Blog: Lake Apopka farmworker memorial quilt

Where there is agriculture, pesticides are used. One of the blackest pages in Florida’s pesticide-history is the 1998 environmental disaster that happened at Lake Apopka. The effects on the farmworkers’ health, their income and on the environment were devastating.

The Lake Apopka Farmworker Memorial Quilt is a tribute to the lives of farmworkers who lost their lives as a result of feeding America for decades. The stories told by each individual square weave the personal histories, tragedies, and small victories together to speak about the injustice which still occurs beneath our dinner tables. For stories and photos, visit the Lake Apopka farmworker memorial quilt blog.

What happened at Lake Apopka?

For decades, the farms around Lake Apopka, Florida’s third largest lake, used pesticides like the now banned DDT. By the late nineties, the lake had turned green and research showed that alligators, birds and fish were harmed. The government stepped in and bought the farms out. The restoration of Lake Apopka began with the flooding of the fields tor the first time in 50 years. That year a thousand migratory birds die on the shores of the lake. Lake Apopka alligators were discovered to have reproductive and hormonal problems.

By then it became clear that Lake Apopka was a dangerous toxic wasteland. All the government money went to the farmers and to environmental research. In the meantime, farmworkers had lost their jobs and their health. The Farmworkers Association of Florida organized re-training, relocation and access to medical care. 

Further reading

Would you like to know more about what happened at Lake Apopka from the  farmworkers themselves? In ‘Fed Up. The high cost of cheap food‘ by Dale Finley Slongwhite you can find their stories in their own words.