work conditions. Few farmworkers complain or refuse to enter a recently sprayed field because of the fear of being labeled a 56


troublemaker, and ultimately of being fi red (Austin 2002:202). In the United States these problems stem from the barring of farmworkers from fo rming officially recognized unions, as well as a series of social barri ers that impede transnational workers from directly confronting the power of capital. 57


Chapter 2: The Social Dimensions of Pesticide Exposure In the United States, and perhaps glob ally, farmworkers must suffer the paradox of being indispensable to the functioning of the modern food system and yet expendable as individual workers. In a social landscap e increasingly shaped by transnational forces outside of their control, farmworkers must compete with each other for slave wages and grueling work conditions. In this chapter, I briefly describe the hi storical origins of farmworker powerlessness and attempt to outlin e the numerous social factors that enable farmworker exploitation, and hence pest icide exposure, to continue today. Like in other industries, the problem of farmworker exploitation is historically grounded in how the problem of labor supply and labor demand has been solved by the combined interests of the U.S. government and agricultural capita l (Hahamovitch 1997; Thompson 2002a). During World War II when fa rm labor was scarce and crops plentiful, farmworkers had greater leverage in negotia ting wages. The longer crops sat out in the fields, the more money the farmer was willi ng to pay to have them picked. For example in 1943, during the height of Wo rld War II, a hamper of green beans went for 40 cents, while a decade earlier during the Great Depres sion, when labor was in greater supply, farmers only offered 15 to 25 cents. When it came to fruit and vegetable farm ing, labor supply determined wages and the farmworker struggle for power occurred only at that moment when he sold his labor to the farmer for a day, a week or a season. The power that farmworkers wielded during 58


these moments must not be understated. A st ark contrast to todays conditions, if farmworkers refused to work, they could cause a farmer to lose his seasons crop and thus his entire years investment. As such, the history of farmworker exploitation revolves around the efforts of East Coast farmers to in crease the number of cheap workers at their disposal and to minimize farm wages (Hamhamovitch 1997:4). Policy-wise, the first blow to farmworkers was made by their exclusion, at the behest of the agricultural lobby, from the collective bargaining and minimum wage provisions of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. Uninvited to the negotiation table between state and capital, farmworkers struggled without federal sanction, and as a result were fatally weak. Even though a 1966 re vision of the law granted farmworkers minimum wage and social security benefits, they are still denied the right to overtime pay, receive no medical insurance or sick leav e, and are denied federal protection against retaliatory actions by employers if they seek to organi ze or form a union (Bowe 2007:36, Riley 2002:71, Hamhamovitch 1997:13). Most significant, however was how the government disabled the ability of farmworkers to strike by taking an active role in compensating for farmers shortages of labor. According to Hamhamovitch (1997), U. S. government intervention has taken two contradictory forms in this respect. Sin ce growers started complaining about labor shortages in the 1890s, federal officials did wh at they could to im port workers to where they were needed, but lacking an effective st ructure to achieve this, the USDA resorted to recommending that local governments use coercive work-or-fight campaigns to keep the then mostly African American workers in the fields. 59


During the late 1930s, however, New Deal liberals, acting on the concerns that self-appointed farm labor advocates had b een raising since the Progressive Era, effectively made farmworkers wards of the state by settling strikes and establishing a migratory labor camp program meant to uplift and provide shelter fo r the transient poor. New Deal liberals, acting on a policy of welfar e reform, built an administrative structure of staff, buildings, operational procedures and contacts that effectiv ely reached into the areas where farmworker were laboring and pr ovided shelter, food and safe transportation to the fields. During the Second World War, however, grower advocates in the USDA commandeered the interventionist welfare a pparatus created by New Dealers and used it to operate a large and very e ffective labor supply effort, whic h replaced militant domestic migrants with farmworkers imported fr om abroad under no-strike contracts (Hamhamovitch 1997:9-11). Capitalizing on the falsely constructed fear that there was not enough labor to harvest the nations produce, farm interests were able to get Congress to enact the Bracero program in 1942, which imported five million Mexican workers for nine month periods (Bowe 2007:39; Riley 2002:155). New Deal liberals created a welfare apparatus designed to serve migrant farmworkers, but farmworkers saw that apparatus used to house and to transport foreign workers who displaced them during the Sec ond World War and long afterwards. In the words of Hamhamovitch: when African American workers in the East and Mexican American workers in the West respo nded to labor shortages by demanding higher wages or better housing, grower s called on federal officials to hold down farm wages or find other sour ces of cheap uncontroversial labor. Federal officials obliged, excluding farmworkers and domestics from New Deal collective bargaining legislatio n, opening the border to Mexican and 60


Caribbean immigrants during the Firs t World War, and actively importing them during the Second World WarUnable to organize legally, farmworkers movements were easily defeated, and without them, farmworkers were unable to oppose an immigration policy tailored to growers needs (1997:12-3). The situation today reflects the logica l progression of this exploitative stategrower partnership, but with a series of new developments brought upon largely by processes of neoliberal global economic rest ructuring and uneven development (Arcury and Marn 2009:31). The result is a farmwork er labor system that may be even more exploitative than it was in th e past. Unfortunately, much of this is due in part to the changing face of agricultural workers in the United States, who are increasingly displaced and in dire economic need. Up until the 1990s, farmworkers along the East Coast included relatively equal numbers of African Americans, Afro-Caribbean islanders, Latinos/Hispanics as well as rural whites from regions such as Appalach ia. Now, however, Latinos make up the large majority of farmworker populations in most areas of the country (Holt and Mattern 2002:22; Arcury and Quandt 2009:1). In 1998, th e National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) revealed that 77 percent of all farmworkers were Mexican-born, 9 percent were U.S.-born Latino citizens, 1 pe rcent were African American citizens, 7 percent were U.S.-born non-Latino whites, 1 percent were foreign-born Asian, and the remaining 5 percent were U.S.-born or non-U.S. citizen s from the Caribbean and Latin American countries other than Mexico (Mehta et al. 2000). Additionally, many migrant farmworkers today are indigenous peoples from the highlands of Southern Mexico and Guatemala (Bowe 2007:11; Riley 2002:10-11). 61


The reasons for this demographic shift ar e many and varied, but two factors stand out as most salient. For one, American grow ers did not let up on their demand for cheap labor. From 1942 onward, the Bracero program attracted many Mexicans to the United States, who, despite having e xperienced unfair treatment at the hand of American farmers, often stayed because there was mo re economic opportunity to be had than in Mexico. As a result, many Bracero workers remained in the country without documents and attempted to establish themselves and their families as agricultural workers or other kinds of laborers. While the Bracero program ended in 1964, due to protest from labor unions and other groups concerne d about abuses and jobs for domestic workers, a similar measure, the H2A program, replaced it. Under the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act, the H2A program allows growers access to a huge foreign labor force as long as minimum wage is met, housing accommodations provided, and free transportation and three meals a day are given. By law, growers requesting H2A workers must be able to prove that there are not enough domestic workers in the area. In practice, however, the H2A workers are used by the growers to replace domestic workers, and seldom are they paid the wages promised to them (Riley 2002:156). The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 additionally gave amnesty to millions of undocumented resident s and inadvertently created a pull factor whereby individuals saw an opportunity to im migrate to the United States. Thus an act intended to solve perceived U.S. immigrati on problems created a larger population of undocumented workers entering the country (Holt and Mattern 2002:27). 62


While individuals from Latin America and elsewhere attempt to maximize their incomes by taking jobs as farmworkers in the United States, they are also pushed northward by failing local economies due in part to U.S. trade policies, such as structural adjustments and the North American Free Trad e Agreement (NAFTA). It is important to understand that many farmworkers are former fa rmers, or the children of farmers, who have lost their land and are driven to the United States out of necessity because they can no longer compete in an agricu ltural market flooded with subsidized U.S. products. Many farmworkers come to the U.S. with the e xpress purpose of saving money and sending it home where it can be used to support family members (Thompson 2002a:10; Bowe 2007:11). The demographic shift and the reasons for it reveal one of the new aspects of the industrial food system: the majority of fa rmworkers today are undocumented immigrants invisible to the eyes of most American citi zens. Capitalizing on the fear many of these immigrants have of being deported, of be ing prosecuted by an increasingly antiimmigrant culture, of being deprived of the employment they so desperately need, labor contractors, growers and corpor ate agribusiness engage in an exploitative activity that many have likened to modern day slavery (Bowe 2007; Thompson and Wiggins 2002; Coalition of Immokalee Workers 2010; Student Farmworker Alliance 2010). The fundamental problem is that, because of their powerlessness and the relative ease of replacing them, growers and labor contractors can pay undocumented workers very little, and this in turn drives down the wages and working conditions of both foreign documented workers and domestic farmworkers. Gone are the days when farmworkers could at least negotiate certai n work conditions or ask for si ck leave. If a farmworker 63


were to speak out against injustice today, th ey may be replaced and could perhaps lose out on work opportunities for the week or even the season. It is estimated that nationally over 50% of farmworkers are undocumented. In Florida, the number is estimated to be a whopping 80% during the height of the tomato season. More than one fifth of farmworkers at any given time are in their first year of work and seldom are they informed of thei r rights or oriented to the local culture (Thompson 2002a:11; Bowe 2007:12). Many of them are young, single men who enter the country with very little m oney and little to no contacts. As such, they are highly dependent on the cayotes19 that smuggle them and the labo r contractor or crew boss who often provides them food, housing, and transportation to and from work. It is important to emphasize the Mafios o nature of these arrangements between Cayotes, Crew Bosses and farmworkers. In his journalistic account of the lives of undocumented farmworkers in Immokalee Fl orida, John Bowe (2007) describes how many farmworkers are forced into debt peonage and isolated in small trailer park camps. In these camps crew, bosses may set unusua lly high rents and force farmworkers to purchase highly priced goods from the co mpany store. Furthermore, wages may be withheld and interest on debt increased at random. Bowe ev en describes numerous cases where undocumented farmworkers were murdered for having defied a crew bosss orders. While this is most definitely an extreme case, it is true that most farmworkers have very tight financial resources and little flexibility with their time. Many farmworkers are simply trying to work as much as they can before they move onto the 19 Cayotes are human traffickers who act as border crossing guides for small groups of people. They are paid by those they are guiding at an exorbitant rate and often combines the trip with drug trafficking activities. As such the journey can be very dangerous and it is not uncommon for Cayotes to steal from and extort their clients. 64


next job in construction or some other form of manual labor. Unfortunately, leaving farm work is the only resort many have to reduce th eir hardship. This is an important factor preventing the assembly of a cohesive labor rights group to change the agricultural system (Thompson 2002a:10). Another important aspect of the undoc umented immigrant experience is the outright fear of being deported. Financially speaking, the threat of deportation is often real as workers will borrow mone y to travel north from loan sharks back home at interest rates of 25 percent per month. If they are de ported, the loan is foreclosed and homes frequently put up as collateral are lost (Bowe 2007:13). Socially, the costs are even worse. Crew bosses and growers often us e the threat of deportation to coerce undocumented farmworkers into accepting lo wer wages and poorer working conditions. While in the past these threats were to a certain extent empty, as reporting by a crew leader or a grower would also implicate th em, recent national events are lending their threats more credibility. Recent support for Arizonas heavy-handed new immigration law SB 1070 shows that, amongst certain sectors of U.S. society (by no means all), there is a growing antiimmigrant sentiment. While I cannot speak dir ectly to the case of Arizona, I can discuss briefly my experiences attending a community meeting with the Lake Country Sheriff who was accused of racial profiling after a number of Latino individuals were pulled over and asked for residency documentation. A number of them turned out to be undocumented, and in one tragic case a hus band was deported and separated from his wife and child. 65


At the meeting, numerous community leaders stepped forward and urged the Sheriff to cease the contr oversial actions. Particularly poignant for me was how community leaders discussed a growing anxi ety amongst the Hispanic community and a general sense of fear of police harassment. The Sheriff s only response was that he was doing what he was empowered by the law, a nd particularly a new program implemented by the Immigration and Natu ralization Service, to do. Farmworkers in general, both documen ted and undocumented, already try to avoid civil servants and the police as much as possible. Incidences such as the one in Lake County tend to reaffirm a nxieties and fears about authority in the U.S. and only lead to farmworkers remaining silent about very real human rights infract ions such as debt peonage, unlawful detainment by employers, and physical abuse. Farmworker communities are already quite segregated and isolated and a growing national discourse that frames undocumented immigrants as in dividuals committing illegal acts will only make things worse. Returning to the problem of pesticide exposure, the n, farmworkers will not speak out or demand proper protections because they do not want to be labeled trouble makers. Being labeled a trouble maker can carry with it the consequence of being black-listed from all employment in a regi on and ultimately of drawing potentially dangerous attention to yourself Most farmworkers simply wish to remain under the radar and silent in an environment that they perc eive to be increasingly hostile towards them and their presence. Given this reality, justice for farmworker s demands a critical rethinking of U.S. Immigration Policy, and a critique of the hypocritical stance the United States 66


government seems to take when it actively imports disempowered labor while enforcing national borders. Furthermore, the legal structure which prohibits farmworkers from forming unions must be challenged. Cultural reasons for pesticide exposure: While structural inequality is an essential feature of the environmental injustice of pesticide exposure, there are also a variety of cultural factors that come into play when determining farmworker risk. Both farmer s/growers and farmworkers bring their own systems of belief and knowledge to their wor k. Unfortunately, some of these beliefs lead to behavior and actions that are at odds with safe pesticide practic es (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:116). American farmer culture and its view of agricultural occupational hazards may be said to have the greatest ramifications fo r farmworkers. In general farmers have a remarkably high tolerance for risk, believing that most things will simply work out in the end. They readily acknowledge the hazards of farm work, but often adopt an optimistic bias with regards to this hazard. In a way, they exempt themselves from this risk by emphasizing their experience and n ear-misses in the past. Most farmers place greater priority on the effi cient production of food and fiber than upon safety. As businessmen, they see most safety measures as contributing little to their efficiency and productivity (Arcury and Marn 2009:19-20). W ith regards to pesticides specifically, many farmers feel that the dangers are ex aggerated and that pesticide use is overregulated (Arcury and Quandt 2009:118). 67


In studies among California farmworkers and farm owners, Grieshop and colleagues (1996 in Arcury and Marn 2009: 20) found that there was a powerful and pervasive belief among farmworkers that in jury and illness were under an external control, external to both the worker a nd the farm owner. These workers valued prevention efforts, but believed equally in accepting the inherent dangers of the job and trusting their ability to cope with hazards that arise. The farmers high tolerance of risk, de nial of susceptibil ity, and skepticism regarding safety measure can contribute sign ificantly to the problems encountered by some farmworkers. In some cases, exposur e to heat, chemical, ergonomic, and other hazards may simply reflect an extension of the owners personal approach to risk and prevention. The power-imbalance between th e grower-farmworker relationship can amplify this risk, however. Farmworkers per ception of being in the hands of fate and their recognition of the extreme power imba lance both significantl y reduce the likelihood of their objecting to observed hazards in the workplace (Arcury and Marn 2009:20). While working on projects and conducti ng interviews with the former Lake Apopka farmworkers, I noticed how many of them had a strong Christian faith and consistently referred to the power of the Lord to see things thr ough. Consequently, I saw how this led to the acceptance of negative c onditions, such as poor health and poverty as described by Arcury and Marin, but I also sa w the strength of this optimism as well. When this spiritual optimism was combined with some of our community projects, notably the Lake Apopka Memorial Quilt proj ect, I would say that I felt a sense of communitas with the farmworkers and the othe r volunteers who helped bring the project to fruition. In the final chapter I will discuss this in more detail. 68


