Hurricanes devastated the east coast of Florida in 2004. The little town of Fellsmere, west of Vero Beach on Florida’s east coast and populated largely by farmworkers working in the vast citrus groves in the area, was especially hard-hit. With few food, clothing and housing resources reaching the community and with many undocumented immigrants fearful of asking for assistance, FWAF staff traveled to Fellsmere to address the hardships faced by the farmworker community. Finding and
partnering with other local organizations and churches, FWAF began organizing farmworkers in Fellsmere to petition government officials to meet the needs of the people.
Disaster response work takes time. Long after the news media have left an area, a community is still left with the daily clean up and recovery efforts to restore their shattered lives and livelihoods. Such was the case in Fellsmere. Years after the hurricanes, FWAF was still addressing the disaster’s impact. The farmworker community responded by asking FWAF to remain as a presence in the community and to help them address the issues confronting them. Thus, the fifth FWAF office was established.
Today, Fellsmere is a success story of a farmworker community becoming empowered and taking control of their situation. From an organizing campaign that resulted in the election of community members to local office, to the current Fellsmere Community Garden, the people in the community have shown what can happen when people take power into their own hands.
On any given day, the office in Fellsmere is alive with children’s after school arts and crafts activities, women’s peer support groups, pesticide health and safety trainings, youth gathering for fun and education, and workers heading to the community garden to grow their own herbs and vegetables.
Acres and acres, miles and miles of citrus groves dominated the landscape around Fellsmere for decades, until the scourge of citrus greening disease decimated the once dominant citrus industry. Now, a booming watercress farm thrives on vast stretches of farm land that once were citrus groves, and cattle and horse ranching can also be found in the area. The majority of farmworkers from Fellsmere work in citrus, watercress, peppers and melons in season in neighboring towns and areas. While some workers are migrants, and others are H2A “guestworkers”, the Fellsmere community consists largely of established families, many of whom own their own homes and have children enrolled in the local schools.
Fellsmere, FL 32948
Phone ((772) 571-0081
Fax (772) 571-9932
Fellsmere Campesino's Garden
- Other Vegetables
- Pesticide Safety and Environmental Health
- Immigrants’ and Workers’ Rights
- Civic Engagement and Civic Participation
- Campesinos’ Gardens
By DALE FINLEY SLONGWHITE
THE HIGH COSTS OF CHEAP FOOD