Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Spray Incident Update

First - thank you again for all who have offered support.

There is much to say, so we'll try to keep it concise.  This could be a long read.

What We've Done So Far
  • Contacted State Pesticide Bureau - state inspector came out and took samples.  It will be 3 months before results are known.  A thank you to the Bureau and the inspector - both were kind, efficient and understanding.
  • Contacted IDALS Organic Program - working with above.
  • Contacted our liability insurance company - our thanks to our agents for being supportive and helpful, it is appreciated.  There is a suggestion that *IF* we should feel that eventually some of our crop can be harvested and distributed that the insurance company would feel better if we created "hold harmless" agreements for our farm share members to sign if they accept produce from these fields.  We understand the logic, but aren't sure we like it. 
  • Contacted ISU poultry toxicologist.  Things are still up in the air regarding egg safety, etc.  The only solution offered was for us to send some eggs to Oregon for testing.  It was suggested that we may have to move all poultry from the sprayed fields if we want to promote the removal of these sprays from their systems.  As of this point, we are destroying all eggs that were produced after the spray event.  For now, the plan is to destroy eggs for at least ONE WEEK.  This comes to 35-40 dozen eggs minimum.   We still do not have any solid answers in this area.
  • Identified a private lab that will test for pesticide and fungicide residue.  If we want answers prior to 3 months, this is necessary.  The only lab we found that would test for the chemicals used is in Oregon.  We took 5 samples and shipped them overnight (that's a pricey venture) and we should hear back in 10 days.  Cost for each sample is likely in the $350 range.  We'll know better in 10 days about cost and the results.
  • We are in process identifying a lawyer who will work with us.  Some of tomorrow is slated for this process.
  • We have done some of our own research on the chemicals used, some things we have found follows.
  • Lorsban 4E has a setback from harvest of 40 days for green peppers.  That means for this chemical we could harvest peppers starting September 9.  However, the other chemicals are not rated for peppers, so that likely means we cannot harvest these peppers.
  • The chemicals have field worker reentry periods of 24 hours, 24 hours and 48 hours.  What that means is this - after an area is sprayed workers are supposed to stay out of the field during this period according to the USE LABELS of these products.  
  • Use instructions indicate aerial application is to occur within 10-15 feet of the deck (above the crop).  We have clear pictures showing the plane near the top of our harvestore with application spray running.  That puts them at 45 feet approximately - and over our property line to boot. 
  • Bifenthrin is listed as highly toxic to bees. (Sniper)
  • Lorsban has toxic qualities for birds also for bees.
  •  Lorsban use label specifically states: "Treatment of plants that are under extreme drought stress may result in some crop damage."
  • We spent valuable worker time thoroughly cleaning every cooler and container used for transportation, picking and hydrocooling of produce.  We cleaned all of our green carts and each of the surfaces that are used for cleaning and packing.  The rule of thumb used was this - "your best friend is allergic to one of the chemicals we were sprayed with.  This must be clean enough that your friend will be safe."  Anden and Jorden spent 2 1/2 hours on this project and did a fabulous job. 
I had to put that last one in there.

I am sure there is much more we've been doing and I'm not sure what we've reported and what we have not reported at this stage. 

Things it looks like we'll need to do:
  • Odds are high (90%) that we'll condemn all crops in the Southwest field.
  • Odds are moderately high (60%) that we'll condemn all crops in the high tunnel.
  • Odds are high (75%) that the bees will die off enough that they will fail to survive the Winter.  Odds are even (50%) that they'll die before that.  It is doubtful at this point as to weather any of the honey will be consumable by humans.
  • Odds are reasonably high that we'll be throwing out 2 weeks of eggs or more.  
  • We will need to remove our birds from the northwest pasture in order to help them clear their systems.  It sounds like one of the products is systemic (which means some of the plants they might eat will be contaminated for some time).  
  • Two of our compost piles cannot be used in our fields for a couple years.
  • Our high tunnel and southwest fields lose organic certification for 3 years - this includes one of our asparagus patches and perennial spices.
How you can help?

The following is in the formative stages.  If you have interest in helping with any of the following, please contact us and we'll try to figure out whether we can follow through and how we hope to do so.  Please - don't offer if you can't do it.  But, if you think you can help, tell us.  We are not entirely comfortable with asking, but we could use a boost right now.

1. We need to move turkeys and laying hens on the farm.  This means some pasture cleanup of some big weeds, fixing some fences, maybe even putting up new fences.  It also means that we could use some construction help with building either a portable hen building or a stationary building for turkeys.  Pasture cleanup could use a crew of 3-6 with no specific skill set required.  Fence work is probably better if at least one member of a group has some knowledge of the process.  Clearly, building does have some skill sets required. 
2. The duck shelter was damaged in wind recently and it needs to be deconstructed and reconstructed.
3. We have had offers of certified organic product for our CSA from Scattergood Friends School Farm (West Branch), Grinnell Heritage Farm (Grinnell) and G It's Fresh (Cresco area).  While we have not decided what we will do and how we will do it, it would be helpful to know if there are volunteers who are willing to play 'delivery person' and help us get produce from any of these places
4. A couple of areas still need a good, old fashioned weeding session.  A good batch of volunteers working together could make lighter work of it.  Can we get a volunteer crew to attack a couple of 'problem areas' in the next week to 10 days.  None of the areas being considered will have been in the spray zone.
5. One possible solution for the hens will be to do work on the poultry pavillion and open up an exit to the South and fencing off an area south of the building.  This could be another construction/deconstruction project we could do to respond to this situation.
6. If someone is interested in some small engine work - both lawn tractors needs a little attention about now.  It's hard enough scheduling our time to get to them, but now it looks like we won't get to them at all.  If someone feels comfortable working on them and is willing to help, let us know.  One JD lawn tractor in particular could possibly need a bit more attention than fluids and filters.  For that matter, even Durnik is approaching time for oil change, etc. 

Even a little help on a couple of fronts would mean much to us.  We don't expect everything on this list to be covered - but we provide it in case something really fits you.

Also, be patient with us.  Our priorities have had to shift drastically on the farm in the last few days and we're still trying to settle on the best strategy as we learn more about what we're dealing with.  There are still many unanswered questions here.  A big part of our questions have to do with how these chemicals degrade in vegetation, how they might degrade plastics (high tunnel cover) and how long they remain in poultry and human systems.  Thus far, we can find half life numbers for break down in soil, water and air - but not in the things we are explicitly concerned about.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous6:21 AM

    rf and tf. If/when you find out what was sprayed, let me know as I can look up half - life info as wellas biodegradation rates? Roy Ventullo


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