Amongst Latino/Hispanic farmworkers, an important cultural concept is personalismo. Personalismo describes the expectation Latino/Hispanic farmworkers have of developing warm, friendly personal rela tionships with both their co-workers and employers. They also expect to be treated with respect and dignity (respeto y dignidad ) based on their age, gender and social positi on, and show this resp ect and dignity to others. On the basis of these values, Lati no/Hispanic farmworkers expect that their employer will protect them, but they are also hesitant to disagree with their employer about occupational safety, as it could jeopardize the relationship (Arcury and Marn 2009: 28). In the context of strong competiti on for agricultural employment, it is understandable that farmworker will try to ma ke as many social connections as possible, even if it means that safety concerns are not addressed. Furthermore, Latino/Hispanic farmworkers apply their own lay health belief systems, which in turn affect different as pects of pesticide exposure. For example many farmworkers believe in humoral medicine th e idea that substances and materials have different humors corresponding to either hot or cold, and that mixing hot and cold results in sickness. This particularly affects the wa y farmworkers feel about hand-washing in the fields. Because their bodies are hot after workin g, they feel that they should avoid contact with water until their bodies are cool. This unfortunately may lead to greater exposure (Arcury and Quandy 2009b:117). Lay health belief systems also affect how farmworkers may interpret pesticide poisoning symptoms. For example Baer and Penzell (1993) discovered th at one quarter of interviewed farmworkers in Florida who expe rienced an incident of pesticide poisoning interpreted their symptoms in terms of the Mexican folk illness susto. While culturally 69


valid, the attribution of pesticide exposure symptoms to folk categories of illness could limit the use of needed formal medical care (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:117). Additionally, many farmworkers self-treat their illnesses a nd injuries in order to continue working and save money. Unfortunate ly, farmworkers who choose to forego a doctors visit have sometimes reported being sick for a whole seas on. Willingness to selftreat illness and injuries could increase risk for continued illness, complications and longterm health effects (Arcury and Marin 2009:30). With regards to knowledge about pes ticides, few farmworkers are aware that pesticides can have long-term affects on h ealth. Many believe that pesticide poisonings are only damaging the moment they happen an d not afterwards. Another belief that farmworkers commonly have, but is not true in all cases, is that for there to be the potential of pesticide exposure, sensory detection is necessary. Smell in particular is held to be an indicator, with strength in odor c onsidered to reflect risk of exposure (Arcury and Quandt 2009b:116). Lastly there is the problem of language and literacy, especially among farmworkers of indigenous descent who ma y speak an unwritten language. Seldom can they read pesticide labels or understand safe ty orders that may be given (Arcury and Marin 2009:29). As mentioned previously fa rmworkers will often ignore, be unable to comprehend, or will fall asleep through pest icide safety presentations mandated by the US EPA Worker Protection St andard. When farmworkers are checked into a medical facility for pesticide related symptoms they sometimes have great difficulty communicating to the health care practitioner what is specifically ailing them. What these two experiences share is an underdevelope d sense of cultural sensitivity. The WPS 70


training does not typically emphasize its own importance, and doctors do not always know what to look for in their farmworker patients. In response to both of these problems, the Farmworker Association of Florida has created a number of education programs to tr ain farmworkers, health care practitioners and volunteers to be better advocates of pes ticide safety and environmental justice. In addition the FWAF conducts audits of farms to ensure grower compliance to safety regulations and engages in pol itical work to achieve pest icide reform. In the next chapter, I detail my experiences particip ating and observing these activities, whilst putting into context the activist work of FWAF and its allies In so doing, I highlight the challenges of fighting for environmental ju stice amid issues of farmworker poverty. 71


Chapter 3: The Fight for Environmental Justice ________________________________________________________________________ For farmworkers, the struggle to achiev e better wages and working conditions has proven to be a lengthy and difficult task. Unlike other social movements which can derive political power from large constituencies who are unafraid to exercise their right to assembly and freedom of speech, farmworker movements suffer from representing people who must remain in the shadow s of American society. The constant reconfiguration of farmworker communities and the fear of deportation and abuse amongst undocumented and foreign workers combin e to make it very difficult to organize a large group of farmworker s for some form of direct action. As such, non-profit organizations representing farmworker in terests have become the primary vehicle through which matters of economic and environmental justice are fought. One such organization, and the focus of my researc h, has been the Farmwo rker Association of Florida. Founded in 1983 to provide emergency s upport and represent the interests of citrus farmworkers who were left destitute and unemployed after a series of freezes, the Farmworker Association of Florida, Inc. is a membership organization of over 7,000 farmworker families from predominatel y Mexican, Haitian, African American, Guatemalan and Salvadoran communities all ac ross Florida. Its stated mission is to build power among farmworker and rural low-in come communities to respond to and gain control over the social, political, economic, workplace, health and environmental justice 72


issues that impact their lives, and its vision is a social environment where farmworkers contribution, dignity, and worth are acknow ledged, appreciated, and respected This vision includes farmworkers being treated as equals, and not exploited and discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, immigrant status, gender, or socio-economic status. The members of FWAF work mainly in fe rns, sod, foliage, citrus, vegetables, and mushrooms, but many are also retired farm workers and former farmworkers who have moved on to new jobs such as construction or domestic work. The constituency is therefore varied and to a large extent shared informally with sister organizations in the Apopka area, such as the Farmworker Ministr y, the Office for Peace and Justice, and the Hope Community Center20. This has been both beneficial and problematic for FWAF, as sub-constituencies have very specific probl ems and needs, but it has also enabled the organization to operate with great programmatic breadth. Like many established non-profits se rving disempowered groups, FWAF is extremely multifunctional, with its activitie s running the gamut from providing direct assistance to individuals to or ganizing rallies and marches. During my fieldwork period, I had the opportunity to learn about many of FWAFs programs. Sisters Compaeras and Bebe te Amo, both womens educational a nd support groups, provide a much needed venue for farmworker women to learn about pregnancy and post-partum health, HIV, and to organize around issues effec ting women in particular. The Disabilities and Vocational Occupation Program helps to provide heal thcare for farmworkers suffering from 20 Many of Apopkas non-profit organizations were started with a great amount of help from the Orlando Catholic Diocese. Four nuns in particular have devoted much of their lives to aiding Apopkas rural and urban poor, and from the outset helped provide the groundwork for many of Apopkas non-profit organizations. I had the great fortune of meeting two of them. 73


disabilities and work-related inju ries and serves as an avenue for those looking to change jobs through vocational training. Reflecting its largely foreign and Hispan ic constituency, the organization has dedicated staff members who provide immigra tion information and assistance. They also provide access to legal help when a farmworker seeks workers compensation or is cheated out of wages by his or her employer. Additionally, FWAF helps its constituents create a culturally inviting atmo sphere and offers its facilities as a venue for festivals and community organizing around a variety of issues. In its twenty years, the organization has had a number of significant successes. Among its most recent accomplishments is th e successful passage of the Farmworker Transportation Safety Act in 2006, which requi res that vans transporting farmworkers have seatbelts21; the successful passage of the Fa rmworkers Right-to-Know Law in 2004 (also known as the Alfredo Bahena Act), which reasserted the US EPA Worker Protection Standard in the state of Florida; and three successf ul lawsuits which resulted in coverage for fern cutters under the Agricultura l Worker Protection Act. Furthermore, the organization has successfully organized farmworkers to achieve better pay and working conditions on over 60 farms and is a leader in th e state when it comes to disaster response and preparing farmworker communities for hurricanes What the Farmworker Association of Florida is recognized nationally for, however, is its specialization in Immigrants Rights and Pesticide Safety. With respect to the latter, FWAF has developed a comprehens ive and strategic program that addresses the problem of pesticide exposure and related illness on multiple fronts. The program 21 Sadly, an alarming number of farmworkers lose th eir lives in automobile accidents that are typically caused by a severe lack of vehicle maintenance. 74


currently consists of four interrelated compone nts: 1) proper pesticid e safety training for farmworkers, 2) complaints/diagnsticos for fa rms not operating in compliance, 3) health care provider training in the ev aluation of pesticide exposure of farmworkers, and 4) mobilizing political pressure for pesticide reform. As mentioned previously, pesticide sa fety training as mandated by the current EPA Worker Protection Standard is hard ly adequate when it comes to teaching farmworkers about the dangers of pesticides and how to properly protect themselves on farms. To counteract both the lack of training an d the lack of information retention that is common when only videos are shown, FWAF has designed an interactive pesticide safety training presentation that is culturally se nsitive towards farmworkers. One of the organizations yearly goals is to train 500 workers in pesticide safety. In 2008, FWAF was able to train 587 workers. In response to the problem of the lack of enforcement of OSHA sanitation and EPA WPS regulations on farms, FWAF attemp ts to fill the enforcement gaps with its own complaints/ diagnsticos protocol. Acco rding to the Farmworkers Right-to-Know Law, farmworkers are allowed to make formal complaints regarding growers who are not within compliance, and by law they are protect ed from retaliation from their employer. In practice, however, the law is not keen to th e realities of farm la bor and cannot protect a farmworker from being black-listed or disc onnected from vital life-lines. This is especially true for undocumented workers. By acting as the complaining agent, the FWAF is able to afford a degree of anonym ity to farmworkers who are concerned about their working conditions, but would rather rema in outside of the spotlight. FWAF tries to conduct a minimum of 75 complaints/diagnsticos per year. 75


Another part of the problem of pestic ide exposure is that pesticide related symptoms are seldom diagnosed by doctors and hence are seldom reported. The health care provider training in the ev aluation of pesticide exposure of farmworkers is a class that FWAF gives to teach hea lth care practitioners how to properly identify pesticide poisoning related symptoms and how to report su ch symptoms to the proper authorities. All three of these compone nts feed into the fourth goal of FWAFs Pesticide Health and Safety Program, which is to create political pressure fo r pesticide reform and ultimately to minimize the hazards posed by pe sticides in the fields. The reporting of grower violations and incidences of pesticide poisoning he lp farmworker advocates and leaders to build a case against certain part icularly hazardous pesticides and pesticide practices when appealing to state regulatory agencies. Pesticide safety training helps to disseminate important information that could lead to farmworkers exercising caution to the extent that they are able to. In addition to these four activities, FWAF engages on and off in research and ecological monitoring projects with academ ics and other advocacy groups. Noteworthy projects have been the Lake Apopka Environmental Health Project Community Survey, a Social Marketing campaign with the Univ ersity of Florida regarding proper handwashing in the fields, and a pesticide resi due air drift ecological monitoring project conducted with the Pesticide Action Network. During my fieldwork, I had the opportunity to sit in on one pesticide safety training for farmworkers, one for farmworker advocates (volunteers who wanted to help specifically with pesticide-rela ted issues), and one health care provider training. In what follows, I describe these expe riences with an eye toward s explaining underlying social 76


dynamics both on a micro-social and macro-soci al scale. Unfortunately, my analysis will necessarily be incomplete as I was unable to participate in all of the pesticide related activities that FWAF engages i n. That said, the ethnographic anal ysis I give here is better seen as a starting point for further research into how environmental justice activists are fighting for change with respect to this issue in the South Eastern U. S. and in Florida. Pesticide Safety Training for Farmworkers: Relying on my field notes, I present here a narrative re-telling of a Pesticide Safety Training that was given for both farm workers and visiting students in the meeting room of the Farmworker Associatio n of Floridas Apopka facility: Sitting in a semi-circle of chairs, we a ll faced intently towards Jeannie and Ana, the presenters who were giving us the training that day. Je annie removed three bottles from a large bag and set them on a small tabl e in front of us. Each bottle contained a different color liquid: one was red, one pink, and the other orange. Speaking to us in English while Ana translated into Spanish, Jean nie asked us which of the liquids in these three bottles seemed good to drink. A bit perp lexed, one of the students said that they would drink the orange one, another said the pink one looked good, and still another said well they all look good to drink Smiling at us, Jeannie pointed to each of the bottles. Pointing to the red one she said, this is fruit-punch, point ing to the orange one she said this is oran ge juice, and pointing to the pink one she said this is phosdrin, a deadly poison if ingested. Sounds of affirmation around the room indicated that Jean nie points was getting across: that it is hard to know what something is without a label. One of th e biggest hazards farmworkers 77


face is not knowing what substances they are working around, said Jeannie. At that moment, the two farmworkers who were present told about how crew leaders would sometimes hand out cut unlabeled bottles and containers for the purpose of holding drinking water in the field. Jeannie then showed us two posters w ith large illustrations of farmworkers exhibiting both the long-term and short-te rm affects of pesticide exposure. Las pesticidias pueden tener un efecto grave immediatamente y adems pueden causar enfermedades chronicas, como el diabetes y la cancer (Pesticides can immediately have a harsh effect and additionally they can cause chronic illnesses such as diabetes and cancer), said Ana. Out of the same large bag, Jeannie pulled out new props: some toy fruits and vegetables and a straw hat. She requeste d a volunteer from the audience for the enactment of a little dramatic piece. Giving the straw hat to the volunteer, who was in this case one of the visiting students, Jeannie told him that he was to play the part of a farmworker and she a grower. Throwing th e vegetables on the ground, Jeannie, the grower, demanded that the farmworker pick the fruits and vegetables. As we all chuckled a bit at the sight of the student toiling, Jea nnie pulled toy bugs from the bag and littered them all over the fruits and vegetables. O h no! exclaimed Jeannie, those bugs are going to ruin my harvest. I better spray right now! The gr ower immediately pulled out her pesticide (in this case it was actually just a bottle of a non-toxic cleaning powder) and sprinkled it all over the bugs and the crops. The farmworker, confused at what just happened, paused and looked at the grower. Well. What are you standing there for? Keep picking that produce! said the grower. The farmworker complied. 78


Jeannie stopped the skit, and asked ever yone what they saw. It looked like the farmworker was wrongfully exposed to pestic ides, said the professor of the visiting students. I felt pressured to keep worki ng even though I knew you sprayed pesticides, said the volunteer. Este pasa mucho cua ndo estas trabajando. De vez cuando se puede oler algo muy fuerte en el aire (This happens a lot when you are working. Every so often you can smell a really strong odor in the air), said one of the farmworkers. Jeannie nodded her head and pointed to the recently powdered bugs and vegetables. Nobody should have to work right after or during the ti me pesticides are sprayed. Pesticides are something that people should be protected from and that people should make every attempt to protect themselves from, she said. Pointing to the volunteers hands, Jeanni e asked what the farmworker should do next. He should probably wash his hands. He s hould be fine then, said a student. But what about his clothing? Aren t there a bunch of residues on his shirt and pants? said Jeannie. I guess he is goi ng to have to strip down for us, said one of the volunteers friends. Everyone laughed. Really though, its important that farmworkers bathe immediately when they get home and that they separate work clothes from the rest of the laundry. The same goes for boots and gloves, said Jeannie. Moving on to the next exercise, Jeannie th rew a pile of clothes into the middle of the room and called up another volunteer. Again it was one of the visiting students. Now I want you to pick out from this pile the clothes you would wear for a long day of work out in the fields. The volunteer picked a pair of jeans and a short sl eeved dress shirt. Uh oh. What is wrong here? asked Jeannie. La ca miseta no protg los brazos (The shirt doesnt protect the arms), said one of the farmworkers. Exactly, said Jeannie. While 79


a short sleeve shirt might be more comfortabl e in the hot sun, a l ong sleeve shirt offers more protection against both sunburn and pesticides. Also, when choosing what kind of boots to wear always go with rubber boots as they keep your feet dry, and dont absorb pesticide residues like leather boots. Interjecting, the professor of the visiting students commented: working in the hot sun and under pressure, it seems difficult for farmworkers to really know how dangerous the chemicals they are working around really ar e. Is there anyway to know what is what out there? It really is hard, said Jea nnie, especially because there is so little communication between growers and farmwork ers. But a good rule of thumb for judging the toxicity of a pesticide is the length of its re-entry in terval. The longer the re-entry interval, the more toxic it is. Unfortunately, though, a lot of times gr owers wont even put up re-entry intervals. Couldnt the growers get busted for not putting them up though? I mean, it seems like that could be a punishable offen ce, maybe even a felony, said one of the volunteers. If only it were, said Jeannie. U nfortunately re-entry interval laws are seldom enforced, and when farms do get cite d for violations they only get minor fines. Another problem is the fact that pesticide producing companies do not provide labels that are both in English and Spanish. Despite these disadvantages, there ar e laws meant to protect the rights of Floridas farmworkers. According to the Farm workers Right to Know Act, also known as the Alfredo Bahena Act22, growers are required to post pesticide information in a 22 Alfredo Bahena, who unfortunately passed away in 2004, was the former coordinator of the pesticide health and safety program at FWAF. During his time, he fought diligently for better working conditions for farmworkers, and is largely responsi ble for the creation of many of the organizations present-day pesticide safety initiatives. 80


