To Our Members, Supporters, Allies, and Colleagues:
After 3 years as General Coordinator of the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF), Dr. Antonio Tovar will be stepping down from this position. Antonio will continue working with several FWAF-related research projects. His wife recently accepted a job offer in Virginia and he will be moving to be closer to his family. He expresses deep gratitude to the Board of Directors for the opportunity to have served FWAF in the role of General Coordinator.
Upon Antonio’s announcement, the Board of Directors formed a Transitional Team and a Search Committee to ensure the ongoing stability of the organization and the fulfillment of its
commitments. An internal search was conducted and as a result, we are happy to announce that the Board decided to hire Mr. Nezahualcoyotl “Neza” Xiuhtecutli as the new General Coordinator.
Neza is in the final phase of his doctorate in anthropology at Tulane University and has been working with the Association in various capacities since 2016, most recently as Research Coordinator. He is excited about taking on the role of General Coordinator and is looking forward to the challenges and rewards of leading the Association. Neza is committed to championing the organization’s mission and vision of a more just world and food system where farmworkers, their families, and communities are treated with the dignity and respect, that they and their work deserve.
As part of his continuing commitments with FWAF, over the next few months Antonio will be collaborating with Neza, offering his guidance and experience, as necessary.
The Association expresses gratitude to each of you, our supporters, for joining in the fight for Social and Environmental Justice for farmworkers and rural communities in Florida, the Nation, and the World. Our principles have not changed, and our goals of creating a new food production system based on equality, fairness, and agroecology remains steadfast!
No Farmworkers, No Food!
¡Si se Puede!
Please join us in congratulating Neza and supporting him in this new role as we move into a new year with hope and possibilities.
The Staff and Board of the Farmworker Association of Florida
Mission & Vision
The Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF) is a statewide, grassroots, community-based, non-profit, farmworker membership organization with over 10,000 Haitian, Hispanic, and African American members and five offices in the state of Florida with a 35 year history of working for social and environmental justice with farmworkers.
The Farmworker Association of Florida’s long-standing mission is to build power among farmworker and rural low-income communities, to respond to and gain control over the social, political, economic, workplace, health, and environmental justice issues that impact their lives.
Our guiding vision is a social environment where farmworkers’ contribution, dignity, and worth are acknowledged, appreciated, and respected through economic, social, and environmental justice. This vision includes farmworkers being treated as equals, and not exploited and discriminated against based on race, ethnicity, gender, or immigrant or socioeconomic status.
In keeping true to the organization’s mission and guiding vision, FWAF’s core strategy is to help farmworkers realize and build upon their power to be effective agents of social and personal change by:
- Validating and strengthening the experiences, knowledge, and understanding of farmworkers
- Building farmworkers’ capacity to participate in decision-making processes that affect their lives
- Building multiracial coalitions with other farmworker organizations promoting civic engagement and better working conditions
- Organizing around community and labor issues
- Raising consciousness about and advocating for farmworkers’ rights and justice
Toward this goal, FWAF’s programs and activities build leadership, civic engagement, and activist skills among low-income communities of color who are disproportionately
FWAF is a statewide organization with five offices in Florida. Each office was created based on work around natural disasters impacting farmworkers. Each area office’s work is community-driven and accountable to their base, with local leadership committees that steer the local work and the overall work of the organization. We are proud of and work to ensure that FWAF is an organization of, by, with, and for farmworkers.
For over a century, Central Florida was known for its acres and acres of citrus groves growing oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, and other citrus fruits that were shipped around the state and around the country. The industry required the intensive labor of hard-working farmworkers to hand harvest the crops each year during the long citrus growing season.
In the mid-1980s, Central Florida experienced several devastating freezes that caused extensive damage to the citrus crop, leaving thousands of farmworkers without work or a way to make a living. Starting in Mascotte, south of Orlando, unemployed farmworkers came together and organized themselves to fight for disaster unemployment and other assistance to carry them through the period of the natural disaster. This was the seed for the formation of what came to be known as the Farmworker Association of Central Florida (FACF), established by the workers themselves in 1983. , In 1986, FACF was incorporated as a non-profit organization and an office was established in Apopka. At this time the workers expanded their organizing efforts to farmworkers in the fern-growing area of Pierson, FL, where a second office was set up in 1987.
In 1992, Hurricane Andrew made a devastating sweep across South Florida, wreaking the heaviest damage on the then rural, agricultural
town of Homestead, which was unrecognizable in the aftermath of the storm. Organizers from FACF traveled to South Florida to reach out to farmworker families in remote, hard-to-reach areas, offering assistance to largely immigrant farmworkers, many of whom did not speak English and who had been overlooked by disaster assistance agencies. Because of the extent and level of devastation and destruction caused by the storm, the organization had an extended presence in the area, doing disaster assistance and response, and eventually establishing a permanent presence by opening a third office in Florida City and changing the name of the organization to the Farmworker Association of Florida.
Especially vulnerable to the impacts of natural disasters, in 1995 farmworkers in the town of Bonita Springs in Southwest Florida experienced destructive flooding to their homes and the surrounding vegetable fields that resulted in temporary loss of work and put them at risk of homelessness. FWAF members responded by providing disaster outreach and response to the workers and building on already initiated organizing efforts in the area. In 1996 a fourth office was established in the nearby agricultural town of Immokalee.
The 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons once again brought damage to the state, this time hitting Florida’s east coast with powerful hurricane force winds and rain. FWAF mobilized people and resources to conduct disaster outreach, assistance and response efforts, working from a base in the citrus-growing town of Fellsmere. Developing relationships with the families and workers there, the town’s farmworker community members soon requested that the organization have an ongoing presence in their community, which led to FWAF establishing a fifth office there, in 2005.
By DALE FINLEY SLONGWHITE
THE HIGH COSTS OF CHEAP FOOD