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Follow-up: Organic Nightmare

Healthy Mammoth sunflower

Regarding my post yesterday, 2,4-D: Organic Nightmare, there has been some movement. And wow, I never ever thought I’d say this, but I think these sprayers did the right thing.

Yesterday afternoon, I got a return phone call from M*********, the leaseholder. He explained that he’d been out of town, and returned my call as soon as he got the message (which may or may not be true*), and asked what he could do for me.  I stated to him, “We have a problem,” and went on to explain how we have an organic garden here, and how 2,4-D may have contaminated our gardens. He listened to me very patiently while I ranted a little, and then said, “Well, I’ve been using the same sprayers for a long time, and I’m going to contact them right this minute and find out what happened. 2,4-D shouldn’t have been used near your property, for sure, and I’m going to find out what is going on. Is it okay if they contact you at this number?” And I said “yes.”

Not more than a half hour later I got a call from a guy at an ag supply place in town with whom we’re fairly familiar. He asked if there were any questions he could answer about the spraying that occurred, and asked if he could come out and survey the property. He listened to me rail on as well, very patiently, and expressed his regret that 2,4-D was used anywhere near a working farm, especially an organic one. He shared that he has a home garden as well, and would not have been happy to have 2,4-D sprayed close to what his family eats. We set up a time this morning for him to come out.

He showed up this morning a little after 9:00 a.m. with the tractor operator, which, transparency-wise, impressed me. He shook my hand and thanked me for allowing him to come out. I showed him the gardens, and told him which way the wind had been blowing, how the gusts had been working, and how the tractor operator had been spraying. He told me about his company, how they do everything they can to be good neighbors, and how they consider themselves stewards of the land in this valley, even if they do use conventional agriculture methods. He told me about the organic options available at his company. He explained that the preparation of 2,4-D is the amine and not the ester, which greatly reduces wind drift. He explained how high the spray nozzles are, and how the ideal particulate (400 microns) disperses across a leaf, not bouncing off and not blowing away. He described how the tractor operator measures his boundaries (with foam), and how he ensures his own safety in the HEPA filtered cab.

I explained our stance on 2,4-D, on GMOs, and on anything non-organic. I told him I’m in contact with Texas A&M Ag Sciences, and how I’m a blogger who advocates organics. I showed him how much work we’ve done, and told him how heart-breaking it was that it might have all been undone by carelessness. I told him that we didn’t necessarily feel like there had been any malicious intent, but carelessness can have the same damaging effects.

Here’s the thing: I think we might be okay. We talked for a long time about how the effects would have manifested themselves if there had been significant spray drift. He showed me right across the fence similar weeds which were clearly toppled over or showing signs of distress, and feet away on my side, the same weed looking healthy as ever. I don’t know if we’re okay yet, because 2,4-D drift can take up to 14 days to show itself. I don’t know yet if our plants are going to show signs of damage or not, or if they do if the yields will be affected. I do know that I don’t feel like crying or throwing up anymore, and that my stomach has eased up on the knots.

Four days from now, he’ll be back out and we’ll look for signs of damage on the tomatoes and sunflowers (the two most sensitive barometers of damage). Then, a week after that, he’ll be back out. We’re not looking for a pay-day here. We’re not looking for a get-rich scheme. We’re only looking to be made whole if something is indeed wrong with our gardens.

Thanks for everybody’s kind words yesterday. It really helped, knowing that so many people understand how distressing this was, in our tiny little part of the organic world.

*If he’d called me back right away, I might not have contacted the Texas Department of Agriculture. I’m not out to get anybody into undue trouble here, but not calling me back asap was not a great move. Even if I think the “See Something, Say Something” campaign from the DHS is a bunch of alarmist, big-government, controlling bullshit, I DO believe in it in the garden.

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2,4-D Drift: Organic Nightmare

Tractor of death. The tree in the foreground is on our side of the property line.

Yesterday morning, I was all doodly-do, doing my morning stuffs, when I heard big machinery noise, closer than normal (they’re working on the county roads around us right now). I went outside and couldn’t see anything, and then all of a sudden there was a crop-spraying tractor, complete with two big white chemical tanks and two giant boom arms, spraying the shit out of our neighbor’s acreage. I called the husband and said, “Holy shit, they’re spraying chemicals on the front acreage” and he suggested I stop the guy and talk to him, so I did.  What follows made me later throw up my lunch.