centralized location. The information must incl ude the name of the pesticide, where and when it was applied and the re-entry interval, said Jeannie. If this information is not posted farmworkers have the right to issue a complaint to the Florida Department of Agriculture, without fear of retaliation from their employer. Farmworkers do not have to be afraid to assert their rights. The Farmwo rker Association can he lp you if you want to file a complaint. Afterwards Jeannie and Ana briefly reviewed the content of the presentation and asked questi ons to make sure that the main points had sunken in. Everyone including the farmworkers seem ed to have gained more knowledge. Ive watched the pesticide safety training video provi ded by the Florida Department of Agriculture and after having nearly fallen asleep myself, I feel as though I can definitively say that th e training I received with FWAF was far more engaging. The relaxed and informal nature of FWAFs trai nings allow for a more open and informative experience. At the workplace farmworkers are simply trying to move on with their day and will not raise questions or express concerns for fear of jeopardizing relations with their employer; but in a setting where there is no explicit power hier archy or threat of unemployment, farmworkers are free to expr ess what is on their mind, share information and cross-talk. They can ask questions that are important to them and explicitly talk about problematic practices that they see occurring on farms. In this way, the trainings not only act as informative sessions for farmworkers, but also function as a community sampling tool for FWAF. Much of FWAFs on the ground understandings of pesticide exposure have come directly from farmworker stories and responses at trainings. While it is very difficult to know to what extent these trainings have reduced the amount of pesticide exposure in Floridian farmworker communities, former Lake Apopka 81


farmworkers had only positive things to say. According to Geraldean Matthew, it was only after the FWAF began e ducating people about pesticid es in the early 1990s that people working on the muck farms really began to take notice of the possible link pesticides might have to their health condi tions. She also remembered that people were visibly more cautious while they were worki ng in fields that had recently been sprayed. New knowledge of pesticides, their dangers a nd their regulations al so led many former farmworkers to conclude that Lake Apopkas growers in the 1980s were using many pesticides that had already been phased out, such as DDT, and that there was much illegal dumping of excess pesticides on the farms. Health Care Provider Training in the Evaluation of Pesticide Exposure of Farmworkers: According to Florida state law, physicians who treat farmworkers for pesticide related symptoms are required to report th e incident to the Florida Department of Agriculture, which is required to keep a database of all yearly reported incidences. Ideally this database is then used to dete rmine pesticide safety when certain products come up for evaluation and review. Like othe r pesticide regulations however, there are a number of factors that prevent the ideal func tioning of this system. One problem is that the vast majority of pesticide poisonings and related symptoms go unrecognized by health care providers, and hence are not reported to the proper authorities. FWAF addresses this problem through Health Care Provider Trainings in the Evaluation of Pesticide Exposure of Farmworkers. 82


The class is designed for healthcare prof essionals who regularly see farmworkers in their clinic or personal practice, a nd who might not otherwise know that certain physiological symptoms in farmworker patients could be the result of pesticide exposure. The class is accredited by the Florida Medi cal Association which gives healthcare professionals who attend the added bene fit of continuing education credits. Along with pesticide safety trainings for farm workers, the class is part of a larger set of programs implemented by the Farmwo rker Health and Safety Institute, a consortium of three East Coast community-bas ed farmworker organizations comprised of FWAF, El Comit de Apoyo a los Trabajadores Agrcolas (Committee for the Support of Agricultural Workers) (CATA), and the Bord er Agricultural Workers Project (BAWP), whose stated purpose is to protect the health and safety of farmworkers against environmental hazards such as pesticides with a focus on capacity building through teaching farmworkers how to organize around en vironmental issues and how to impact public policy (FHSI 2010). By training healthca re providers to identify the specificities of pesticide poisoning, it is hoped that more cases will be diagnosed and reported. Having these reports carefully and accu rately documented provides ev idence of the unsafe use of pesticides which in turn supports the refo rms groups like FWAF and other pesticide advocacy groups seek to implement in legislation. During my fieldwork, I had the opportuni ty to witness one health care provider training at a family clinic in Vero Beach, Florida. The traini ng was conducted by Dr. Dennis Penzell, a physician who had worked ma ny years in a migrant farmworker clinic in Ruskin, Florida, and Jeannie Economos, FW AFs coordinator for Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health. After handing out reading materials and numerous other 83


documents, they started the presentation w ith a video of a news report from 1989 that featured the biggest pesticide accident in Florida23. The viewing helped to establish that pesticide poisoning does occur and is a serious problem. Immediately afterwards, Jeannie and Dr Penzell emphasized the necessity of reporting cases of pesticide poi soning, explicitly mentioning the crucial role healthcare providers can play in furthering environmenta l justice goals. Capitalizing on the location of the class in a family clinic, Dr. Penze ll highlighted how the children of farmworkers are also exposed to pesticides both directly, if they are playing in the fields while their parents are working, or indir ectly through their parents cl othing. This discussion was a memorable part of the presentation. Dr. Penze ll asked everyone in th e room what a child does the minute their parent gets home. He then answered that the child is probably going to run up and hug their mom or dad and in the pr ocess could be exposed to pesticides that might be on clothing. The physicians and nur ses present expresse d concern over this. The presentation moved on to an exercise in which health care providers were asked to evaluate what went wrong in the cas e history of a 25-year old farmworker who was exposed to pesticides. Those attendi ng the class successfu lly highlighted the following problems: 1) the farmworker did not ask what pesticide was being used in the tomato field, nor did he ask what the re-ent ry time was; 2) the farmworker was unaware what pesticides had been sprayed and when they had been sprayed, and was therefore unable to tell the physician treating him what pesticide he was working around; 3) the farmworker lacked transportation to rece ive immediate health care; and 4) the farmworker was untrained in handling pesticid es and was wearing a short sleeve shirt, no 23 This is the same pesticide poisoning incident me ntioned in chapter 1 with the cauliflower workers and phosdrin. Dr. Penzell was actually one of the physicians who treated the majority of the victims. 84


gloves, and no protective clothing. Jeannie a nd Dr. Penzell mentioned how this was a realistic scenario that a healthcar e provider may need to deal with. They moved on to a discussion of how the economic marginalization and exploitation of farmworkers contributes gr eatly to their pesticide exposure. They mentioned how farmworkers are less incl ined to speak out about poor and unsafe working conditions because of fear of being labeled a troublemaker and of being fired or blacklisted from further employment. Dr. Pe nzell explained that pesticide poisonings could represent what public health officials ca ll a sentinel event. A sentinel event refers to a series of symptoms related to a disease or illness that seems to be rare as few patients with these symptoms come in, but in actuality is quite common. Extenuating circumstances may be preventing more peopl e with the same symptoms from seeing a physician. Pesticide exposure, es pecially as it occurs within a commun ity that is trying to draw the least amount of attention to itsel f, could be more widespread than we know. The problem is that we really dont know. One of the overall themes of the training was turning advocacy for patients into good medical practice. For patients who ar e farmworkers, this means carefully diagnosing individuals and being vigilant for signs of poisoning. Furthermore, this involves taking into account where the patient, works, lives and what kind of hazards they may be subjected to. And, most impor tantly, it means reporting incidences of confirmed pesticide poisonings. At the end of the presentation many of the Hispanic members of the audience began matching their experience of symptoms seen in relatives who were farmworkers, with those describe d during the training. I remember poignantly 85


that one young woman felt the presentation shed light on the symptoms she had once seen her uncle experiencing. Her unc le was a pesticide applicator. The Healthcare Provider Training for th e Evaluation of Pesticide Exposure of Farmworkers is likely different from a ny other kind of continuing education class, because of its explicit social justice component. According to Dr. Penzell, health care providers can play a crucial role in the fight for environmental justice. This is especially true for those working in farmworker clinics, where a physician is often treating an entire community and can see patterns. To do this, how ever, physicians need to think outside of the box. They need to try and get detailed oc cupational information from their patients, and they need to have knowledge of pestic ide related symptoms. If successful, doctors and physicians really can add credibility to claims from the grass roots. In other words, physicians can use their cultural capital to give farmworker organizations political clout. In medicine, though, one of the big probl ems you see is doctors not wanting to get involved with these issues. This is especial ly true of those worki ng in private practice. They have their own lives and do not want to worry about things at the end of the day. Some see getting involved in pol itics as detracting from their business, said Dr. Penzell in an interview. Despite the numerous healthcare provider trainings that have been done in the state of Florida, there are still many probl ems with the pesticide poisoning reporting process. Jeannie stressed to me how, unfortunately, the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute has not had much luck getting phys icians to report pes ticide poisonings. While this has a lot to do with the fact that ther e are few trainings occu rring presently (at the moment Jeannie and Dr. Penzell are the onl y ones doing this training in the state of 86


Florida), other factors are the tenuous rela tionship between growers and physicians and the unresolved bureaucratic hurdles that ar e preventing the pestic ide poisoning reporting process from being streamlined. Even medicine cannot escape the poli tics surrounding pesticides. For one, physicians are discouraged from using the term pesticide poisoning, as it would imply that a crime is being committed by the grower or whoever else applied the pesticide. The more diplomatic pesticide-related sympto ms has proved more useful to healthcare providers, because it allows them to ask th e grower in a non-accusatory fashion what kinds of pesticides were sprayed. Even th en, however, the grower-health care provider relationship has not been overly positive, both in the recent past and present. According to Dr. Penzell, growers believe strongly that pe sticides need to be used in order for their farms to stay in business, and when anyone brings up problems with pesticides, growers will become very annoyed and will become lega lly defensive. Most of the time, growers will think that the pesticide-related symptoms and farmworker complaints are merely attempts to get out of working for a da y. Another disadvantage is that certain unscrupulous healthcare practiti oners will collude with growers and treat farmworkers secretly so as to hide injuries that occur in an unsafe workplace. This practice is common and certainly contributes to the withholding of important pesticide exposure information. There are also many problems with the pesticide poisoning reporting process in and of itself, related both to social inequalities, government bureaucracy, and a lack of state support. These were detailed to me by Dr Penzell in the interview I had with him. Ideally pesticide poisoning reporting would only need to ha ve the health care provider as a witness and the farmworker would not have to worry ab out it afterwards, but the way 87


the system currently works, the farmworker n eeds to sign their name to the report in order to give it real backing. This is difficult to achieve, because many farmworkers do not want to back the report for fear of retaliation from their employer, explained Dr. Penzell. With respect to the bureaucratic and st ate support related troub les, the procedure for reporting pesticide exposure has a very complicated history. During the 1990s, the FHSI put together a simple form with the US DA that included the contact information for all of the agencies that would need to be informed of pesticide poisoning. The Florida Department of Agriculture subsequently deemed that this simple form was incorrect in its procedure. They said that the form itself could not properly repor t pesticide poisoning. According to Dr. Penzell, somebody in Tall ahassee with the Flor ida Department of Agriculture continuously put this issue on the ba ck burner. They continuously told us that we werent getting the procedure right, and we werent receiving any support from them. The reality is that there has always been a problem with the reporti ng procedure. If the procedure is not right, what are the chances of getting things re ported? Organizations working with farmworkers start to not even bother. The farmworker clinics say to themselves, what the hell are we doing this for? And grass root s organizations like FWAF have their reputations go down the tubes. Health care providers get frustrated with the process. Furthermore, Dr. Penzell lame nted about the fact that there is poor communication between clinic s, grassroots groups, and governmental agencies. To alleviate some of these problems, FWAF has begun to recruit concerned nonfarmworker citizens and volunteers to help in both the education process for healthcare providers and in making the reporting process easier. This kind of outreach was the focus of another pesticide safety training I atte nded at a migrant farmworker school in 88


Homestead, Fl. In addition to reviewing the material that is in the healthcare provider training, Jeannie explained how volunteers could help by si mply doing the extra work pesticide poisoning reporting involves; work th at migrant farmworker clinics oftentimes do not get to because they are so overworked and pressed for time. Volunteers could help farmworker clinics by distribu ting the proper standard report ing form across the state, making sure that it is properly filled out, and ensuring that it is sent to the proper agencies (i.e. the EPA and the Florida De partment of Agriculture). In this way, volunteers could help to streamline the reporting process and en sure that more reports are filed. Working with volunteers, academics, and other organi zations is an important part of FWAFs environmental justice work. Working with Allies: The immense structural problems unde rlying pesticide exposure make it a difficult issue for farmworker organizations to tackle alone. In most cases, pesticide reform and the prevention of pesticide-related illness require cooperation amongst a diverse group of actors. Over the past twenty years FWAF has been very successful in forging alliances with both national and regi onal groups in the serv ice of furthering its environmental justice goals. Here I discuss how FWAF operates as part of an activist network fighting to reform regulations rega rding two particularly toxic pesticides. Methyl bromide and methyl iodide are two of the most widely used soil fumigants in the production of tomatoes, strawberries, and bell peppers. They are also two of the most toxic, being associated with a range of acute respirat ory and central nervous system effects (FWAF 2010). In California, methyl bromide poisoning is the fourth leading 89


cause of injury among farmworkers, and in 1998 the states environmental protection agency blamed the death of fifteen farmwo rkers on it. While data on methyl bromide poisoning is non-existent in Florida, tes timony from farmworkers confirms similar statistics. The poisonous effect s of methyl iodide are not much different. Furthermore, both are not just harmful to humans and animals, they are also particularly destructive to the Earths ozone layer (Riley 2002:130). Growers in both Florida and California c ontend that the fumigants are necessary for the economic viability of their farms. When the US EPA attempted to completely phase out the use of methyl bromide by both 2001 and 2005, growers vehemently resisted are were able to gain special-use exemptions. In the same way, the Florida Department of Agriculture, despite protest by FWAF, renewed its approval of methyl iodide use in 2008 (Riley 2002:130-3; FWAF 2010). Although the agricultural-use exemption of methyl bromide and the re-approval of methyl iodi de were accompanied with a new series of safety guidelines and regulations, farmworker organizations contend that growers seldom comply, and that the standards lack enforcement. In the fight to eliminate the use of th ese chemicals, FWAF has partnered with numerous environmental and farmworker organizations, and has used a variety of innovative strategies. In 1998, the environmenta l group Friends of the Earth worked with FWAF, Farmworkers Self-Help, Florida Consumer Action Network, and the Legal Environmental Assistance Founda tion to issue a report on met hyl bromide use in Florida that detailed the effects the toxic ga s was having on both farmworkers and the environment (Riley 2002:133). 90


More recently, FWAF has been worki ng closely with the Pesticide Action Network of North America (PANNA) to develop environmental monitoring procedures. Importing a technique that has been widely used in California, PANNA and FWAF have set up chemical air drift catchers adjacent to fields where the most complaints by farmworkers have been had. In many cases, PANNA and FWAF have been successfully able to demonstrate that growers are not operating within compliance (FWAF 2010). Nonetheless, infractions continue, and the Fl orida Department of Agriculture has yet to take regulatory action. From these partnerships a strong coalition of environmental justice groups has emerged on the national and international level. This grassroots network not only challenges the pesticide status quo, but offers alternatives. In r ecent years farmworker organizations and the environmental justice gr oups that work with them have begun to advocate for more sustainable, less toxic, forms of agriculture. On its website, PANNA devotes a whole section to Agroecology, th e science behind sustainable agriculture (PANNA 2010). FWAF, itself, has been a long time advocate of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), a pragmatic approach whic h does not seek to abolish pesticides, but rather use them more st rategically and safely. The argument for an alternative agri culture, furthermore, stems from an increasing interest, on the part of farmworker organizations, to maintain the integrity of agro-ecosystems and natural resources. In th e current agricultural system, the reliance on heavy inputs of fertilizer and pesticide is co mpromising the health of farmworkers, the health of surrounding ecosystems, and the productivity of farms themselves. When a farm is no longer productive, it closes, often times without any consideration for the 91


farmworkers who once worked its fields. In this way, farmworkers have a stake in the sustainability of agricultural operations. In the next chapter, I discuss the rest oration of Lake Apopka, a case study in which issues of environmental justice and environmental conservation collide. As I hope to show, a fine line between the issue of pesticide exposure amongst farmworkers and the conservation of important ecosystems is increas ingly becoming difficult to draw. 92


