On Saturday, April 9th a group of seven volunteers travelled to Fellsmere to visit old friends, make new ones, and help out in the Campesinos Garden. The community gardens in Fellsmere are a source of empowerment for the farm worker community, providing fresh, chemical-free food for the people who live there. The gardens help give some power back to farm workers, as the food is grown by the community, for the community, on their own terms. YAYA aims to help in any way we’re needed, and this trip we did so by helping out in one of their Spring harvests and by hauling dirt and manure to the garden.
When we first arrived we were generously fed breakfast before getting to work. We all spent the day hauling dirt, weeding, harvesting, playing with puppies, and getting dirt under our nails. Ariana and myself spent the majority of the day transporting dirt from a local park to the garden. Shovelling dirt is no easy task, but it’s amazing how quickly a truck bed fills up when there’s an abundance of helping hands. Nico, Latoya, and her two children stayed in the garden to harvest and weed. Out of all the times I’ve been to Fellsmere thus far, this was the first time a community member outside of YAYA brought their children along! It was wonderful having young people from outside Fellsmere with us, because the Campesinos Garden serves to foster a spirit of community that connects youth to the earth. I was reminded of my first trip to Fellsmere, when Yolanda described her hopes that the children in her community grow up in an environment that nurtures their agricultural heritage. Latoya echoed Yolanda’s sentiments, expressing how important it was that her children grow up knowing that not everybody has access to the same things as they do. Visiting Fellsmere I am always struck by the similarities between communities: most people are just trying to raise their families in healthy communities, where their heritages are honored, and their children grow up with compassion.
I am always taken aback by the generosity we experience in Fellsmere. To begin with, we are always extremely well-fed after working in the gardens. This trip Maru graciously fed us nopales salad, made with cactus harvested from the garden! We also snacked on some of the spiciest salsa, washed down with the most refreshing hibiscus tea. The way we’re all able to share meals together is a reminder in and of itself of the connection between community, earth, and food that is sorely missing from our current agricultural system, especially for the farm workers stocking our grocery stores. The folks in Fellsmere are also generous with their storytelling, always candidly talking to us about potentially difficult matters impacting their communities. On top of large scale farm worker issues that YAYA and FWAF work to absolve, communities like Fellsmere deal with issues within themselves such as organizing the gardens or maneuvering city oversight.
Perhaps most striking about trips to Fellsmere is the complicated relationship people in farm worker communities must have with agriculture. A primary source of oppression for farm workers stems from their livelihoods of working with the earth, of picking food, and spending long hours in fields. However visiting communities like Fellsmere reminds us that agricultural work is not inherently oppressive, it is simply riddled with unjust labor practices and serves as a site for human rights violations based on immigration status, gender, and class, to only name a few. I look forward to continuing our trips to Fellsmere as long as YAYA can continue to lend helping hands. Spending time with Fellsmere community members is one of our most powerful ways of standing in solidarity and of witnessing farm workers fight for justice and liberation.