Pesticide drift: the rest of the story

National Public Radio is airing a story about pesticide drift threatening organic farms, which includes a portion of our story from 2014. The nature of radio stories inevitably leaves out details and context, so here we re-link to the three-part series we wrote for our website, laying out our experience in more detail. It’s an important read for anyone interested in this topic:

Experiencing pesticide drift, part I

Experiencing pesticide drift, part II: Calling in the government

Experiencing pesticide drift, part III: how drift isn’t taken seriously

We also wrote an article for small-farm trade journal Growing For Market about the topic.

Experiencing pesticide drift, part III: how drift isn’t taken seriously

Part I, Experiencing pesticide drift
Part II, Calling in the government

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):

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Experiencing pesticide drift, part II: Calling in the government

In this series:
Part I – Experiencing pesticide drift
Part II – Calling in the government
Part III – Aftermath, conclusions, & ramifications.

INITIAL CONTACT

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

Experiencing pesticide drift, part I

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.
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The value of venison

What’s some of the most expensive meat in America? At an average of $10-21/lb, would you believe wild-hunted venison, that staple of rural American life? Quietly, behind deeply divided debates over whether food is too cheap or too expensive, over whether farmers markets or factory farms are the best way to feed the country, good old-fashioned hunted venison has become an elite and expensive pursuit behind the veneer of tradition and simpler ways. The average spending per deer for hunters in our home state of Missouri, at ~$1000, works out to a per-pound price that would make pastured ranchers salivate and affordable-food advocates blush, with far-reaching implications for food production, the rural landscape, and the environment.

To produce the flow chart below, I drew on data from a 2001 report on the “Economic Importance of Hunting in America”, various reports from the Missouri Department of Conservation (such as this), and other pro-hunting websites (such as this). While such calculations are only as accurate as the data they’re drawn from, the numbers come from pro-hunting sources and would have to be off by a very large margin to change the basic conclusion. Hunted venison in Missouri is, on average, 2-4 times more expensive than even local specialty grass-finished meats, as judged by prices from two farms near us in central Missouri, Altai Meadows and Green Pastures Farm. This reality has some interesting implications for how our culture values and produces food. Continue reading

CBC Radio interview on Right To Farm

Missouri’s Amendment 1 is getting international attention. Midday Monday, just as we prepared for lunch after packing CSA shares for afternoon delivery , we received a call from the producer of the CBC Radio show As It Happens, a “national evening radio-current affairs program”. They were interested on doing a story about Right To Farm, had found our Op/Ed piece in July 27’s Columbia Tribune, and wanted to interview us. So our afternoon deliveries were temporarily postponed while Eric talked to the show’s host. The ~7 minute segment aired Monday evening, and can be found in their August 4th podcast, starting at around the 18:45 mark. Give it a listen, we think it came out reasonably well.

Vote NO, eh!

Dropping organic certification, part III

Our farm has been certified organic for 5 of its 7 years in business, including our transition from a market & restaurant focus to a CSA, but we’ve decided to drop our certification for 2014 and the forseeable future, effective March 15. This decision has been developing for a long time, and was the topic of countless hours of discussion over the last year. This is the third of three posts in which we attempt to discuss and explain some of the myriad experiences and reasons behind this decision, though we can’t possibly cover everything.

PART III: The benefits of dropping certification Continue reading

Dropping organic certification, part II

Our farm has been certified organic for 5 of its 7 years in business, including our transition from a market & restaurant focus to a CSA, but we’ve decided to drop our certification for 2014 and the forseeable future, effective March 15. This decision has been developing for a long time, and was the topic of countless hours of discussion over the last year. This is the second of three posts in which we attempt to discuss and explain some of the myriad experiences and reasons behind this decision, though we can’t possibly cover everything.

PART II: Some of our specific concerns and problems with certification Continue reading

Dropping organic certification, part I

Our farm has been certified organic for 5 of its 7 years in business, including our transition from a market & restaurant focus to a CSA, but we’ve decided to drop our certification for 2014 and the forseeable future, effective March 15. This decision has been developing for a long time, and was the topic of countless hours of discussion over the last year. Over the next three posts, we’ll attempt to discuss and explain some of the myriad experiences and reasons behind this decision, though we can’t possibly cover everything.

PART I: Some of our concerns with the USDA Organic system as a whole

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Our official comment on the FDA’s FSMA proposed produce rule

The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) was mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act to provide “science-based” standards for production of safe food. The rule that most concerns our farm is open for comment through this Friday November 15; the rule is known as “Standards for the Growing, Harvesting, Packing and Holding of Produce for Human Consumption.” We don’t think highly of it, for many reasons including that it does little more than to promote the paranoid Pasteurian paradigm, essentially suggesting that the solution to food safety is to kill more microbes.

See our post from yesterday for some “highlights” of the proposed rule, as well as websites of organizations that provide good advice on how to comment.

The text of our official comment to the FDA follows:

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