The April issue of Growing for Market, a national “trade publication for local food producers”, carries an article we wrote about farmers handling pesticide drift incidents. It briefly tells two stories of recent drift contamination in central Missouri (our own experience and that of Terra Bella Farm), and presents ways farmers can prepare for handling or preventing such an event. If you’re not a Growing for Market subscriber but want to read the article, individual issues can be ordered in print or digital format.
For readers of GFM who have found our site after reading the article, you can read more about our specific experience in this three-part blog series: Part I, Part II, & Part III. We hope the article is helpful to others in preparing for this increasing threat, and welcome any feedback, comments, or stories you may want to share.
In April we’ll be offering a chance to learn more about central Missouri birding, with a one-day class through the Columbia Area Career Center. This is a great chance to explore Eagle Bluffs, one of the region’s top bird conservation areas, and gain some practical skills in bird identification and appreciation. Here’s the catalog description (p. 45) followed by some more detail about our goals for the class; we hope to have an enthusiastic group and cooperative weather! If interested, register through the Career Center.
Basic Birding Skills
Saturday, 4/11/15, 8:00 – noon
Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area is a birding gem in Columbia’s backyard. We’ll explore its various habitats, practice observational and listening skills, and consider bird behavior. No experience necessary, only a desire to discover what makes birding so popular!
Course description: In a hands-on natural setting, students will explore how to observe and listen to a wide variety of birds, understand and analyze their habitats and behaviors, and otherwise gain basic skills that can be applied to birding in any location. Course is intended to teaching birding skills in the field rather than bird identification per se, though we expect attendees will come away more familiar with specific birds than when they arrived. For example, we will practice observing and recording specific features of birds that can be used for later identification, rather than trying to identify birds on the fly. Overall, we want students to see some neat birds, enjoy a morning of nature observation, and come away with new confidence and birding skills.
Presenter biography: We are members of the Columbia Audubon Society, and experienced observers of birds across central Missouri and on our own diverse farm. Joanna is a lifelong birder from a birding family, while Eric holds a Masters in Teaching and has extensive experience in public science education.
Cold and annoying, we won’t miss February, although we have little to complain about compared to certain other parts of the US. Daily walks turned up a few interesting phenomena, including the bird wing print and mantis egg case shown below.
In April we’ll be teaching a kitchen-management course through the Columbia Area Career Center. We’ve long practiced and espoused a form of whole-kitchen management that integrates creative cooking with using seasonal items that are available and on hand, without being overly time-consuming or fussy. A good example is the “Preparing a CSA share in an hour” demonstration we gave last year, which showed how easy it can be to turn an full-share of farm-fresh produce into simple, delicious, and wholesome dishes.
Here’s the catalog description (p. 44) followed by a more detailed outline of our curriculum and goals, drawn from our initial proposal to CACC. Please considering sharing this with anyone you know who might be interested, or even signing up yourself!
Tuesdays 4/14 – 5/12, 7:00 – 8:30 pm
Getting the most out of your ingredients and your budget requires flexibility in menu-planning along with creativity and improvisation in the kitchen. Explore ways to source and prepare meals that are simple, delicious and economical. (5 Sessions)
Skills to be gained: Students will learn how to: find and choose fresh ingredients; assess and adapt recipes to match their supplies & needs; use seasonal menus and food preservation to improve their food budget; and explore kitchen techniques and items that can benefit their cooking & time budget.
Presenter biography: We have been honing our cooking skills for over 15 years, first as farmers market shoppers and CSA members, then as professional producers of fresh ingredients at Chert Hollow Farm in northern Boone County. Eric also holds a Masters degree in teaching and has extensive experience with public speaking and education.
Outline of learning activities per session:
- Sourcing ingredients: Discussions of seasonality, growing methods, sources of ingredients, what to ask farmers or grocers, ways to identify better or worse ingredients, storage and preservation methods.
