“I am happy to see the changes taking place from the ground up. Our community is using its farming knowledge to benefit our own families,” says Yolanda Gomez, community organizer and garden manager with the Farmworker Association of Florida (FWAF). “I am proud of our accomplishments, and excited to see the garden project growing and involving young people. We are eating healthier and, in our own way, practicing food sovereignty.”
Established in 1983, FWAF supports farmworkers and rural low-income communities in improving their living and working conditions. FWAF has grown to include more than 10,000 member families, with offices in five farmworker communities and an increasingly important role in the good food movement.
Community gardening builds skills and expands local food market
An expanding facet of FWAF’s work is providing farmworkers – most of whom have experience only on large, conventional farms – with opportunities to learn small-scale farming techniques and grow healthy, organic produce for their families and for local markets. From farm to fork, the focus is on providing high quality, chemical-free food to low-income rural communities of color, grown by and for the local community.
With funding from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, FWAF is collaborating with farmworkers in the state to cultivate food gardens and increase food sovereignty for local communities.
The first garden, located in Fellsmere in East Florida, fosters community spirit and connects local youth to their agricultural heritage. Through a participatory process led by Gomez, a growing number of families are working in the community garden on a part-time basis. These families are making decisions for themselves, teaching gardening skills and good nutrition to their neighbors, and increasing healthy, fresh produce options for families in Fellsmere.
The Fellsmere garden supplies produce to more than 100 families a year, who purchase the fruits and vegetables from the community garden office, local ethnic groceries, and recently, from their new local farmers market. For a community that has historically experienced difficulty accessing healthy, affordable produce, FWAF is expanding nutritious food options while cultivating connections between people and the land.
Expanding food sovereignty gardening projects to more communities
Building on the successful Fellsmere community garden, the model will be replicated in two additional locations in 2014, Florida City and Pierson. Along with this expansion, the project has been renamed Campesinos’ Gardens. FWAF has staff in all three locations and has worked with the local government to secure the use of underutilized land to implement the garden projects.
FWAF members from the Fellsmere project will provide mentorship for local members engaged in the new garden projects through a program called “Campesino-a-Campesino Garden Exchange.” Included in the exchange will be trainings on nutrition education, agroecology and food sovereignty.
The Campesinos’ Gardens brand will be used to label produce sold in local groceries. The produce will be offered at reasonable prices, and accompanied by educational materials with details about the community efforts behind it, as well as the benefits of eating food that is produced locally, without the use of toxic chemicals.
By expanding the community gardens, FWAF hopes to educate and engage more farmworker families across Florida.
Learn more about FWAF.