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The Forgotten Farmworkers of Apopka: an applied anthro blog from Florida

1 July, 2007

Here’s a new blog to keep an eye on: It tracks a collaborative applied anthropology project between a student, Nolan Kline, and an anthropology professor, Rachel Newcomb, both at Rollins College in Florida (in the very southeastern U.S.), who are working with a local nonprofit to, as they describe it, “find solutions to the problem of healthcare for former migrant farmworkers, many of whom are living in poverty and still experiencing the effects of exposure to pesticides and other work-related hazards.”

The mostly African-American farmworkers used to work on farms in the Lake Apopka area in Florida. The lake was partly drained in the 1940s for farmland and then, in 1998, the government bought up 14,000 acres of the farmland to restore to the lake. When the water started to fill the lake, it attracted birds, some 1,000 of which promptly died from the great quantities of pesticides and phosphates in the water. The former farmworkers suffer from a host of health problems as the result of long exposure to the pesticides. The project aims to create some sort of healthcare solution for the workers among other possible interventions.

The project is notable both for its activist angle and for its model of student-professor collaboration. I think, also, that we’ll see more anthropologists using blogs to post fieldnotes (of a sort) in a public forum, both to get ongoing feedback and an audience for their research.

L.L. Wynn


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