Chapter 4: The Political Ecology of Lake Apopkas Restoration During my time in Central Florida, nothi ng brought the complicated story of Lake Apopka and its farmworkers to life more than a Toxic Tour 24 of the former muck farmlands. When they are able to steal time from their busy schedules, Jeannie Economos, FWAFs Pesticide Safety and E nvironmental Health Coordinator, and Geraldean Matthew, a longtime activist a nd organizer in the African American farmworker community, take visitors to key locations along the old dusty roads of Zellwood and South Apopka and gi ve meaning to a landscape whose details easily escape the view of the casual observ er. During my fieldwork, I was able to participate in two toxic tours, one self-guide d and based on a map drawn up for me by Jeannie, and the other with a small group of New College students25. Here I describe what one might hear and see on these tours. Turning left from Highway 441 onto Jone s Avenue, the tour begins at the threshold of what was once a major industria l agriculture zone and the workplace for thousands of farmworkers. On each side of the road stand enormous warehouses with semi-trailer trucks sparsely sc attered about open parking lots. 24 Toxic Tours are a unique educa tional outreach tool used by environm ental justice activists to show the public first hand how the burden of pollution and environmental damage is unequally distributed in society. Done either on foot or by vehicle, the tours consist of various stops to particular contaminated or contaminating sites with the tour guide(s) explaining how adjacent communities are affected and how the environmental disparity historically came to be. 25 Geraldean was unfortunately unable to attend either of these toxic tours. This undoubtedly detracted from the experience, as Geraldean work ed on the muck farms for many years and was an avid community organizer in the aftermath of the farm buy-out. 93

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Figure 1: Map of Lake Apopka Restoration Area (SJRWMD) During the tour with the New College group, Jeannie explained how the large buildings used to be the packing houses where thousands of pounds of produce were shipped daily from the muck farms. Compar ed to only twelve years ago, the packing houses seem ghostly. Before the 1980s, most of the packing house workers were African American women whose families had worked the muck for generations, but as time went by workers became increasingly Latino. After th e farms closed, the warehouses were sold and the functions within th em greatly diversified. Continuing on Jones Avenue, the group comes across a small set of cottages and trailers, oddly placed in this la rgely industrial-use zone. In fr ont of all the houses are beat up trucks with clotheslines tied from tree to tree crowded with j eans, shirts, boots and blouses; a plastic play house a nd childrens toys scattered ab out the dead-grassed lawn of one home. Jeannie explains that these small homes are all that remains of what was once 94

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a series of large migrant farmworker camps scattered in between th e hundreds of acres of fields. The farmworkers who migrated to Ze llwood and Apopka were separated and kept out of sight of the middle class neighborhoods just southeast of the farms. Towards the end of the road, a look on either side reveals that there is still some farming in the area, along with farmworker s working in the fields. Jeannie, however, explained that these farms are a far cry from farms of the past and provide very minimal employment. They were not bought out, because they did not discharge effluent into the lake. Turning left at Country Road 448A, the to ur moves southward, closer to the lake and into the heart of the former muck farm land. To the left, another remnant of the past appears: Long and Scott farm. Once a seve ral-hundred acre operation and a major employer of farmworkers, the farm has been transformed into a small tourist destination complete with a farm stand selling Zellw ood sweet corn and other country goods, a golf cart offering country-side tours, and a w onky makeshift pay-to-play playground for kids. Further down on each side of the road are small estates. Some of these homes are new, built after the buy-out, and some belong to th e farmers who still live in the area, explained Jeannie. Continuing southward, on the ri ght side of the road, the tour eventually comes upon the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD) Lake Apopka Field Station. This is the headquarters of the Lake Apopka Rest oration Project, explained Jeannie. She described how she hadnt been there in a while, and how probably everyone working for SJRWMD was thoroughly annoye d with her by now. During the farm buyout and subsequent bird deaths, she never le t up on questions about the safety of eating 95

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fish from the lake and the status of the rest oration. As the environmental agency charged with monitoring Lake Apopka and its wildlife, SJRWMD has the tools to find potentially valuable information regarding toxins that ma y be in former farmworker bodies. To date, however, there has been lit tle cooperation and communica tion between SJRWMD and FWAF. The tour proceeds to the entrance of th e Lake Apopka Restoration Area, now a public park complete with trails. The parking lot is empty26. Exiting the vehicle, Jeannie immediately drew our attention to a rather ominous sign which read: WARNING Visitors must stay on the roads. No fishing is allowed on this property. These lands are former agricultural land that were subject to regular use of agriculture chemicals, some of which, such as DDT, are persistent in the environment and may present a risk to human health. St. Johns River Water Management District Juxtaposed to this is a kiosk offering a brie f history of Lake Apopka, an explanation of how it was polluted, and assurance that the restoration, funded by ta x-payer dollars, is improving water quality and returning the lake to its former natural state: During the period from mid-1995 th rough 2005; there was a 62 percent decline in total phosphorous and a 68 percent increase in water clarity within the lake compared to previous years. Even more dramatic improvements are anticipated at Lake Apopka in the coming years. Visitors are encouraged to enjoy wildlife viewing, hiking, bicycli ng and horseback riding from the safety of the designated roads and trails. After seeing these two signs, I could not help but feel that I was re ceiving contradictory messages. Jeannie explained how for Lake Apopkas former farmworkers, a nice place to enjoy nature is of no consolation when you are sick and often worrying about a variety of 26 The four times I have visited the restoration area, the parking lot has been empty. Seeing as how I visited during times that were not unusual, I wonder if this indicates that the parks trails are rarely used. 96

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other things, such as rent payments and car ing for family members. Is a rarely-visited park, with a sign that warns of health hazar ds, really worth the ma rginalization of an entire group of people? This is one of the main questions attendees of the tour are left to grapple with. Leaving the Lake Apopka Restoration Area, toxic tourists are then taken on a long drive to Magnolia Park where Lake Apopkas eastern shore can be seen up close. Conspicuously nearby are a number of new housing developments clearly designed for upscale residents. Walking on Magnolia Parks small boating dock, it is impossible to not notice the pea green water and algae covered surface of the lake. During the two toxic tours I went on, I saw no fish, not even minnows. Attendees are told that this is where Governor Lawton Chiles signed the Lake Apopka Restoration Act in 1996. Beside a sign that warns potential swimmers of harmful bacter ia in the lake is a kiosk with information about Lake Apopkas hi story and restoration. Complete with photographs, maps, a time-line and an attractive visual presentation, the kiosk authoritatively tell s the story of Lake Apopkas unintentional desecration by human progress and its triu mphant rescue by the environmental group Friends of Lake Apopka (FOLA). Conspicuously absent was any mention of Lake Apokas farmworkers. This is one of the gr eatest injustices fo rmer farmworkers in Apopka experience. Not only have their voices been ignored, but they have also been excluded from a critical chapter in Central Floridas environmental history. The second part of the toxic tour takes the group through th e streets of South Apopka, where many African American former farmworkers still live. The main feature here is a series of four wast e facilities; two landfills, a me dical waste incinerator, and a 97

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sewage treatment plant, each not even a mile away from peoples homes, an elementary school, a health clinic and th e community center where activists meet. Jeannie explained the numerous complaints and injustices experienced by residents: the awful smells that emanate from each facility, the structural damage done to peoples homes due to heavy machinery used in the landfills, the pollution of well-water by landfill leachate27, reduced property values, toxic air pollution from the medical waste incinerator, the disproportionate amount of disease, and the re porting of multiple children with low birthweights. These conditions are starkly contrasted with the high level of affluence and pristine streets present in the City of Apopka, north of the train tracks. Figure 2: Map of South Apopka and adjacent waste facilities. 27 A term widely used in environmental science, leachat e refers to liquids that have dissolved toxins in them, and that subsequently leach or seep into areas where they could cause harm. 98

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In pointing out the environmental dispari ties and telling the mi ssing parts of Lake Apopkas story, Jeannie and Gera ldean politicize the landscape and attempt to make clear the workings of power both in the past and in the present. Despite being difficult to prove, a pattern seems to emerge, connecting race and class with environmental quality and health. The Toxic Tours are an attempt to politically reframe the Restoration of Lake Apopka and to emphasize the envir onmental injustices committed against farmworkers. While it is a powerful tool, the toxic tour only provides a glimpse of how injustice has permeated the lives of former farmwork ers. During my fieldwork, the toxic tours were not the only times activists and former farmworkers expressed frustrations with environmental injustice and rapid change brought about by exclusionary forces. On multiple occasions, I was able to tour the streets of South Apopka28 with locals who discussed the changes occurring in peoples lives and the chal lenges of coping with them. These occasions, while also still just glimpses of peoples lives, helped give me a sense of how Lake Apopka is only part of this areas difficult-to-make-sense-of past. Francina Boykin, a journalist, activist and historian, whose family had a long history of working on citrus farms in the ar ea, was gracious enough to give me a driving tour of South Apopka. Driving south on the eas tern edge of town, she showed me new housing developments where twenty years a go citrus groves and plant nurseries once stood. She pointed out a couple of rose bushes on the side of an old chain linked fence. Thats all that remains of Nelsons Rose Nursery. They used to say that there was nothing else like a Nelson Rose. 28 A township incorporated in Orange County, where many African American form er farmworkers continue to live. 99

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The two industries, despite the low wages, provided stability for people living in the area. Almost anyone could get a job duri ng citrus season, and th e nurseries provided year-round employment. Now, most people living in the area today cant afford to move into any of the new homes, and some have to give up their homes because the new developments have raised property taxes. As we moved along South Apopkas na rrow roads, Francina took me through narrow driveways and showed me dozens of tr aditional shot-gun style trailers. Many of these homes used to belong to farmworkers, she explained. The trailers were modest homes, but farmworkers were proud of them and worked hard to maintain them. Now mostly retired folks live in them, and they ar e falling apart. Over the past couple of years Francina explained how she has been pressuri ng Orange County to preserve some of the trailers as historical sites. Continuing our tour, Francina pointed out illegally dump ed waste on the sides of the road. The waste included old tires, ba gs of cement and various other forms of construction debris. Francina, explained to me that these were not th e result of roadside accidents or random dumping. The presence of so many waste facili ties in South Apopka, has made the whole neighborhood an unoffici al dumping ground for Northwest Orange Countys businesses and constr uction companies. They come and dump, because they know they can get away with it, said Francina. Towards the end of the tour, Francina took me to what remained of an old baseball field and dance club located in the middle of town. The two facilities were now abandoned and run down, explained Francina, bu t only fifteen years ago they were both major centers of community life. South Apopka used to have its own amateur baseball 100

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team, and it was a major event when they played other towns in the base ball field. The dance club offered a positive venue for youth to have some fun and let off some steam. She contrasted this with the gang violence th at occasionally erupts in the house parties that the areas youth prefer today. One day, when she had the energy to take me out into the community, Geraldean Matthew and I went to Zellwood where many fo rmer farmworkers still reside. Asking me to bring fliers regarding free health servi ces, she explained that many African American people in the area have not been taking advantag e of all there is to offer because of the discontinuation of outreach by FWAF. She explai ned that when the muck farms were still open, FWAF was one of the most reliable non-profits assisting low-income African American people with their everyday needs. Th e closing of the muck farms led to local African Americans becoming dispossessed of thei r farmworker identities, and has in turn distanced them from FWAF. No new community group has emerged to effectively fill the void. Zellwood and South Apopka share many similarities. Both had the same shot-gun style trailers and both were steeped in poverty. Even less developed than South Apopka, however, most of Zellwoods roads are unpave d. The parched vegetation and absence of small trees gave parts of the neighborhood a savanna-like feel. We eventually found a large group of pe ople relaxing beneath some oak trees, drinking beers, and laughing at each others jokes and c onversing. As I was gathering fliers that had information about free ey e and dental exams, Geraldean expressed disapproval with what the people were doing. I asked why. The problem is, Sam, that people are doing this everyday and not doing anything, not working, not nothing. Most of 101

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these people here used to work out on the muck. And they worked hard. But after the farms got shut down some people didnt know wh at to do with themselves and took to drinking all day. She explained to me that if we wanted to motivate people to take advantage of the services that the fliers advertised, we need ed to be serious and firm about our message. If we werent, said Geraldean, then people arent going to listen to us. You need to be hard with these people, she said. They have gone through a lot, and many broken promises have been made to them in the past. At fi rst I didnt understand what she meant. As I passed out fliers, I introduced myself and talked about my involvement with FWAF. I was nervous and unsure of what to say. Geraldean, however, moved through the crowd fluidly and demanded respect. Recognizing many of the peopl e around the oak trees, Geraldean conversed and joked with them and spoke specifica lly to particular health pr oblems the African American community faces. She confronted a group of men relaxing in a truck bed who were drinking beer and immediately as ked if any of them had a job. I have a job, said one of them raising his beer can and smiling. I call yo bluff, said Geraldea n, none of yall is working. One of the men confessed, Were tr ying, but most of the jobs are in Orlando, and the only thing hiring around here is McD onalds. Theyd never hire me, said one of them. Ill see if I can he lp you out, said Geraldean. G rowers are always contacting the Farmworker Association, asking for wo rkers. The men thanked her and they exchanged phone numbers. I began to unders tand that being hard was synonymous with having street smarts, something I wa s clearly lacking. Despite mass unemployment 102

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and the adoption of some negative habits, su ch as increased alcohol consumption, the former farmworker community remains resi lient through a network of mutual support. Powerful testimonies about the change came directly from interviews and conversations I had with former farmworkers and long time residents of South Apopka. Sitting on lawn chairs in front of her ho me, I remember a leisurely afternoon in the company of Linda Lee and Mr. William Gladden. Asking them what South Apopkas neighborhoods looked like during the 1970s and 1980s, Linda and Mr. Gladden fondly remembered the hustle and bustle of the streets during the fall growing season. Relatives from all over the South would journey to Central Florida to join their extended families in the lengthy fall harvest on Lake Apopkas mu ck farms. The enormous plant nurseries alongside the farms and orange groves allowed many people in the area to work year round in agriculture. We were poor back then too, but you had everything you needed, said Linda. Settled families throughout South Apopka maintained vegetable gardens and raised livestock on their small plots of land, and every front yard had at least two orange trees. In addition, farmworkers would often bring hom e the part of the harvest that did not make it to market. A favorite in South Apopka was the sweet co rn grown on Zellwin farms29. These descriptions contrast greatly w ith the conditions found in South Apopka today. Orange County ordinances eventually banned livestock on residential land, gardens faded into obscurity, and orange tree s were culled by the c ounty for fear of the spread of the citrus disease canker. Whereas in the past th e amount of agricultural work 29 Zellwin Farms was the second largest operation in th e Zellwood area, and was re nowned both locally and regionally for the quality of its sweet corn. To this day, Zellwoods Annual Sweet Corn Festival continues in the tradition established by Zellwin farms. 103