Me: *Hailing tractor guy*
TG: *Stops tractor and comes over*
Me: Hi, are we neighbors?
Him: Nope, I'm working for the guy who leases this parcel, M*******.
Me: Whatcha sprayin'?
Him: 2,4-D, for goat weed.
Me: Oh. Um, we have an organic farm over here and it's drifting onto my 
property...
Him: Welllll, the wind's mostly blowing my way and it's a real light spray, 
so you oughtta be all right.
Me: You're kidding, right?
Him: *Goes right on spraying*

2,4-D. Mother-humping goat fuckers. This devil juice makes (and I’m not exaggerating in the least) RoundUp look like harmless chemical Kool-Aid. Dow AgroSciences’ contribution to the weed-killing business is the main defoliant contained in Agent Orange. It’s been around since 1946.  It is under attack again (thank God) because Dow is trying to get approval for its 2,4-D Resistant Corn, to take the place of Monsanto’s failed RoundUp Resistant Corn, which created super bugs and super weeds, and is no longer able to withstand RoundUp bombardment because of genetic mutations. Genius! (It’s in the EPA’s lap right now; let’s all count on them to do the right thing, right?) It’s a DEFOLIANT, which means it kills plants dead. What it doesn’t kill, it mutates. It’s suspected as a cause of “…major health problems such as cancer, lowered sperm counts, liver toxicity and Parkinson’s disease. Lab studies show that 2,4-D causes endocrine disruption, reproductive problems, neurotoxicity, and immunosuppression.”

If you’ve followed my blog for even a short amount of time, you know how I feel about chemicals in our farms, ranches, food supply. Here, about Colony Collapse Disorder; here about pesticides and BPA; here about Monsatan, again, and again, and again.

We’re out here in a tiny patch of Texas, practicing only organic gardening, using compost, organic fertilizers, organic topsoil and mulch, Neem oil, blood, sweat, tears, dreams, and hand-weeding. Do y’all know how much EASIER it is to be conventional in a garden? Of course we could use RoundUp for the weeds; it’s an extremely effective, efficient killer! Of COURSE we could use Sevin insecticide! It’d be way easier than having to get up extra-early to apply Neem oil, or smooshing cabbage rollers by hand. We did ALL OF THIS SPECIFICALLY  TO KEEP CHEMICALS OUT OF OUR FOOD.

“Before” picture of the big garden.

Just writing this post is making me cry. I cried yesterday when I fully realized what had just happened to us. I pulled up my research on 2,4-D and found lots of new stuff, all horrifying. I learned about ground permeation, wind drift patterns, plant aspiration, and the life of 2,4-D. I contacted a professor/friend at Texas A&M’s Ag Sciences Department. He shared with me that tomatoes are especially sensitive to 2,4-D, and to keep an eye on them first. He told me to keep photo documentation of the plants in case the rancher might not do the right thing by us.

And of COURSE tomatoes are affected first and worst. They’re the crop we’ve most heavily planted, in the greatest variety. We were looking forward to canning, sharing, and perhaps selling a few to our chef friends.

I’m upset still, even after I learned the leaseholder’s name (who’s responsible for the spraying), contacted him (no response), found out the regulations he violated*, and reported him to the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Tomatoes galore.

I’m upset for several reasons. We started this entire farm endeavor with one goal in mind: organic sustainability. That has been ruined. I can no longer bill these vegetables as organic, and we now have to decide if we even want to eat them ourselves. I’m upset because to get rid of this poison (assuming it doesn’t kill the crops outright), I’ll have to pay to have the site dozed, replace the topsoil and amendments, and start all over. All the little baby plants we started from organic seeds in our little greenhouse, misting and lighting and thinning for MONTHS, then lovingly potted to harden off, then transplanted and agonized over for months while they struggled to grow, all fucking ruined. A’s first gardens EVER, all ruined. Every hour we spent digging, weeding, fertilizing, watering, pruning, caging, and loving these gardens have been fucking RUINED by this dude’s careless disregard for anybody but himself.

*Prior Notification: Nope. None given.

Proper notification for use of methyl, ethyl, butyl, isopropyl, octylamyl and pentyl esters. Nope.

No use in winds higher than 10 mph? Fucked that up, too.

Amine-only 2,4-D? Don’t know. I doubt he even obtained a permit to do the spraying.

I’m going to use this blog as I do regularly, but now with the added feature of keeping record of what’s happening to our plants, and what’s happening about enforcing the regulations. If I didn’t have a place to vent, I might possibly go mad.

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Colony Collapse: More Awesome Pesticide News

I don’t know how familiar any readers of my blog are with “Colony Collapse Disorder” (or any other topic I write about), so I’ll treat this as a primer, and give y’all some breaking news.

Colony Collapse Disorder (or CCD) has been coined to describe the relatively recent phenomena where bee colonies are inexplicably dying off or being abandoned. Bees and their habitats have been observed to either disappear altogether, return to hives in drastically reduced numbers, or become sickened and die off.  Theories for CCD include pesticides, parasites, viruses, environmental stress, and even cell phone towers and cell phones.  There was a noticeable drop in feral bee populations between the early 70’s and 2006, but because of increased global domestic beekeeping operations, overall numbers stayed stable. However, beekeepers all over the world started noticing this new, devastating disorder only five or six years ago. “In 2010 the USDA reported that data on overall honey bee losses for 2010 indicated an estimated 34 percent loss, which is statistically similar to losses reported in 2007, 2008, and 2009.” Total losses of bee populations worldwide are estimated to between 30 and 90 percent.