- Recipe analysis: What makes a good or bad recipe, how to rewrite or adapt a recipe to be easier or faster to follow, how different ingredients contribute to a recipe, how to swap or supplement ingredients.
- Master recipes: Step away from specific recipes and discuss the structure of different classes of meals. What defines a soup, a pasta, a stir fry, a sauce? How can we develop a master recipe that can be adapted to whatever ingredients are on hand?
- Kitchen management: Ways to use your kitchen more efficiently, including advance preparation, recipe doubling, appropriate shortcuts, spreading preparation over multiple days vs. a scheduled cooking binge.
- Budgeting & valuing food: Economics of how food is produced, sold, and purchased, minimizing waste, efficient approaches to sourcing ingredients, analysis of personal and general food budgets, buying in bulk vs. not over-purchasing.
January went past quietly, drier than usual and so stable that we really didn’t notice the weather all that much. Trumpeter Swans continued to pass overhead regularly, an unusual and enjoyable pattern this winter. Continue reading
, Experiencing pesticide drift
Pesticide drift is a threat to sustainable farms like ours, and to the environment as a whole. While pesticide labels clearly spell out legal restrictions and boundaries for proper use, these rules are only as effective as the enforcement activity which punishes misuse. Where illegal and dangerous activity is unpunished, it tends to continue (think speed limits). Our experience clearly demonstrates that the Missouri Department of Agriculture does not take threats to small farms or the environment seriously enough to deter illegal and irresponsible pesticide applications. Consider just some of the warnings and restrictions on the official Priaxor label, which were clearly violated by the confirmed presence of drift contamination on our farm (no emphasis added):
In this series:
Part I – Experiencing pesticide drift
Part II – Calling in the government
Part III – Aftermath, conclusions, & ramifications.
After a week of waiting to hear from the farmer responsible for the spraying operation (calls/messages went unanswered), we gave up and pursued other avenues. Our local extension office referred us to the Bureau of Pesticide Control (hereafter referred to as “the Bureau”), part of the Missouri Department of Agriculture. The nice lady on the phone advised us on how to file a formal complaint, which was needed to initiate an investigation into any suspected pesticide drift incident. The actual process was easy, but we had a question: Continue reading
December turned warmer than average, though it was so cloudy you’d be forgiven for thinking it was cold. This grey stability really shows up in the NWS monthly graph, which looks rather bizarre for here. We also had very little snow, but as the Kansas City NWS office pointed out, this says nothing about the rest of the winter:
On July 14, 2014, our vegetable farm experienced pesticide drift from a crop-duster. It has taken nearly five months for the resulting investigation to run its course, and only now can we tell the full story with all the information. In this three-part series we’ll discuss (I) the actual experience and immediate aftermath, (II) the arc of getting the government involved, and (III) the practical and philosophical considerations drawn from this experience. Throughout this topic we’ll use the phrase “pesticide” as defined by the EPA:
“Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests…Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant”.
The following narrative is drawn from written statements requested by the Missouri Bureau of Pesticide Control as part of their official investigation into the incident. We each wrote a separate narrative of our memories and experiences, which I have woven together here using the original text with only minimal editing to remove redundancy and confusion, and a few notes added for clarification where needed. These are our words from the time presenting what we experienced, as we recorded it several weeks later.
Interested in forestry practices? Concerned about climate issues and how appropriate land management can help? You may well enjoy attending the 6th Annual Agroforestry Symposium next Thursday on the MU campus; it is free & open to the public. We’re particularly excited to hear Mark Shepard of New Forest Farm speak, as his book Restoration Agriculture has been very influential in our discussions about transitioning this farm to a more perennial-based system. Eric has also been asked to participate in a “landowner panel discussion”, which will include a 10-minute presentation on our diversified forest management. We’ve long found the MU Center for Agroforestry a useful and valuable resource for diversified sustainable farmers like ourselves (among other things they got us started on shiitake mushroom production), so we hope many others can attend this symposium and support their creative and interesting work.