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was ample, and anyone needing a job coul d find one, albeit a lo w-paying one, today agricultural work is scarce, and many feel unable to compete in the increasingly serviceoriented labor economy. In the words of Geraldean Matthew: We lived better, because any given morning you had a choice. You could either pick oranges, you could go to the nursery or you could go out on the muck. See when there wasnt nothing on the muck, the orange season would be picking up and peoples w ould be picking oranges until the farmlands started, then they would go from there back to the farmlands. For her, the closing of the muck farm s was one of the biggest blows to the farmworker community. It additionally set th e stage for further urbanization, which is pushing many of Orange County s traditional residents out: Apopka has died. I mean it used to be the foliage capital of the world! It aint nothing now. The way I see it, what they [the enormous political and financial interest groups of Orange C ounty] are trying to do is similar to what is happening all over the United States. They are trying to redevelop the cities, and they don t want any agricultural work near the cities. Additionally, former farmworkers and re sidents of the Apopka area must contend with Lake Apopkas toxic legacy. As explaine d in the previous chapters, many people are sick with a variety of chronic conditions, th ey are steeped in poverty, and very few of them can afford health insurance. Again, in the words of Geraldean: I live on the other side of town now but when I come to visit South Apopka Im always hearing about fune rals, and I ask who and theyll say the name of someone I worked with in the fields. A sudden death. And these are people in their forties and fi fties, people my age! And it is very hard for us to really understand whats going on. Thats why we need somebody to tell us whats going on; because we are tired of losing our loved ones, and we are afraid for our children. *** 104

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That the plight of the former farmwork ers has been so thoroughly separated from the death and restoration of Lake Apopka, speaks volumes to the social disparities existent in Orange County. The dominant narr ative regarding Lake Apopkas history is one that is both exclusionary and apolitical. In this narrative, the closing of the muck farms and the restoration of the lakes former ecosystem is presente d as the triumphant and just conclusion to a legacy of abuse by humans. The narrative makes no mention of the fact that it was farmworkers who paid the heaviest price to see the lake restored, and neither does it mention how farmworkers are linked to the lakes legacy of toxic substances. Farmworkers were not respons ible for the lakes pollution, but they nonetheless bore the consequences for it. In this chapter, I seek to de-naturaliz e this dominant narrative and, like the toxic tours, politicize Lake Apopkas Restoration. In the first section, I discuss the political currents leading to the buy-out of the muck farms, highlighting the inconsistent and contradictory relationships between the mu ck farmers, SJRWMD, and the Friends of Lake Apopka, and the alternatives put fort h by FWAF and its allies. In the second section, I discuss in detail the aftermath of the farm buy-outs and the actions taken by farmworkers, their supporters and FWAF to adapt to what was, and continues to be a desperate situation. Such inquiry may hopefully lead to greater in sight into Floridas environmental history and politic s. In writing this chapter, however, my main goal is to piece together a critique of Lake Apopkas restoration program from the farmworker perspective. 105

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Political Currents Leading to the Buy-Out of the Muck Farms In Nano Rileys (2005) Lake Apopka: From Natural Wonder to Unnatural Disaster, the only scholarly treatment of Lake Apopkas environmental history to date, the story of Lake Apopkas restoration is eer ily similar to the one told on the kiosk in Magnolia Park: Lake Apopkas pollution is root ed in efforts to control nature for the benefit of humanity (2005:282). The pristine Lake Apopka is depicted as the price citizens of Northwest Orange County paid for economic development, while Lake Apopkas farmworkers are portrayed simply as the human element of this environmental drama (2005:286). To be fair, her narrative is empathetic to the plight of the farmworkers, and she does discuss the ramifications that the buyout had for them. But her narrative also depicts farmworkers as the passive victims of environmental pollution: as often happens, the governments decision to clean up po llution did not figure in the cost of the farmworkers lost jobs (2005:286). In fact, farmworkers and their advocates put a tremendous amount of effort into opposing the buy-out and suggesting alternatives. Farmworkers were not simply overlooked by the government and other powerfu l stakeholders, they were ignored. Her narrative lacks a proper treatment of how soci al justice issues contributed to the way events played out, and in many ways conforms to the dominant apolitical narrative that portrays the farm buy-outs and Lake Apopkas Restoration Program as logical and natural. The states decision to buy-out the muck farms, however, was not apolitical and, as I argue, should not be considered the natural, just or inevitable course of action taken 106

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by the state. A review of primary and sec ondary sources from the pre-buy-out period and interviews from those who experienced the even ts first-hand reveals that the restoration of Lake Apopka was actually subject to mu ch political debate between various groups and stake-holders. Original interest in restoring the lake to its previous, natural, state stemmed from the areas fishing tourism industry whic h in the 1950s consisted of more than 15 fishing camps along the banks of Lake Apopka and represented investments of more than one million dollars. Lake Apopka was famous across the nation for being one of Floridas premiere sites for bass fishing. It was said that the water was so clear fisherman could target the bass they wanted to catch. By the mid-1960s, however, effluent from towns, citrus processing plants, and the muck farms of the Zellwood Drainage District, had built up enough to cause algal blooms that killed the lakes bottom vegetation. The area suitable to the reproduction of game fish diminished rapidly, and rough fish, such as gizzard shad, began to greatly outnumber game varieties. There were attempts to remove rough fish and sell them to fe rtilizer producers, but it quickly became clear that the problem wa s not the quantity of rough fish but rather the quality of the water which had allowed them to predominate. In the late 1960s, fishing camp owners and journa lists began to publicize th e death of the lake, and Florida Governor Claude Kirk placed Nath aniel Reed, a famous conservationist, in charge of the first restoration project. Even then, there were opponent s of the plan and the muck farmers wanted assurance that their va luable improvements to the lakes hydrology would not be endangered. When Nathaniel Reed left to become Secret ary of the Interior under the Ford and Nixon admi nistration, the project lost its focus. The dumping of 107

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effluent continued, the game fi sh population crashed further, a nd nearly all of the fishing camps closed. Efforts to restore the lake, however, resurfaced in the late 1980s when the Apopka Bass Club called on interested groups to join it in demanding state action to clean up the lake (Shofner 1982:283-5). The notion of a dead lake is powerful, because it presumes that human endeavors killed the lake, and it fuels a mo ral imperative that humans need to fix it. Its worth noting, however, that up until the late 1980s people were saying that there was still plenty of bass fishing to be had on th e lakes shores (Orlando Sentinel 1986; Wilson 1988). Nonetheless, from the 1960s and 1970s onward the notion that the lake was dead spread, and in some sectors it was becoming entrenched in the popular milieu; so much so that by the 1980s politicians began heeding to the environmental concerns of public interest groups. In the mid-1980s, under the governorship of Lawton Chiles, numerous pieces of legislation were passed in Fl orida mandating the restoration and protection of the states bodies of water (Harry 1985; Ramsey 1985b; Orlando Sentinel 1985). In the legislative campaign, Lake Apopka became one of the cente r-pieces of the states emerging popular environmentalism and a symbol of the conservation work that needed to be done. In Central Florida, the Florida Surf ace Water Improvement and Management (SWIM) Act of 1987, charged the St. Johns River Water Management District (SJRWMD), with the clean-up of Lake Apopka (Riley 2005:284). At the time, management decisions regarding Lake Apopka were politically charged for two reasons. In the first place, there was th e plain visibility of the lakes pollution. The water was pea green, it was filled with gizzard shad, a so-called garbage fish, the lakes bottom was a 108

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green, slime muck, and occasional algal blooms produced fish kills. Secondly, as the image of Lake Apopkas polluti on grew more notorious, munici palities south of the lake feared that it would seep into other lakes and natural areas that shared the southward flowing Ocklawaha watershed (Ramsey 1985a). The pressure was on for the state and SJRWMD to get the pollution problem under control and to alter the lakes ghas tly appearance before it broke loose and destroyed adjacent ecosystems. From this point onward an interesting dynamic emerged between public perceptio n of the lake, how scientists actually understood the causes of Lake Apopkas pollution, and how the conflic t between these discour ses and agricultural interests led to specific re storation project proposals. The restoration project proposals were hi ghly political even though there was a lot of uncertainty about what was actually going to work. There was constantly an air of confusion. What seemed clear was that most parties, including the state and environmentalists, wanted one of the main resu lts of restoration to be the improvement of water clarity. There was a general scientific consensus that the lakes water clarity was poor because of algal blooms caused by the overload of nutrients from runoff produced by the muck farms (Walther 1990; McSweeney 1992). As I will discuss later, despite agreement that there were too much nutrients in the water, there was disagreement as to whether closing the muck farms would e ffectively solve the nutrient problem. The first series of restoration projects conducted by SJRWMD involved harvesting strategies to reduce the amount of nu trients in the water: gizzard shad removal and water hyacinth cultivation and removal. Commercial enterprises were hired to conduct these two projects. Afte r a couple of years, however, the gizzard shad removal 109

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project was determined to be ineffective. One of SJRWMDs goals was to rebound the bass population, but this was nearly impossibl e because the lakes bottom vegetation, a necessary breeding ground for bass, had died off. Gizzard shad were dominating the lake, and they showed no signs of heeding a ny ground to new bass populations (McSweeny 1992). The water hyacinth removal project was also dubbed unsuccessful, but this time due to public protest. In an editorial for the Orlando Sentinel one individual voiced dissent over water hyacinth production and re moval, claiming that it could eventually lead to the presence of another undesirabl e industry; the origin al undesirable industry being the muck farms. Furthermore, there wa s uproar from boaters when a water hyacinth test area ruptured and ended up causing the lake to be temporarily crowded with floating plants (Hawley and Hawley 1986; Lisanne 1988; SJRWMD 2002). The failures of the first two restoration projects led the state and the SJRWMD to consider another idea: the lakes waters could be drained and then passed through industrial scale filters. The plan, however, received criticism from surrounding citrus growers who complained that draining the la ke would make their groves more vulnerable to frost, as the lake acted as an enorm ous heat sink that warmed the surrounding area during the winter time. In the end, the dr aining proposal was abandoned because of its enormous cost (Riley 2005:284; Straight 1985). The plan that eventually stuck was th e proposition of rest oring some of the wetlands that had once existed on the North Shor e of the lake, where the muck farm lands now stood. By constructing new wetlands, it wa s understood that two goals could be met simultaneously: 1) restoration of habitat for wildlife and for wildlife viewing; and 2) the 110

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construction of a natural filter for the removal of excess nutrients in the water. It was at this point, in the late 1980s, that I believe the muck farms became serious political targets for the state and environmentalists. Legisla tive funding for what was eventually called the marsh flow-way was secured, and the SJ RWMD developed a pilot project. A small portion of farmland was bought out on the Nort h Shore and was re-flooded and planted with native marsh grasses. For the next couple of years, the pilot project was monitored and water quality was closely scru tinized (Spear and Pedicini 1995). Perhaps under public and state pressure for results, the SJRWMD eventually declared that the water quality was not improving (or not impr oving fast enough) and began to explicitly claim that the restoration could not proceed successfully as long as the muck farms continued to pump copious amounts of effluent. At first, SJRWMD was diplomatic with the muck farm growers, who had by this time developed agricultural empires and were politically powerful. The SJRWMD suggested that the growers cr eate huge retention ponds in which agricultural runoff could be stored. The idea was to create some ki nd of infrastructure by which the flow of effluent could be controlled and slowly filtered, thereby reducing the waste load being dropped into the lake. The problem, however, wa s that neither the state nor the SJRWMD was willing to provide any kind of substantial financial aid to build the new infrastructure. (There is irony he re, as it was state funds that helped to build the effluentdumping infrastructure that the farms were relying on in the first place.) Only one of the farms, A. Duda and Sons, was willing to fund such new infrastructure, but, being the largest grower in the Zellwood area, th ey were the only ones that could afford it. The other growers in the Zellwood Water Control and Drainage 111

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District (ZWCDD) complained that they coul d not afford to make the infrastructural changes and still be competitive. The questi on of who was going to shoulder the costs of the infrastructural changes led to an impasse (Loy and Gallagher 1988). Public pressure mounted, however, and the negotiations between the SJRWMD and the muck farmers broke down. SJRWMD shifted their strategy from collaboration towards fining the muck farms for the contam ination of a protected body of water. It seemed like the goal was to drive the grower s out with fines. When the muck farmers refused to pay the fines, however, the SJ RWMD took them to court. The SJRWMD claimed that as the agency charged with prot ecting Central Floridas bodies of water they had the authority to fine the farms. The muck farmers, however, argued that they had the right to use the lakes waters, and hence to pollute, according to the legislation drafted in the 1940s that created the Zellw ood Water Control and Drainage District, of which they were all a part. The muck farmers were not go ing to give up their pr ofitable enterprises so easily. In the end, the courts upheld the rights of ZWCDD, and the muck farmers won the right to pollute (Riley 2005:285). The envi ronmentally-minded public was outraged, and the stage was set for a new political battle. In response to SJRWMDs loss in court and the perceived impasse, an environmental group called the Friend of Lake Apopka formed in 1991, with the explicit purpose of moving the restoration forward. Th eir implicit goal was to end muck farming on the North Shore and to completely rest ore its wetlands (Riley 2005:284-5; FOLA 2007). Using a persistent lobbying strategy and a highly active a nd well-funded public outreach campaign, FOLA was successful in co nvincing politicians, the media, and the 112

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middle-class public that the onl y solution to Lake Apopkas re storation was to drastically and permanently reduce effluent entering the la ke, and that this required concrete state and public action (Spear 1996). FO LAs official stance was that the state needed to buyout the muck farmers (Amon 1996). Unlike some of the more radical envi ronmental groups operating in the 1990s, FOLA was more than willing to take a non-c onfrontational route with the muck farmers. They wanted to sidestep the problem by ultimately giving the muck farmers what they wanted, a lump sum equivalent to the value of their yearly profit marg ins. In other words, the muck farmers wanted an equal trade. Th e failure of SJRWMDs lawsuit proved that the states power was limited; the power of money, on the other hand, was not. Like so many other mainstream environmental groups in the 1980s and 1990s, FOLA chose to conform to a corporate agenda and colluded with the interests of capital (Pulido 1996:267). To justify the buy-out, FOLA used the rhetoric of sustainable development to redefine Lake Apopkas restoration as a public investment. Outlined in an economic study commissioned by the group, their view was th at the economic bene fits of enhanced environmental quality would more than make up for the loss of the economy surrounding the muck farms. The land adjacent to the restored lake and marsh areas would increase in value, as people would find these places more pleasant to live, and a cleaner environment would enable the emergence of a burge oning ecotourism industry centered on Lake Apopka. In the study it was estimated that new fishing, hunting and nature observation associated with lake and marsh restoration could reach $30 million in annual revenue and could create 713 new jobs by 2021. Furthermore, because Lake Apopka is so close to 113

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Orlando, improved water quality and availabil ity of recreation opport unities would likely generate considerable development intere st along access routes and in nearby vacant land. Agriculture, they maintained, would unlikely have the same effect on growth (Apogee Research, Inc. 1996). FOLAs vision for Lake Apopka and its surrounding regions, however, did not go unchallenged. The buy-out was going to be expensive (it eventu ally cost around $100 million), and many people acknowledged that the loss of the farm lands would greatly and negatively impact the surrounding economy, parts of which were highly dependent on the commercial activity generated by the muck farms. Furthermore, there was outcry over the use of tax-payer money to bail-out polluters (Editorial 1996c). Those muck farmers have reaped a pr etty penny from th e farms, while the discharge from their operations has been la rgely responsible for the death of Lake Apopka. Taxpayers shouldnt shoulder the en tire cost of cleaning up the lake. That should be a shared responsibility, read one editorial (Editorial 1996a). And just because a buy-out may be politically expedient doesnt mean that it necessarily would be the best investment of taxpayer money, re ad another (Editorial 1996b). Politicians who expressed concerns ove r the buy-outs economic impact wanted assurance from the state and requested that studies be done to determine exactly what could happen. In Orange County an Economic Task Force was created by local representatives to devel op a post-buy-out economic plan. John Land, the mayor of Apopka, was one of those politicians, and he consistently voiced concern over how the buy-out would affect Apopkas economy in pa rticular (The Planter 1996a; Kaplan 1996a, b, and c). 114

