It is 1:20 AM and I am still awake. The reality is that I'm letting events from this evening keep me awake.
Watch out - there is a rant coming. My apologies in advance. However, I actually felt that it would be instructive to publicize how it feels to do the work we do and then have to deal with an aerial spraying mishap. I am not asking for a lot of sympathy. I am asking that you read. I am asking that you try to understand how this felt for us. Then, I am asking that you begin thinking about how WE can effect change to prevent this from happening again - here or elsewhere.
If you haven't received an email from us yet, or you haven't read the post below, we were hit by an aerial sprayer today. The irony of this is that I mentioned in a post a little further down (On My Mind) that the dry weather had basically discouraged our neighbors from doing a lot of spraying. Then, of course, we got that nice .9" rain that came at the price of some wind damage for us. As soon as we got that, I told myself we might see the spraying again. But, I thought that we would continue to have good fortune with neighbors trying to do their best to not allow drift on us. I was, apparently, wrong about that.
I don't want to sound too negative or too unreasonable here. People are trying to do their jobs and earn their living. People make mistakes. I do not dislike my neighbor, though I might have a hard time being civil if they were to catch me at the wrong moment. It doesn't help to demonize others who have done something that has harmed you.
- If I walked up to someone I didn't know with an unmarked aerosol can and began spraying it in his or her face and then quickly run away, isn't it likely I'd be charged with assault.
- How do you quantify how you feel when you begin reading safety labels for the chemicals you've been sprayed with and one says you should wash/scrub thoroughly in running water....for 20-25 minutes.
- How should I feel as I read that some of these chemicals are VERY explicit in stating that "Workers should not enter sprayed areas for 24 hours (2 chemicals that hit us) or 48 hours (1 chemical that hit us)?" If I am not the applicator's worker, was it okay that I had to LIVE in it for the following 48 hours?
- There is a sensitive crops directory. We are on it - three times. Cert Organic, bees and orchard. Frankly, I am amazed there isn't one for FOOD CROPS. They waited until after 6pm because REGULATIONS state that they cannot spray soy beans until then if there are bees being kept within 2 miles. They waited - so they were aware - or were at least somewhat aware that we had something to watch out for. But, how does spraying as close to the hives as you can get prevent damage to the bees?
- What would happen to me if I took a brush hog and took out a similar cash value of crop in my neighbors field? I'd be taken in for criminal trespass, wouldn't I? Would I have a valid excuse if I just told them I was tired and didn't notice I'd run through a fence and started chopping their soybeans? Or that I found a map that made it look like it was the area I was supposed to mow?
- Those who apply chemicals are trained in how to handle them. They are trained to wear gloves, masks, etc when they are filling or cleaning out tanks or applicators. They are doing a job with these and they prepare to do that work. We weren't given the opportunity to have the same protection, nor were we given a choice. There is a reason applicators are trained and wear protective clothing - these chemicals can be dangerous. If that is the case, then why are we all so blase' about chemical drift onto farmhouses near these fields? Why do the edges of towns mean little?
- If you were here and saw the turkeys and hens running around madly when the plane was buzzing us, you would not say there was no real impact on their well-being. If we were growing cornish cross meat birds, you can bet your boots half of them would be down with heart attacks after that.
- If we can prove this situation effectively, I suppose it is possible we can get some monetary compensation for lost crops, etc. But, it doesn't cover what I'm feeling right now. It won't cover the hours of time this evening that we lost when we were going to do something else. Tammy was going to do a little green bean picking. Never mind. Rob was going to get some containers, etc put away. Nope. It doesn't cover the possibility that we will not go on our planned 1 night away - something we have not done since March. It does not cover the fact that we are going to have to re-wash all of the towels that were on the line. It doesn't cover that I have to re-clean all of the containers that were drying outside. It doesn't cover that we have to research what we have to clean them WITH or HOW MUCH to get them clean enough to use on food again. And it won't cover all of the time and energy we will now use over the next however many days or weeks or months to figure out what we have to do about this.