There are a HUGE number of links at this Wikipedia page: Colony Collapse Disorder.

Beeconomics

Why should you care? Besides honey, bees are the pollinators of the world’s crops. It is estimated that bees are responsible for over 70% of all pollination of the world’s food and animal crops. In other words, if you’re fond of eating, you should be fond of bees.  In world GDPs, bees play an important role in nations’ economies, adding $15 billion a year to America’s agricultural markets alone.

BREAKING NEWS (4/5/12): Here’s the part that has me marginally homicidal (the latest thing, anyway): The EPA told us all that Bayer CropScience’s main ingredient, imidacloprid (of the neonicotinoid class of insecticides), used as a pesticide in 90% of all US corn production (to name only one application) is safe. It turns out, it is not. “The likely culprit in sharp worldwide declines in honeybee colonies since 2006 is imidacloprid, one of the most widely used pesticides, according to a new study from the Harvard School of Public Health(HSPH).”  This chemical is registered for use on over 140 crops in over 120 countries.  It is used in large agricultural applications as well as for homes and small gardens, for control of flies, cockroaches, grubs, borers, termites, ants, and over 40 other pests.

It is INFURIATING to me that the USDA has acknowledged since last year that,”…the neonicotinoid insecticide imidacloprid contribute –at extremely low levels– to bee deaths and possibly colony collapse disorder (CCD), the widespread disappearance of honey bees that has killed off more than a third of commercial honey bees in the U.S.” and has DONE NOTHING ABOUT IT. In fact, look at all these papers and studies from all over the world that show what’s been known and what’s been done by the chemical companies and regulators. The short answer is: nothing. Here’s the EPA knowing what this shit does to bees as long ago as 2009, and again, the response? NOTHING.

Consumer products containing imidacloprid:

  • Merit insecticide
  • Merit 75
  • Invict
  • Dominion
  • GrubZ Out
  • Maxforce
  • Mallett
  • Bonide
  • Temprid
  • Criterion 75
  • Bed Bug Kit
  • Precise Foam
  • Adonis
  • Premise 2
  • CoreTect
  • ImiGold
  • Fertilome
  • Hi-Yield Grub Free Zone
  • Bayer Advanced
  • Bonanza
  • Maxx Pro
  • Pre-Empt
  • Quick Draw
  • Advantage (flea/tick control for cats and dogs…yes, even this)

What to do: First of all, and easy enough, don’t buy or use any of those products. Check any labels for “imidacloprid” and do.not.use.

Secondly, write the EPA and tell them what a bunch of flaming D-bags they are. EPA: Contact links. (Good God, look at all the social media outlets our tax dollars pay for and maintain. Wow, they’re pretty groovy for being a bunch of bureaucratic pukes who are being paid with our tax dollars and bribed by chemical companies to kill us all.)  While you’re at it, feel free to lob a flaming bag of (email) poo at the USDA: Contact links.

Think about starting your own bee colony! We are!  Here’s a link to a relatively inexpensive starter kit that looks super cool: Beekeepers Apiary Kit.

If you don’t want to do beekeeping (and I totally understand that) maybe plant your garden with species that attract bees (from TheDailyGreen):

Annuals: Asters, calliopsis, clover, marigolds, poppies, sunflowers, zinnias

Perennials: Buttercups, clematis, cosmos, crocuses, dahlias, echinacea, English ivy, foxglove, geraniums, germander, globe thistle, hollyhocks, hyacinth, rock cress, roses, sedum, snowdrops, squills, tansy, yellow hyssop (Edited To Add (4/10/12)): From solarbeez.com: Penstemon

Fruits & Veggies: Blackberries, cantaloupe, cucumbers, gourds, fruit trees, peppers, pumpkins, raspberries, squash, strawberries, watermelons

Herbs: Bee balm, borage, catnip, coriander/cilantro, fennel, lavender, mints, rosemary, sage, thyme

Shrubs: Blueberry, butterfly bush, button bush, honeysuckle, indigo, privet

Trees: Alder, American holly, basswood, black gum, black locust, buckeyes, catalpa, eastern redbud, golden rain, hawthorns, hazels, linden, magnolia, maples, mountain ash, poplar, sycamore, tulip, willows

IF YOU HAVE PLANTS OR FLOWERS TO ADD, PLEASE DO SO IN THE COMMENTS! Thank you!

Act local, think global, carry a big stick. That’s my motto.

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