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There was also a voice from dissenting envi ronmental scientists who claimed that the goals outlined by the Lake Apopka restora tion plan would not be met even if the farms were bought out. They claimed that the lakes current state was less the direct result of effluent from the muck farms, a nd actually had more to do with past natural events. They concluded that the farms did indeed contribute to the lakes current ecological conditions, but that it was really two hurricanes in the late 1940s that sent the lake careening off the edge. They argued that the hurricanes tore out the bottom vegetation of the lake and that a chain reaction of algal bl ooms occurred because of the abundance of nutrients from the rotting vege tation. They claimed that Lake Apopka could only be restored if the bottom vegetation was somehow replanted. If the lakes aquatic grasses could be restored, they could provide the foundation for the lakes biodiversity to rebound, and it would help clear up the water. Ultimately the scientists recommended a comprehensive multi-pronged strategy. They claimed that buying out the farmers and expanding the marsh land was not going to be the silver bullet FOLA was saying it was going to be (Quintana 1996a and b). For farmworkers, whose mouthpiece was FW AF and various other interconnected non-profits in the area, the consequences of the buy-out were clear and dire: they would lose their jobs, the social and cultural in frastructure that revolved around them, and would ultimately face displacement and even fu rther marginalization. What is interesting and valuable to the history of Florida environmental politics in general is the perspective that FWAF brought to Lake Apopka restoration. Rather than a buy-out, FWAF proposed cl oser cooperation between farmworkers, environmentalists, the state, and growers, from which a more inclusive restoration 115

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process could be forged. Since this coopera tion never happened, however, it is hard to say what could have been. Nonetheless, FWAF suggested the possibi lity of addressing Lake Apopkas pollution at its source: the muck farms dependence on high inputs of fertilizer and pesticide. FWAF suggested th at the muck farmers, in cooperation with university extension agents, the SJRWMD, e nvironmentalists and farmworkers, could work towards developing production methods th at had less of an ecological impact. This could have likely been achieved through the deployment of theori es and methods from the fields of Organic Agri culture, Agroecology and Inte grated Pest Management. When FWAF approached FOLA, SJRWMD and the state of Fl orida with their inclusive ideas, their voice fe ll upon deaf ears. FOLA insisted that FWAFs concerns regarding farmworkers and social justice did not match up with their environmental concerns and hence precluded them from coope rating. The SJRWMD insisted that they too were just an environmental agency and that they could not help. Most politicians supported FOLAs cause, and those who did s how concern for farmworkers, in the end, did nothing that was effectiv e (Interview with Jeannie Economos October 30, 2009; The Planter 1996b; Apopka Chief 1996; Economos 1999). When it became clear that the buy-out was going to be the states course of action, FWAF attempted to develop a gr adual phase-out plan for the farms with the state and the growers, so that the impacts on the farmwo rker community could be muffled. The state proved to be open to the gradual phase out id ea, and a percentage of the funds granted under the upcoming Lake Apopka Restoration Act were earmarked for retraining and redevelopment so as to cushion the fa rmworkers and the surrounding economy. The growers, however, refused to even meet in the same room as FWAF representatives, and 116

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in many ways destroyed any hope that a slow phase out could be negotiated, allowing farmworkers some time to adapt (Gainer 1997). To be fair, some of the growers offered to provide farmworkers with work contacts in ot her areas of the state, but they faltered in the area where they could have helped most: enabling retraining and redevelopment initiatives on site at the farms before the buyout. In general, the growers wanted to wipe their hands clean of their former farmland and distance themselves as soon as they could (Interview with Jeannie Economos October 30, 2009). With the signing of the Lake Apopka Re storation Act in 1996, the farms were sold for the price of nearly 100 million do llars (Riley 2005:285). The transaction began a chain of events that would forever change the face of Northwest Orange County. While FOLA, SJRWMD and Lawton Chiles celebrate d their victory for Lake Apopka, FWAF desperately tended to the needs of 2,500 farm workers (some estimates say there were 5,000) who had nearly all forms of support cut out from under them. Originally, the muck farmers promised that at the very least they would continue farming into the end of the season and that a few of the packing houses would remain open for the next year. But even these small consolations turned out to be empty promises. According to Jeannie Economos, farmworkers were left out to su ch a great extent that many didnt even believe that the farms were shutting down. Geraldean Matthew remembered vividly the confusion that occurred when after going to work one morning a large group of farmworkers were bluntly told to leave. Af ter years of service, doing the hard labor necessary to put food on Americas tables Lake Apopkas farmworkers, some of whom had been working on the farms for generations were fired without so much as a thank you. 117

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The Aftermath of the Muck Farm Buy-Out Fearing that the buy-out would erase a chapter in farmworker history, FWAF, Seminole Community College and the Crealde School of Art, a year before the farms were scheduled to close, began a photo documen tary project to chronicle the culture and history of Lake Apopkas farmworkers. Titled, The Last Harvest: A History and Tribute to the Life and Work of Farmworkers on Lake Apopka, the project received $20,000 in funding from the Florida Humanities Counc il, and upon its completion in 1999 toured museums and venues across the state of Florid a. In addition to 50 photographs taken by students, the children of farmworkers, a nd other volunteers, the exhibit showcased excerpted interviews, pieces of folklore, a nd local histories of farmworkers compiled by anthropologist Ron Habin, who would return later to help FWAF develop its first community health survey (Edwards 1998; Connolly 1998; Moore 1999). Immediately after the farms closed, disp lacement was the first major issue FWAF had to deal with. Nearly all of the migr ant farmworker labor camps in Zellwood and a good number of the camps in South Apopka were closing, and many people faced eviction. Less established farmworkers in Or ange and Lake County simply left and migrated to other parts of the state to fi nd work. More established and settled Latino, Haitian and African American farmworker re sidents, however, were left in a more precarious position, and many suddenly n eeded to find new homes and jobs. The immediate post buy-out period saw an impressive amount of cooperation from farmworker non-profit advocacy groups acr oss the state. The Migrant Farmworker Justice Project, headed by lawyer Greg Sc hell in Homestead, helped greatly in finding emergency housing for many farmworkers. Homes in Partnership, a non-profit focused 118

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on building homes for low-income peoples, received a small amount of restoration money and helped many former farmworkers achieve home ownership. FWAF itself, tapping into is state-wide ne twork, acted as an informal employment agency for those who desperately needed work. According to Jeannie, a huge amount of FWAFs time was also being used to just provide farmworkers with basic needs such as food and water. A tornado that had randomly hit the Zellwood area exacerbated the problem even further. There were also efforts taken by th e state to help farmworkers and the surrounding industries cope with the buy-out. As I will argue, however, the extent to which the relief effort actually helped farm workers is questionable. The plan, developed by Governor Lawton Chiles Lake Apopka Economic Redevelopment Task Force and local political representatives, was to purchas e the muck farmers agricultural equipment and then auction it off to raise funds for redevelopment. Appraised at a value of $30 million, the state expected to make so mewhere between 5 to 15 million from the equipment. Of this, only 20 percent was to be used for the retraining of farmworkers. In the end, the auction only brought in 4.8 million, and the state earmarked only $200,000 for job retraining, averaging an amount of $80-$100 per farmworker30. SJRWMD received $2 million from the fundraiser (Apopka Chief 1997; Hoover and Stokes 1998; Schell 1999). Enterprise Florida, a publicly held ec onomic development consulting corporation, was put in charge of the job retraining pr ogram. In Apopka, the John Bridges Center was chosen as the location for the retraining program and $20,000 was spent on computers for 30 But the kicker is the deals that the farm owners got. These same farm owners who were paid a handsome sum for their property and equipment, then spun around and bought their equipment back from the state at pennies on the dollar. Consider the case of Zellwin Farms, which was paid over $1 million for a specialized piece of equipment, and then bought it back for only $35, 000 (Schell 1999). 119

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farmworkers to take GED classes and search for jobs (Hoover and Stokes 1998). According to Jeannie Economos, the retrai ning project largely failed because most farmworkers were too old to be retrained, a nd many were illiterate and could not even speak English. Furthermore, Jeannie and Linda Lee, a former farmworker, commented on how awful and condescending the retraining inst ructor was to his students. From the getgo, the retraining program was poorly designed a nd did not realistically set out to help farmworkers. Another problem was that the retraining program was delayed for too long; by the time it was set up in the early 2000s, many Latino farmworkers had left, and the remaining population was destitute and in n eed of much more than job retraining. By 2003, the relief effort in genera l was being touted by FWAF and other organizations as a complete failure. Less th an 100 farmworkers, mostly younger Latinos, were successfully retrained, and much of the money generated from the sale of the farm equipment dissipated into non-profit and county-le d initiatives that didnt directly affect farmworkers. The money offered by the st ate was quickly scrounged up by surrounding agencies, and very little of it was used to meaningfully help the destitute (Garcia 2003). By 2005, all of the funding provided to FWAF by the state from Lake Apopka, ran dry (Haner 2005). The Bird Deaths If the stresses placed on the farmwork er community werent enough already, a new twist emerged in 1998, when SJRWMD finally was able to beg in the restoration process of Lake Apopka. Nearly half the acreage purchased by the state was re-flooded to create hundreds of acres of re stored marshland, and as pred icted, and to the delight of 120

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bird watchers across the state, thousands of wading birds came to grace the lake and feed on the fish proliferating in the newly restored habitat. The excitement, however, was short lived. In November 1998, just months after the re -flooding of the muck farms, nearly a thousand birds showed up dead on the shores of Lake Apopka. When many of those birds turned out to be protected and endangered species, such as great blue herons, white pelicans and wood storks, the U.S. Fish a nd Wildlife Service (USFWS) intervened and ordered a criminal investigati on in the causes of the bird de aths. Originally hesitant to report their findings, the USFWS published th e results of their investigation in 2001, which showed that bird necropsies revealed high levels of toxaphenes, dieldrin, and DDT, likely contracted from consuming fish which had these organochlorine pesticides present in their bodily tissues. Lucky for the former muck farmers, the blame was not laid upon them, but on a hot spot of concentrated toxicity left from an old chemical spill (Williams 1999; Riley 2005:285-6). For FWAF and leaders in the former farmworker community, the bird deaths had greater significance and social meaning. In Apopka it became a new platform upon which the former farmworkers, left destitute by th e buy-out, attempted to achieve justice for their communities. While FWAF, since the begi nning of its pesticide health and safety program in the early 1990s, had long known about the disproportionate amount of chronic illness in farmworker communities and its potential link to pesticides, for Lake Apopkas former farmworkers, at the time, the concept was novel. In addition to their worsening poverty, many former farmworker community leaders, especially in the African American community, began to notice a disproportionate amount of disease in 121

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their neighborhoods. But they did not actively express concern about pesticides and their health until after FWAF began a campaign to educate former farmworkers about the bird deaths and what it might mean for their health. I would like to argue that the revelation that past expos ure to pesticides might be the cause of present day illness has had the contradictory effect of both empowering and disempowering the former farmworker commun ity. In general, it has led to a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding within this specific environmental justice movement. But it also reveals the difficult nature of engaging in these kinds of struggles, and it shows just how comp lex they can really be. After the bird deaths, FWAF started the Lake Apopka Environmental Health Project (LAEHP) and began to have numerous meetings with the former farmworker community to determine the specific issues affecting the community and to strategize ways to solve them. Armed with the 2001 USFWS report on the bird deaths and numerous testimonies regarding the dispr oportionate amounts of chronic illness amongst former farmworkers, FWAF began to demand attention from the Orange County Health Department and state environmental agenci es. The groups claims of disproportionate amounts of cancer, diabetes, lupus and a vari ety of other conditions and their possible link to pesticide exposure on the Lake Apopka muck farms, however, were met with skepticism by county and state officials. According to Jeannie Economos, health and environmental officials consistently demanded statistical proof and, furthermore, retorted to health claims by saying that the disease rates FWAF was citing were not out of the ordinary. 122

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FWAF and Lake Apopkas former farmworkers found themselves at an impasse. As Ive discussed in chapter 1, there is stil l very much that is not known regarding the effects pesticides and numerous other industrial chemicals have on human health. Furthermore, there are numerous variables that come into play when determining pesticide-related symptoms, such as the possi ble synergistic effects of chemicals, the frequency of exposure, as well as age, gender and genetic differences amongst individuals. In demanding atte ntion to pesticide and health related concerns, FWAF and the former farmworkers were further handica pped by the fact that the muck farms, and hence their pesticide-use records (if they we re even kept at all), no longer existed. From a political standpoint, FWAF and the former farmworkers could not use science to further their environmental justic e goals. They, nonetheless, tried. I believe that it was the numerous exchanges with the h ealth department that left FWAF and the former farmworkers with the notion that if they could somehow show correlation or causation between past pesticide exposure a nd current health conditions, they could win state medical assistance, either thro ugh a lawsuit or simply having proof. To complicate things further, I also want to emphasize that the Lake Apopka community of farmworkers, was having, and is still having, a difficult time understanding the meaning of the farm buy-outs. In many ways it haunts them. In my interviews and archival research, it is evident that many former farmworkers hold the viewpoint that because the state bought-out farmers, a nd because it is funding Lake Apopkas restoration, it in turn has the power and the responsibility to help them as well. It was eventually decided that the most important next step for the LAEHP, was to document the numerous illnesses in the Apopka area, so that a report supporting 123

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farmworker claims could be made and used in the campaign. FWAF hired a consultant from a capacity building non-profit organizati on called Environmental Health Network to develop a community-based participatory re search strategy with them and held two Lake Apopka Environmental Health Forums in an attempt to mobilize the community. Parallel to these organi zing activities, the group was calling attention to their concerns through various media outlets. Numero us newspaper articles were written about the plight of Lake Apopkas farmworkers. Common themes and images that emerged in these news stories were farmworkers being sprayed overhead by crop dusters, testimonies of individuals suffering lupus, cancer, di abetes and skin conditions, images of farmworker housing and poverty, and defo rmed alligators and hormonally-altered wildlife (Colarossi 2001; Co larossi 2002; Colarossi and Suriano 2002; Roen 2002). While many of the stories were sympathetic to the farmworkers, the emphasis on farmworkers poor health, pesticides a nd poverty tended to frame farmworkers as victims, and, in some ways, made them into a spectacle. Moments from the first Lake Apopka Envi ronmental Health Forum, held on June 24, 200231, are exemplary of the contradictions inherent in the organizing activity of FWAF and the former farmworkers from the early to mid-2000s. Designed with the intention of beginning some sort of community mobilization, the Environmental Health Forum was an open public meeting in which farmworkers were given the opportunity to speak and provide testimonies as well as to ask questions of a panel of experts. The experts included FWAF staff members, the e ndocrinologist who did the studies on Lake Apopkas alligators, a scholar whose focus is on community-based participatory research, and a representative from the Southern Organizing Committee. 31 The meeting was videotaped and available for me to watch at FWAFs Apopka office. 124

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Lake Apopkas former farmworkers were empowered by the idea of pesticiderelated illness because they be lieved that it provided a tech nical environmental narrative equally as powerful as the one driving Lake Apopkas restoration. If scientists, environmentalists, and politicians could so eas ily identify what Lake Apopkas problems were and mobilize the resources to solve them, then the same could surely be done for farmworker bodies. Like the muck farmers before them, Lake Apopkas farmworkers were also waiting for their ba il-out. The belief was that if the government could take care of the muck farmers and Lake Apopka, it coul d also take care of the farmworkers. I base this theory both on the informal interviews I had with former farmworkers as well as the comments made by farmwork ers during the first Environmental Health Forum. During the forum, many farmworkers pl ainly stated their health conditions, cited pesticide exposure as the cause, and aske d either why the government, doctors or scientists couldnt do anything about it or what they were going to do about it. For example, one former farmworker mentioned how there had been ta lks about testing the former farmworker community for Lupus. She asked where those tests would take farmworkers: I want to know that if they give us testing to determine if we have autoimmune diseases. Do you think door s could be opened, that we could walk through those doors for medical care, for people that dont have health insurance? Because this is our problem right now. We are concerned about being treated, and we dont have money, and you dont have money to give us, so what are we going to do? Another farmworker said: We came here to find out; are we rea lly going to get some help from the government? Now on the flyers it said that the government gave about 90 million dollars to the farmers to close their farms, or something like that. Are they going to pull out the same amount of money for research and actually help the people with Lupus or other illnesses, are they going to 125