- Another thing this does not cover. One of the hardest things we deal with is replacing CSA memberships that are not renewed the next season. And, no matter how nice we are, how hard we work and how much people say they support us - if our product does not give value, people will not return. This event hampers our ability to give that value, at least in our eyes. We have a very complex plan for making sure we have good value each week, the things that got hit were an important part of the next phase of CSA Farm Shares. Sure - we'll still do fine, but....
- We appreciate the support people are giving to us. Thank you. Some have even suggested that they will eat our peppers with confidence because they feel they will only have been sprayed 'once' vs commercial peppers. But, here's why this is more serious. The chemicals being sprayed here are generally not rated for FOOD CROPS. And, if they are, the rating is ridiculous. 40 days BEFORE HARVEST of green peppers. So, what do we do about all the peppers that were ready to pick this week, next week and every week until September 9? How do we fill the CSA boxes as much as we planned and hoped without the eggplant and peppers? It is 60 days prior to cucumber harvest. NOTE: most cucumbers mature between 40-60 days of transplant. So, you'd have to apply pre-emergent or transplant...
- In short, we cannot draw an equivalence between pesticides and fungicides used on commodity crops and food crops. So - we wait until testing is done and the Pesticide Bureaus gives us an official position.
- I was mostly recovered from a cold. I've now had two nights in a row where I've had trouble breathing/sleeping. While there are other factors, I can tell you, as an asthmatic, that triggers such as chemicals, dusts and anxiety can all make it worse. I'll be visiting a doctor on Monday to see what we can do.
- Now that we've had this event, we find that we have to add a substantial list of "things to do" for the coming week. many of you have suggested that you would love to help. But, how do you help with some of these things? You can't answer the questions the Pesticide Bureau, Sensitive Crops Directory and Organic Certification people will need answers to, so you can't handle that for us. Thank you for offers. We will let people know as we learn what can be helpful to us.
- We've received some email, posts, etc regarding possible legal action. We will explore what must be done. Most of you have been kind, indignant on our behalves, supportive and have given some reasonably specific action ideas and we thank you. There have been kind phone calls. However - we've gotten a couple of things that sound way too happy about the possibility that NOW we can really take it to "THEM" because the Genuine Faux Farm will be loaded for bear and won't it be great to teach "THEM" a lesson. Hey. We never asked to be your poster children on this. We're hurting and we're painfully aware that there are real people on all sides of the problem. If you want to gloat about how we can make them pay - do it on your own time to someone else. If you have real support to help us do what should be done, bring it on - but be respectful about it. In the end, it will be successful if some changes are made to make working in the country, as we do, safe again.
- Perhaps the worst collateral damage from this event? We actually DID take our night off. We drove to the Twin Cities and saw a game. The Twins beat on the Indians - so with our 'fan hats' on, we were happy. We spent a night in a hotel up there too. Never mind that Rob was a bit short of breath on and off and did not sleep for much of the night. That would have happened on the farm too. The worse damage is that I (and I will not speak for Tammy on this one) did NOT want to come back to the farm. At this moment, I do NOT want to do this anymore. I do NOT want to deal with legal proceedings, pesticide tests and confrontations with neighbors with big equipment full of poisons. I do NOT want to weed, irrigate, plant or pick.
Why is this so disturbing to me? Because even though I often work hard and there have been stressful events every season we have done this, I have genuinely felt that I was doing something positive, useful and of value. I was doing this work for good, supportive people. The work is good, honest work. It is diverse. It runs the gamut from highly skilled to mundane. I can solve puzzles and test hypotheses. Despite it all, I was actually feeling pretty upbeat about the way this season was setting up. I felt like we were making good decisions and that there were some positive results from our efforts.
And, after one fairly short event on a Friday evening, I want to mow it all down, sell the place and move away.
Now that I've typed this, I can move on. I'll begin the process of setting myself up to face the problem and do what we can to make things better. I may not want to, but I'm going to.