Chemical Strawberries

Strawberries are fixtures on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list of the twelve produce items with the highest amounts of pesticide residue. According to the 2015 report, samples of conventionally-grown strawberries showed residues of thirteen separate pesticides.

But if the prospect of eating 13 varieties of pesticides isn’t enough to convince you to avoid chem-ag strawberries, consider this:

Not only do conventional strawberries contain high levels of pesticide residue (they appear on both a recent list from the Consumers Reports, and the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list), but their production also requires chemicals that don’t directly impact consumers, such as methyl bromide, a “multisystem toxicant” used to fumigate the soil before the fruit is planted. Once the soil is treated, farmers often then apply a whole list of chemicals, including Chloropicrin and Malathion.

Roman Pinal, the Southern California regional director for the United Farm Workers (UFW), says strawberry pickers are more susceptible to pesticide exposure than the average farmworker because the fields are more densely planted than other crops, meaning chemicals are being sprayed or are drifting closer to farmworkers.

What’s more, compared to crops that are harvested once a season, strawberry plants produce fruit every two days—creating a situation where chemical management and harvesting occur “right on top” of each other, he says.

And yet, little has been done at the policy level to protect strawberry workers from these chemicals. For instance, almost all California strawberry farms are exempt from an international treaty banning methyl bromide because of its role in depleting the stratospheric ozone layer.

While the use of methyl bromide is set to end everywhere by 2017, it will likely be replaced by an equally toxic alternative on many farms. And the Environmental Protection Agency has yet to rule on its proposed protection standards for farmworkers and pesticide handlers.

Meanwhile, Glorietta and her fellow farmworkers often feel they can’t leave a job that is making them sick in the short term and increasing the likelihood that they will suffer from cancers and other illnesses down the road. Jesús Lopez, a community worker with California Rural Legal Assistance, a nonprofit legal firm that has been taking negligent farms to court for decades, says he hears from many farmworkers in Glorietta’s situation on a regular basis. They almost always show noticeable symptoms of pesticide exposure, he says, but would rather endure untenable conditions than risk their jobs.

“Everybody is afraid to speak up,” he says. “Some people don’t have documents. Other people don’t have enough money to pay rent. Others live near the farm and don’t want to move. Maybe the school that their kids go to is nearby.”

So when we buy strawberries that weren’t grown organically, we not only risk poisoning ourselves, but we contribute to the profits of companies that are poisoning their workers.

The article from which the excerpt was taken can be seen HERE.

The Environmental Working Group “Dirty Dozen” can be seen HERE.

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Neo

Our orphaned bottle-baby Neo has grown to be a big, healthy, feisty lad–one of 21 kids we have on the farm these days.

Cherie with Neo shortly after his birth

Cherie with Neo shortly after his birth

Cherie and Neo now.

Cherie and Neo now.

We’ve had a lot of bottle babies over the years, all with unique personalities.  If I had to choose one word to describe Neo’s personality, I think I’d go with “confident.”

He’s too big now to crawl under the fence, so at least he’s no longer underfoot while I’m doing my chores.

Soon we’ll be able to wean him. We’ve been feeding him three times a day for months now (we started with four feedings per day).  The early morning and midday feedings are no big deal, but I”m looking forward to being relieved of the obligation to trek out to the barn every night at 9 o’clock for his last feeding of the day.

But that happy day hasn’t arrived yet.  So now it’s time to leave the computer and go feed Neo.

March Planting

With March slipping away I became impatient and a few days ago I went ahead and starting planting. I put out our kale and collards transplants.

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I held back the cabbage, broccoli and romaine lettuce and now I’m glad I did.  We’ve been hit by a major cold snap.  Last night the temps dropped into the low 20s.  Whether the plants were seriously damaged remains to be seen.

I’m hoping this is winter’s last gasp.

Ninety percent of our normal spring planting still hasn’t happened.  In a little over a month it will be time to start the summer crops.

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But it does no good to complain about it.  March is unpredictable and it’s gonna do what it’s gonna do.

Eggsplosion

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It may not feel much like spring the last few days, but the chickens certainly know what season it is.

Instead of the few eggs a day we were getting in the winter, the hens are now giving us about 3 dozen per day.  That’s full capacity for our little flock.

Every year when this happens, we have to figure out how to spend our springtime egg jackpot.  Not long ago we had customers practically begging us for eggs.  But nowadays, when everyone who owns chickens suddenly has more eggs than they need, demand goes way down.

But there’s no danger of eggs going to waste.  We have plenty of loyal customers, and we eat our fair share too.  Our dog Ginny gets them in her diet too.

Now is the also the time to freeze eggs.  It’s also a good time to bake and freeze egg-rich goodies, like pound cake.

In a worse case scenario, we can feed them to our pigs.  That’s what the pigs are hoping for, but it isn’t likely to happen.

Meanwhile we’re brooding two dozen chicks who we’re hoping will contribute to next years spring eggsplosion.

It’s a great time of year.

By the way, y’all should go check out Laura’s post on her always entertaining Applewood Farm blog.  Her chickens not only ramp up production this time of year–they also hide their eggs.

Babies

We have lots of new babies on the farm.

Chicks in the brooder coop

Chicks in the brooder coop

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Bianca and her new kids. Note their deer friend in the background.

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New piglets

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Oh yeah!  One of the best things about spring.

Oh yeah! One of the best things about spring.

New life on the farm makes me happy.

Drinking Water

Sunday was World Water Day, a day devoted to bringing awareness to the importance of clean drinking water–a precious commodity, taken for granted by many of us and desperately needed by many others.

Blood:Water Mission is a great organization, which we like to support.  They urged people to drink only water on Sunday, and to contribute their savings to help bring clean water to people who don’t have it.  A very worthy cause.

But that fundraising strategy wouldn’t be very effective if everyone drank the way we do.  Water is always our beverage of choice.  Neither of us drink soft drinks. Cherie doesn’t drink milk and other than a little in my morning coffee, neither do I.  We always drink water, and only water, at our meals.

I do have a cup of coffee in the morning and Cherie has tea.  Sometimes I’ll drink ice tea in the afternoon.  But most days I just drink water.

We host a monthly gathering of people interested in sustainable living and water is the only beverage we serve.  The last time we hosted Thanksgiving for the extended family we made the mistake of letting my mother know that we would be serving water with the meal.  So folks showed up with coolers full of Pepsi, Dr. Pepper and Mt. Dew.  The prospect of a meal without a sugary drink was evidently unbearable.

Water is refreshing, healthy and free.

Here every day is Water Day.