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get the right people to do the research that is needed to make a difference, are they really going to do this or is this (the environmental health forum), just another joke? Another lie? In answering these questions the panel consistently made two points. First, that science would be unable to determine what was causing their chroni c conditions. In other words, that there is no tec hnical solution to the problem. And second, that any kind of help from the government could only be gained from political struggle. The endocrinologist, the represen tative from the Southern Orga nizing Committee and Jeannie Economos especially emphasized this, but Sister Gail, a long time activist in the community was most explicit in ge tting this second point across: Ive heard a lot of you say when are the doors going to be opened? When was the last time a door was opened for you that you didnt have to bang on first? The doors are not going to ope n, just because we are saying there is a problem. We talked about politics Politics is a big part of the whole issue. I mean, let us remember that these chemical companies are big guns. They want to keep producing chemicals. They want to keep exposing us to them. They dont really care what the effects are Every person here, me and everybody in this r oom has to work together if we want changes. Its not just going to happen. Somebody is not just going to come down and say oh let me do something for the farmworkers in Apopka. Ninety million dollars didn t go our way did it? How many of you got money when the farms closed ? How many of you got anything but a pink slip? Many of you didnt even get a thank you. The only thing thats going to make a difference is if we all hang together and make ourselves absolutely obnoxious so obnoxi ous that they are going to have to pay attention to us. Otherwise you can forget it. If you think doors are going to open, you can go home and sleep. Its a beautiful dream, but its never going to happen. In watching the video and seeing th e expressions on many of the former farmworkers faces, I knew that these calls for politics were not well received. Many former farmworkers, likely felt that they were being political, but unfortunately, I think many people took offense, and perceived the statem ents to be an attack on their character. Despite calls for political action, namely a confrontation with the state, FWAF and the 126

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former farmworkers continued their empha sis on producing community-based research so as to document the health problems. Fo r FWAF, it was seen as a necessary step forward. By 2003, however, funding to support the Lake Apopka Environmental Health Project ran out, and in spite of all the efforts undertaken to organize a community-based study, the project was put on hold. In 2004, how ever, FWAF was awarded grant money from the Presbyterian Committee on the Se lf-Development of People and the United States Environmental Protection Agency, and wa s finally able to, with the enlisted help of anthropologists Ron Habin, design, im plement and analyze the data of 148 environmental health surveys conducted w ith the former Lake Apopka farmworker community from January to December 2005. The 2005 survey was successful on multiple fronts. The project trained numerous community organizers (who had never done work like this in their lives), it collected valuable data about the former farmworker community, from that data a long list of contacts for future organizing was developed, and it clearly outlined the environmental health needs of the former farmworker community. Furthermore, according to Dr. Habin, it energized the community and brought back many former farmworkers who had given up the cause. While it did play a factor in the creation of the H eart of Apopka program, an initiative of Florida Hosp ital that seeks to educate low-income people about the management of chronic health conditions, the survey did not prompt any governmental agencies to conduct a health interven tion. Once again, the community was left disappointed with its efforts. 127

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The failure of the survey to relieve any of the former farmworkers health needs illustrates how the pesticide-related illness narrative also caused the community to become disempowered. While the survey was certainly a valuable exercise, it had the effect of disengaging the former farmworker community from the groups that they should have been struggling against from the be ginning of 1996, namely the Friends of Lake Apopka, the St. Johns River Water Manageme nt District, the Orange County Health Department, and the Florida state government. Even after the survey some farmworkers were convinced that they had proof of pesticide-related illness and rumors spread amongst the former farmworker community that it was going to be used in a class-action lawsuit, and that it was going to be used by the state to justify reparations These rumors and misundersta ndings continue up until this day. During an interview with a former fa rmworker in Indian Town, one man thought that I was a part of a legal team building a case. In arguing these points, however, I must st ress that I am not trying to say that FWAF and the former farmworkers were nave or were wasting their time. A number of extenuating factors have made it very difficult for the community to organize in the way prescribed by Sister Gail. For one, the form er farmworker community, and especially the African American contingency, is very ill. Many of my interviews and meetings at one time or another had to be rescheduled or canceled because the pe rson was experiencing health complications or had to undergo w eekly treatments (such as dialysis). Many people are bed-ridden. Furthermore, the vast majority of Apopkas former farmworkers are at retirement age and steeped in the ki nd of poverty that makes day-to-day living extremely challenging. Add to this the variety of obligations and mutual aid activities that 128

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many are engaged in to keep their families afloat, and you have a situation where just getting five people to a mee ting is an arduous challenge. Another complication that I noticed wa s the changing relationship between the African American former farmworker community and the Farmworker Association of Florida. In the 1990s, the Lake Apopka muck farms were one of the few places, not including Belle Glade, where you could sti ll find a sizable population of African American farmworkers. The buy-out obviously changed this, but even before then the labor force was becoming increasingly Hispan ic. While this can be attributed to the historically underhanded way in which gr owers amassed cheap foreign labor, many African American farmworkers told me that they felt like they were being squeezed out and walked all over upon by Latinos. Comp etition over employment coupled with cultural differences and prejudices, likely enc ouraged by growers, has, according to some that Ive interviewed, led to a general tension and mistrust between African American farmworkers and Latino farmworkers. Fortuna tely, this is not true in all cases. Although FWAF defines itself as an orga nization with multiethnic representation and a multiethnic constituency, a number of African American former farmworkers have expressed concern over FWAFs largely Latino leadership. The Farmworker Association of Florida only re presents the interests of Latinos, is a phrase I heard more than once during my field work. Additionally, Jeannie Economos, my supervisor during the internship, menti oned repeatedly how she was no longer allowed to use any of the organizations funds for the Lake Apopka Environmental Health Project, the main initiative in which FWAF ha s interfaced with the African American former farmworker community for the past decade. 129

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These factors have undoubtedly affected organizing efforts with the African American community. In an interview with Estela Alchino, a Hispanic community organizer in the Lake Apopka Environmental Health Project, she mentioned how one of the biggest problems was the underlying lack of trust between people, and the occasional unwillingness of different groups to be open to wards one another. Nonetheless, I think that it would be wrong to assume that FWAF is actively trying to represent only the interest of Latinos. As a dynamic organization which is dealing with a variety of issues simultaneously, it seems only natural that its constituency will change over time. The same dynamic processes of change ha ve led to a new set of issues for the African American former farmworker communi ty, who must now contend with the social problems that affect poor urban areas, such as drugs, gentrification, and environmental racism. In the near future, the challenge for both this community and FWAF will be the negotiation of new roles for themselves in relation to Apopkas ch anging landscape. One thing that is absolutely nece ssary, however, is perhaps a ne w organization that can more thoroughly work for social change in South Apopka. As for the Lake Apopka Environmenta l Health Project, a new beginning was represented by the completion of the Lake Apopka Memorial Quilt Project. Created by key members of the former farmworker commun ity, with the assistan ce of volunteers, the quilt memorializes all of those who worked on Lake Apopka, and all of those who have deceased since the buy-out. 130

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Conclusion: Remembering Those Who Put Food on Americas Table One of the projects that I was privileged to help with during my fieldwork period was the Lake Apopka Memorial Quilt. Inspired by the AIDs Memorial Quilt, an international monument in which families and friends may submit quilt squares in remembrance of a loved one who died from AIDS,32 Jeannie Economos and women leaders within the former farmworker comm unity had the idea a c ouple years back of creating a similar memorial for Lake Apopka s farmworkers. Although there was active interest in starting such a project, Jeannie, who was organizing it at the time, became busy with more pressing matters, and other co mmunity members did not have the time to pick it up. The spare labor, offered by my presence as an intern, enabled the quilt project to get off the ground once again, and we began a process in which we sought to develop a format in which former farmworker families could submit patches memorializing loved ones in a fashion similar to the AIDS quilt. In nearly all my interviews with former farmworkers, in an attempt to gain as much community input into the project as possible, I asked for suggestions and feedback on ideas about the presentation of quilt squares. By the time my internship was done I had helped to organize a number of small community 32 Founded in 1987, the AIDS Memorial Quilt now consists of over 40,000 panels. Internationally, it is recognized as one of the largest ongoing community arts project in the world. 131

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meetings, and a grant proposal to fund the project was in the works with the Florida Humanities Council33. Since August 2009, the Lake Apopka Memori al Quilt Project has evolved into a large collaborative endeavor, in which former farmworkers, students, and volunteers have joined together to produce two magnificen t memorial quilts. In August 2010, I was invited to the South Apopka communitys Second Annual National Night Out event, which the year prior I had helped my friend Linda Lee to organize. In addition to food, games, and speakers, the event was going to serve as the first unveiling of the Lake Apopka Memorial Quilts. The day prior to the event, I made a cas ual visit to Lindas home to see how she was doing. Linda, who has taken a central leadersh ip role in the project, showed me the two quilts that had been completed thus far. Both quilts feature a center panel with the words Lake Apopka Memorial Quilt and an overhead image of La ke Apopka that is surrounded by squares depicting various imag es of farmworker life. Each square memorializes a farmworker or farmworker family. I couldnt help but feel a sense of awe and appreciation. It was incredible to see th e finished project after having worked on its conceptual beginning. I hadnt been there for more than ten minutes when a small bus of students from one of the Hope Community Centers summe r educational programs pulled up next to Lindas home. Sister Ann Kendrick was with them and asked if Linda could show the 33 The FHC is a private non-profit organization dedicated to building strong communities and informed citizens by providing Floridians with the opportunity to explore the heritage, traditions and stories of [the] state and its place in the world. As the state aff iliate of the National Endow ment for the Humanities, FHC provides grants for public humanities programs and resources. FWAF, Seminole Community College, and Creald School of Art received an FHC grant in 1999 to produce the Last Harvest photo documentary. 132

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group, which consisted entirely of young Af rican American women, the quilt and say a few things about it. Rolling out one of the quilts onto a table in her front lawn, Linda gave an informal presentation, the student s and their counselors crowding around her. Figure 3: Linda Lee gives a presentation to a youth group in front of her home. After providing a brief introduction to the quilt project, Linda began pointing at individual squares and explai ning their meaning. Pointing to an image of a woman and a child Linda explained, A lot of pregnant wo men worked on the farms also, so it wasnt just us getting exposed to th e pesticides, it was unborn children getting exposed also." "This image of a truck represents the fruits and vegetables we were hauling out of the fields daily. Back then we helped produce corn, cabbages, celery... pretty much anything that you see in a grocery store today, we used to cut it, pack it and ship it out." One of the counselors asked Linda what time period she was referring to. Linda replied, "I started working on the farms in th e late 60s and I stopped in the 1980s. But my 133

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grandfather, for as long as I knew him worked on the farms, and also my grandmother, my mom, my dad, my aunts and unclesIn Ap opka there was really nothing else to do. There were the farms, the orange groves and the nurseries. There was no other work around here." Linda went on: This image here (of a hand holding an ear of corn) signifies all of those who packed corn out in the fields. When you packed corn all of your finger nails would get busted up and they would go to bleeding and your hand would get tender And this piece here signifies how some ladies couldnt find childcare, so they would bring their kids to the fields. You would try to work and watch the kids all at the same time This lady right here (Linda pointed to a quilt square with the image of a woman) she was a nurse. She went to school and became a nurse, because she said she got tired of working on the farms. She became a nurse, but she passed away soon afterward. She was a young gi rl when she passed away. I think she was about 22 or 23 I did this one in memory of my brother. You see. There is importan t history right around the corner from you, said one of the counselors to her students. Sister A nne Kendrick also chimed in, "I mean you may think that this happened two hundred years a go, but it didnt. Linda worked out there. And these farms just closed down not that l ong ago. And the day that they closed down, everybody was just laid off, they didnt get a ny severance pay, they didnt get any bonus, they didnt get any thing like, say what Mr. Head of BP got, or any parting gifts. They just lost their jobs a nd they didnt qualify for any kind of assistance." Linda added to Sister Kendricks retelling: "Nope. And the government gave us a gr ant to educate th e people. But see you look at the young people; they can be educated, but the older people weren't going to try and get on them computers. They were offering computer classes, and the older peop le were saying 'no way, my eyes are bad, I'm just here struggling to get around, and then what was really sad was that when they set up the computer classes down at the John Bridges Center, they didnt have nobody to teach it for a while. So that was just a waste of money for us. Cause no mone y was there to actually teach the class." 134

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And you guys are the generati on that can really affect change. You guys are the generation that can help people that came before you. Remember, she paved the way for many of the opportunities you enjoy today. She paved the way for you to go into a magnet program so you could study nursing, so you could study law, so you could study aviation, you have so many opportunities. Dont let what she went through be in vain, concluded one of the counselors. And when you go in the grocery store and look at the fruits and vegetables, think a bout it. Somebody picked all of it. They have machines in the fields, but the machines can only do so much. Remember to give thanks to farmworkers, added Linda. With those closing lines, the students and counselors thanked Linda for her time, proclaimed that the quilts were beautiful, boarded their bus and we nt on their way. After the presentation, I felt as if I had witnessed a transformation of sorts. Linda, whom I had known to be shy and disinclined to sp eak publicly, wonderfu lly portrayed her community, and was assertive about revealing in justice in the past and present. I felt a renewed sense of strength and power, not just from her, but also from those around her: during my visit, I learned that Lindas daught er and granddaughter we re leaders in a new community group that advocated for renters rights. The Lake Apopka Farmworkers Memorial Quilt Project has not only been an empowering and transformative experience for those whove worked on it, but it is also proving to be an empowering and transforma tive moment in the long history of the former farmworker communitys struggle for he althcare and environmen tal justice. In an interview I had with Liz Buckley, the coor dinator of the Lake Apopka Environmental Health Project during the early 2000s, she lame nted how from the beginning there was a 135

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huge disconnect between those doing the organi zing and the community that needed to be organized. In its effort to document commun ity health problems, FWAF did not focus enough on developing leadership and solidar ity within the former farmworker community. There were few routes for community empowerment. In turn, Lake Apopka has left a sore spot in the hearts of many w hove genuinely tried to affect change. Many felt as if their effort and hard work had led to nothing. Liz concluded that a way forward could be to honor the legacy of the former farmworker communitys organizing by turn ing Lake Apopka into a symbol for popular environmental justice educa tion in the region. Jeannie Ec onomos echoed this conclusion when she told me that the Lake Apopka Farm worker Memorial Quilt Project could serve as a victory for a community who hasnt seen one in years. In many ways, the quilt project has not ju st been about stitc hing together an educational exhibit. It has also been about stitching back t ogether a community left torn by past broken promises and misunderstand ings. Many who have distanced themselves from Lake Apopka and FWAF in the past year s have returned to join with others in memorializing their family members. Furt hermore, for the first time, community members have been engaged in a project wh ere they are not simply passive survey respondents. Every participant has taken an active role in creati ng their quilt square. Since its completion, the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Memorial Quilt Project has become a force in and of itself. The a pplause given after Geraldean Matthews inauguration of the quilt at th e Second Annual National Night Out bears testimony to this fact. Geraldean explained, The quilt was designed to keep the me mory of your mother, your father, your sisters, and your br others that worked on the Lake Apopka farm 136

