For the past four years, Glades Lives Matter has been working to lift up the people and the voices of the Glades to ensure others are aware of our common challenges. In 2017, we travelled to Tallahassee to demand change to a bad bill that would have cost our area thousands of jobs and shuttered at least one local sugar mill. We were successful, and our efforts resulted in the state moving forward on the project using state-owned land that was previously acquired from farmers more than two decades ago. Our efforts saved jobs, allowed our local residents to continue putting food on their tables for their families, and ultimately, brought our communities closer together.
Since that time, organizations such as the Everglades Foundation and their allies have been hard at work continuing to spread the lie that they “care” about our communities and claim they know what’s best for us. Former newspaper editor Eve Samples, who has been one of the most outspoken anti-Glades figures in Florida, has claimed she is concerned about “the detrimental effects” of farming. Yet she offers no evidence of its harm – only fake concern for a people she has never attempted to meet or even understand from where she sits atop her ivory tower.
Samples has also advocated for “sending water south” – the same water she claims is toxic and heavily polluted. If she is really concerned about our well-being, she would not be advocating for the economic destruction of our communities by penalizing our largest employers for problems that do not exist.
Recently, the Everglades Foundation and Congressman Brian Mast came out and tried to use our minority communities against our own farmers when they thought it would fit their anti-sugar agenda. But they showed their true colors when they stood on the shores of our own lake in Pahokee and pointed at toxic water and demanded that it be sent to our communities – instead of their wealthy communities – and then to the Everglades they claim to want to save. Once again, the people of the Glades were just a pawn in their ongoing, petty fight against Florida farmers. If it is too harmful to be sent to their communities, why is it okay to be sent to our Glades communities?
Our local farmers are not the source of problems. They are increasingly the source of opportunity, jobs and tremendous community support. They also take care of our land, water and air. Unlike these deceitful environmental groups, farmers have the science to prove they are taking care of our natural resources: farmers have reduced phosphorus by an annual average of 57% in the water flowing off their land, and their permitted farming practices are working since public data shows our communities have better air quality than on the coast.
Samples and groups such as the Everglades Foundation have spent millions over the years attempting to convince the public our communities are hopeless when the opposite is true: as a former county commissioner, I have seen tremendous progress and perseverance happen in the Glades communities every day.
Samples and people like her are truly pushing racial injustice by speaking for us and attacking our friends and neighbors who are employed by agriculture. If she really cared, she would stop pointing fingers and start advocating for solutions that do not involve destroying our way of life.