FWAF is a statewide organization established in 1983, with five offices in Florida. Each office was created based on work around separate natural disasters that impacted 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.
The beginning: the 80’s Citrus crop freeze
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, west 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, with support from the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the Farmworker Ministry in Apopka. 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.
Read the details of our organizations evolution in the timeline below:
Farmworkers in Mascotte (Orange County), with the support of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur and the Office for Farmworker Ministry, created the Farmworker Association of Central Florida to organize for better housing, wages, and working conditions. The headquarters was established in Apopka, and the name was later changed to the Farmworker Association of Florida, as the organization expanded across the state.
Established PEP Labor Crews, a citrus harvesting cooperative which was the first farmworker-owned cooperative, and which empowered farmworkers to negotiate their own contracts with growers/producers to ensure fair wages and working conditions.
The Farmworker Association of Central Florida became incorporated as a 501©3 non-profit organization in the state.
Established the La Tienda ethnic food store in Apopka, which later expanded to two additional locations, in order to provide the farmworker community with access to their ethnic foods.
Three successful lawsuits initiated by the Farmworker Association resulted in coverage for fern cutters under the Agricultural Worker Protection Act.
Successfully advocated for the inclusion of fern cutters under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, which provided a legalization opportunity for undocumented immigrants.
Established an office in Pierson, Volusia County, known as the Fern Capital of the World.
With Homes in Partnership, constructed the Las Alamedas low-income housing community in Apopka and the Comunicasa low-income rental housing in Groveland, which provided approximately 100 homes for seasonal farmworkers in Central Florida.
Helped to expand the Community Trust Federal Credit Union to Pierson.
Initiated an HIV prevention education project to reach high-risk individuals in Apopka and in surrounding farmworker communities.
Expanded La Tienda ethnic food store to the Pierson area office.
Participated in the First National People of Color and Indigenous People Environmental Leadership Summits. Participated in the Second Summit in 2002.
After Hurricane Andrew, conducted disaster response and relief to impacted farmworkers in remote, rural areas of Miami-Dade County, and subsequently established an office in Homestead.
Co-founded the Farmworker Health and Safety Institute to develop popular education pesticide safety trainings for farmworkers and to advocate for policy change to improve farmworkers’ working conditions.
Became a member of the Rural Coalition. Joined the Rural Coalition Board of Directors in 1997.