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lands. Millions of dollars were give n to the growers and other places to accommodate them, but for the farmworkers who had worked there for over forty years, nothing was given. We are sick, we are dying, we dont have health insurance, and we have b een struggling with Li nda, the help of the Farmworkers Association, myself, Sarah and the volunteers you see over there that come from college ever y summer to help us. We have had success at getting some laws passed, for example the workers protection standard bill, which gives farmworker s the right to know what type of pesticide they are working in; so when we get sick and go to the emergency room we can tell the doctor the type of pesticide we worked in over the years, and be treated right, with proper care. As you know being a resident of Apopka when we come in town, our own different streets, we hear about our peoples that are dyi ng. A large percentage of African American people are buried daily in Apopka. Every weekend there is three or more funerals. So you all pay atte ntion to the news, because we arent stopping! The quilt was designed to go across America! We arent finished with that quilt that is hanging on that tree there. We are asking people that have deceased family member s to take part in the quilt and to sew a square on there, because this quilt is going across America and its going get bigger and bigger. We are not forgetting where we come from! Thank you. In addition to renewing a sense of so lidarity within the former farmworker community, the quilt has made some waves w ithin the wider Central Florida area. In 2010, the memorial quilts were featured at the Barry University Law Schools annual Environmental Justice Symposium, wher e Linda and Geraldean were on a panel discussing community organizing. November of the same year, the two memorial quilts were the first visual exhibits to be featur ed at the University of Central Floridas Diversity Week Breakfast event, where Linda, Jeannie, and Sarah Downs, a key volunteer in the quilt project,34 were invited to speak on a panel addressing farmworker issues broadly. 34 Key volunteer does not do justice to the amount of work and effort Sarah Downs, a former Americorp Volunteer and artist, has put into this project. From the start she and her good friend Jim Barry have been indispensable to the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Memo rial Quilt Project. In addition to providing their artistic expertise, they have devot ed countless hours to working with community members in the creation of squares. 137

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Figure 4: The main organizers of the La ke Apopka Farmworkers Memorial Quilt Project. From Left to Right Linda Lee, Sarah Downs, Jeannie Economos, and Geraldean Matthew. In the coming months, it will be intere sting to see where the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Memorial Quilt Project will go next, how its meaning will change through time, and where it may bring the former farm worker community. What is apparent now, however, is that former farmworkers are ma king peace with and deriving strength from what has no doubt been a confusing and tumultuous legacy. Unfortunately, former farmworkers and thei r families still have their work cut out for them. As mentioned previously, the to wns of South Apopka, Zellwood and Indian Town, where many former farmworkers now re side, have a host of social problems ranging from environmental racism to gang vi olence and police brutality. Lake Apopka is only a single episode in an on-going struggle against structural inequality and the forces that perpetuate poverty. In many ways the odds are stacked against the people who live in 138

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these places, but nonetheless a culture of resi stance persists and is gaining power as community leaders continue to learn from past mistakes and successes. Reflections on Activism-Oriented Fieldwork: So where do anthropologists fit into these struggles and in what ways can anthropology be an effective tool in fome nting positive social and environmental change? From my own experience, clear answers to th ese questions are diffi cult to come by, but nonetheless, I do have some ideas. For one, I found that an activist approach is a great way of reciprocating those whove provided you with the information that enables the completion of a thesis. As I mentioned in chapter 4, the Lake Apopka Farmworkers Environmental Health Project is no longer al lowed to take up any more of FWAFs budget, and as such, cannot hire an organize r to work with the former farmworker community. My availability as an intern a nd a committed environmental justice activist, helped to temporarily fill this gap, and pr oved useful for both the staff of FWAF and leaders in the South Apopka community. Furt hermore, my education and time enabled me to do environmental research that leaders in the community could either not do, or did not have time to do, such as looking up public records on local waste facilities, making phone calls, organizing meetings, and reviewing archived information. At the same time, however, I found that engaging in activist work with the community entailed a bit of a balancing act. On the one hand, I wanted to be useful and pull my weight, yet on the other I did not want to have so much of a leadership presence that the communitys organizi ng efforts would be hampered by my leaving. As evidenced by the progress of the quilt project, they werent, yet there were times where community 139

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members treated me as if I was the main organi zer or delegated nearly all the work to me. This is understandable, given that many comm unity members are in tight circumstances, but it nonetheless made it more difficult for me to negotiate my role within FWAF and within the community. During my field work, I found that anothe r caveat, and perhaps drawback, of the activist approach was that it even further entrenches anthropologists in the internal political conflicts communities may face. With respect to the work Ive done, Im obliged to mention one instance in which a man became upset with me for wasting his time after he gave me an interview, because he thought I was part of a legal team building a class action lawsuit for the former farmworkers. In other words, I was just another disappointment. This example shows how an activist approach may not always benefit everyone in the community being studied. Another interesting aspect of the activist approach is the way it explicitly alters the traditional relationship between the fi eld worker and the community. Whereas nonactivist anthropologies produce ethnographic knowledge thr ough interviews, participant observation and cultural critique activist anthropology does so through political dialogue, collective action, and refl ection. In the process, the ways in which both the field worker and the community understand themselves and th e worlds they inhabit are fundamentally transformed. It would be wrong of me to sa y that this does not occur in non-activist anthropologies. Fieldwork, whether conscious ly or subconsciously, always entails the simultaneous transformation of the observer and the observed. The difference is that in an activist approach, both the anth ropologist and the community are co-creating a shared political ideology and culture of resistance. 140

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For example one problem I encountere d, and overcame, was reconciling my personal political beli efs and convictions with the prag matic politics that occur on the ground level in community organizing activities. With respect to politically addressing the problems faced by farmworkers, when I began my fields work I was aligned most with the somewhat radical pos ition put forward by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers: that because the state excludes farmworker s from having unions, and because it takes such a contradictory and hypocritical stance towards immigration, any political action addressing capitals exploitation of labor must forego the legislative channels of the state, which are compromised by capital, and directly appeal to consumers whose dollars, in the neo-liberal world order, have greater strength than votes. In this way, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers campaigns are focused on educating middle class consumers about the low wages and conditions farmworkers face in hopes that consumers will join them in putting pressure on corporations and the growers that supply them. Interning at the Farmworker Association of Florida, however, I realized the value of the small victories achieve d through conventional legislat ive politics. The achievement of the Right to Know Act in 1994 and the Alfredo Bahena Act in 2004, serves as a case in point. Although, realistically farmwo rkers are not thoro ughly protected by reentry interval postings and safety trainings, do not always receive the sanitation facilities that they need, and enforcement of the Worker Protection Standards ar e lax, prior to these pieces of legislation even ludicrous and excessi ve violations by growers were able to go unchallenged. Furthermore, over the long term, legislative change enables the benefits derived from political victories to be more sustainable. 141

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My position now is that both radical and conventional political approaches are necessary for positive change, and that there should be effort towards integration and greater communication between groups, rather than division via superficial differences. My own political standpoint, however, is not the only thing that has transformed over the course of my field work. In describing to newcomers and amongst themselves the problems affecting their community, former fa rmworker leaders now tend to explicitly identify unequal power relations as the cause of their environmental health problems. They have become less reluctant in implicating the state, political lobbies, and growers as agents of their oppression. Lastly, there is the question of how activ ist anthropologists can use their expertise in the service of social movements. In my opinion, one of anthropologys greatest strengths has always been its ability to overturn common assump tions about peoples, places and time periods. While my ethnography ma y not lead directly to some form of material benefit for Lake Apopkas former farmworkers, what it does do, hopefully, is overturn the common assumptions that inform the dominant narrative of Lake Apopkas restoration. The dominant narrative is not onl y oppressive in the sense that it excludes farmworkers from the lakes history, but also in that it has the potential to set a precedent for how the state of Florida deals with all ag ricultural-related environmental issues. After all, what is Lake Apopka if not an example of what could ha ppen with Everglades Restoration? Already, $536 million has been ea rmarked by Governor Charlie Crist for the purchase of U.S. Sugar farmland adjacent to the River of Grass. Unsurprisingly, U.S. Sugar, a huge employer of farmworkers, wa s given absolute autonomy in naming this price and in outlining the terms of the purchase (Natta and Cave 2010). 142

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The question as to who benefits from th e love affair Floridas politicians and environmental groups seem to have with massive land purchases must be asked. A 1997 article in the Orlando Weekly entitled The Color of Money, may offer some insight. Written by investigative reporter Edward Ericson, the article makes the case that Lake Apopkas restoration is actually a land specula tion plan designed to spur the development of West Orange County. Citing the large tracts of land that Friends of Lake Apopka board members own along the lakes shores, Eric son argues that the environmental group literally duped the public and state lawmak ers into paying for a buy-out that would ultimately provide them with the most benef it. Does this indicate a trend in Floridas environmental politics? Who, besides U.S. Sugar, stands to benefit from the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Pl an? As we move further into the 21st century these question will have important ramifications for the pursuit of environmental justice. Meanwhile, it is becoming increasingly ev ident that farmworker politics can not only focus on the lack of a living wage. The l ack of a healthy environment is just as crucial an issue, and one that has the potential of affecting many generations of people. Furthermore, we must understand that compro mised health due to chemical exposure is not a far off apocalyptic scenario. It is happening today. Only th rough collective action can we hope for a better tomorrow, one in which nobody is poisoned solely for the profit of others. 143

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Colarossi, Anthony 2002 Apopka farmworkers complain of illness at clean-up hearing. Orlando Sentinel, August 28. Colarossi, Anthony and Robyn Suriano 2002 Harvest of Pain. Orlando Sentinel, May 19. Colarossi, Anthony 2001 Muck farms caused lupus, some suspect. Orlando Sentinel, December 28. Connolly, Kevin P. 1998 Photos preserve piece of Lake A popkas history. Orlando Sentinel, May 3. Davis, Jack E. and Raymond Arsenault (eds.) 2005 Paradise Lost? The Environm ental History of Florida University Press of Florida, Gainesville. Economos, Jeannie 1999 Lessons From Lake Apopka. Orlando Sentinel, November 7. Editorial 1986 Lake Apopka Not Dead. Orlando Sentinel October 7. Editorial 1996a No bailout for muck farms. Orlando Sentinel, April 21. Editorial 1996b Its the farmers turn. Orlando Sentinel, December 14. Editorial 1996c Buyout is a cop-out. Orlando Sentinel, May 24. Edwards, Jennifer 1998 Farmworkers lives honored in photographs. Orlando Sentinel, September 12. Ericson, Edward Jr. 1997 The Color of Money. Orlando Weekly, September 18-24. Eskenazi B, Bradman A, Castorina R 1999 Exposures of children to organophosphate pesticides and their potential adverse health effects. Environmental Health Perspectives 107(3):409-19. Farmworker Association of Florida 2010 Fumigant Pesticide Bad for Florida and for Farmworkers [ ] 147

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Hale, Charles 2006 Activist Research v. Cultural Crit ique: Indigenous Land Rights and the Contradictions of Politic ally Engaged Anthropology. Cultural Anthropology 21(1): 96-120. Halfacre-Hitchcock, Angela; McCarthy, Deborah ; Burkett, Tracy; and Alicia Carvajal 2006 Latino Migrant Farmworkers in Lowc ountry South Carolina: A Demographic Profile and an Examination of Pesticide Risk Perception and Protection in Two Pilot Case Studies. Human Organization 65(1):55-71. Hamhamovitch, Cindy 1997 The Fruits of their Labor: Atlantic Coast Farmworkers and the Making of Migrant Poverty, 1870-1945 University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. Haner, Noelle C. 2005 Feeling abandoned: Millions in grant dol lars to help displaced Lake Apopka farmworkers will cease next month. Orlando Weekly, February 18-24. Harthorn, Barbara Herr 1998 California Farmworkers: Dilemmas in Developing Interventions for Health and Medical Care Concerns. Human Organization 57(3):368-78. Hawley, Pat and Jim Hawley 1986a Stop Lake Apopka Hyacinth Plan. Orlando Sentinel September 26. Hemenway, Toby 2009 Gaias Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture 2nd Edition. Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, Vermont. Holt, Alejandra Okie, and Sister Evelyn Mattern 2002 Making Home: Culture, Ethnicity and Religion among Farmworkers in the Southeastern United States. In The Human Cost of Food: Farmworkers Lives, Labor, and Advocacy (Charles D. Thompson, Jr. and Melinda F. Wiggins, eds.):21-52).University of Texas Press, Austin, TX. Hoover, Michael and Lisa Stokes 1998 A Grim Reaping. Orlando Weekly, July 16-22. Hoppin JA, Umbach DM, London SJ et al. 2006b Pesticides associated with Wheeze among commercial pesticide applicators in the Agricultural Health Study. American Journal of Epidemiology 163:1129-37. Hoppin JA, Umbach DM, Kullman GJ et al. 2007a Pesticides and other agri cultural factors associated w ith self-reported farmers lung among farm residents in the Agricultural Health Study. Occupational Environmental Medicine 64:334-42. 149

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Hoppin JA, Valcin M, Henneberger PK et al. 2007b Pesticide use and chronic bronchitis am ong farmers in the Agricultural Health Study. American Journal of Industrial Medicine 50:969-79. Hoppin JA, Umbach DM, London SJ et al. 2008 Pesticides and atopic and nonatopic asthma among farm women in the Agricultural Health Study. American Journal of Respiratory Critical Care Medicine 177:11-8. Kamel, Freya; Rowland, Andrew S; Park, La wrence P; Anger, W Kent; Baird, Donna D; Gladen, Beth C; Moreno, Tirso; Stallone, Lillian; and Dale P. Sandler 2003 Neurobehavioral Performance and Work Experience in Florida Farmworkers. Environmental Health Perspectives 111(14):1765-72. Kamel F, Engel LS, Gladen BC et al. 2005 Neurologic symptoms in licensed private pesticide applicators in the agricultural health study. Environmental Health Perspectives 113:877-82. Kamel F, Tanner CM, Umbach DM et al. 2007 Pesticide exposure and self-re ported Parkinsons disease in the agricultural health study. American Journal of Epidemiology 165:364-74. Kaplan, Debra A. 1996a Task force will look at economic eff ects of muck farm buy-out. Apopka Chief, September 13. Kaplan, Debra A. 1996b Staley wants $390,000 for projects in Apopka. Apopka Chief, November 8. Kaplan, Debra A. 1996c Orange Country agrees to spend $250,000 fo r plan to attract jobs. Apopka Chief, December 20. Kelly, Morgan 2008 Pitt Research Find That Low Concentra tions of Pesticides Can Become Toxic Mixture. New From Pitt, November 11. Kirrane EF, Hoppin JA, Kamel F et al. 2005 Retinal degeneration and other eye diso rders in wives of farmer pesticide applicators enrolled in the agricultural health study. American Journal of Epidemiology 161: 1020-29. Kirsch, Max (ed.) 2006 Inclusion and Exclusion in the Global Arena. Routledge, New York. 150

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Lantigua, John 2005 Why was Carlitos born this wa y? Palm Beach Post, March 16. Lee WJ, Sandler DP, Blair A et al. 2007 Pesticide use and colore ctal cancer risk in the Agricultural Health Study. International Journal of Cancer 121:339-46. Loy, Wesley and Kirsten Gallagher 1988 Lake Apopka Battle Spills Into Courtroom June 2. Mahajan R, Blair A, Lynch CF 2006 Fonofos exposure and cancer inciden ce in the agricultural health study. Environmental Health Perspectives 114:1838-42. McCauley LA, Anger WK, Keifer M et al. 2006 Studying health outcomes in farmwork er populations exposed to peticides. Environmental Health Perspectives 114:953-60. McSweeney, Patrick 1992 The Long Road Back: After 75 years of abuse and neglect, the process of restoring Lake Apopka to its former days of glory has begun. Florida Water Fall. Mehta, Kala, Susan M. Gabbard, Vanessa Ba rrat, Melissa Lewis, Daniel Carroll, and Richard Mines 2000 Findings from the National Agricultural Workers Survey (NAWS) 1997-1998: A Demographic and Employment Prof ile of United States Farmworkers Research Report No. 8. (March). Office of the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Program Economics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Labor. Miller, G Tyler 2004 Sustaining the Earth, 6th Edition Thompson Learning, Inc., Pacific Grove, California. Moore, Waveney Ann 1999 A lost way of life is preserved in im ages. St. Petersburg Times, October 13. Murray, Douglas L. and Peter Leigh Taylor 2000 Claim No Easy Victories: Evaluating the Pesticide Industrys Global Safe Use Campaign. World Development 28(10):1735-49. Natta, Don Van and Damien Cave 2010 Deal to Save Everglades May Help Sugar Firm. New York Times, March 7. OFallon, Liam R. and Allen Dearry 2002 Community-Based Participatory Research as a Tool to Advance Environmental Health Sciences. Environmental Health Perspectives 110(supplement 2):155-9. 151

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