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Organic/biodynamic growers... what to do about chemicals and Big Ag next door?

 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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We homestead on 8 acres in Central Ohio. Our property is directly across the road from a large parcel of acreage that is in constant corn/soybean rotation (standard big-ag monocrop ohio farmland fare).

Last weekend the guy who "farms" that land showed up across the way with a chemical truck and a boom sprayer and proceeded to mist his extensive field with what I assume to be potent herbicides (this is the usual pre-planting weed "knock-down.") It was a very windy day, and we were soon inundated with the chemicals on our property. It was uncomfortable to breathe, like someone had a Roundup-soaked rag pressed against your face. We stayed inside for the rest of the day, and you could still smell it strongly some six hours later.

Fast forward a week, and a number of our fruit trees and bushes are looking awful. Black spots and dead black curled up leaves on several of our young pear trees. One half of our flowering quince bush (the side that faces his field) looks like it was set on fire... not a leaf on it. The other side is fine. The pears/quinces seem to have taken it the worst, but I'm seeing spots on other species, and even the leaves on our three huge maples in the front yard are looking wilted and curled. Two neighbors are having the same issues (with various pears and oaks). There is no doubt in my mind as to what happened.

I'm going to head over to his place and talk to him about it tonight, and I've got a few calls in with the Dept. of Agriculture. I want to handle it in a friendly/neighborly way first, but I need to make it clear that this cannot happen again. We have invested huge amounts of time and resources in our property that will all be for naught if someone else is allowed to come along and blanket it with broadleaf herbicides one or more times a year.

I'm posting to see if anybody here has dealt with similar issues, and if/how they resolved them. Any insights? Are there species we should be considering to act as a sacrificial windbreak along the property line to better protect the rest of the property? I'm at a loss here.

 
D Graves
Posts: 13
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Did you alert the person spraying that it was drifting onto your property? Surely, they should no be spraying when it is windy!

Did you take photos or video of the spray drifting across?

Only once or twice a year - you are the optimist!

Good luck with getting compensation from your neighbour. Let us know what they say. Perhaps they should do a PDC if they will not replace your damaged plants and trees.
 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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Spoke with the farmer and his son last night on my way home.

They were already aware of the issue (apparently I am not the only one that is having problems). They were spraying 2,4-D. Some of my neighbors are experiencing issues all the way to the tops of tall trees, and they think that a heavy fog we had the morning after they applied may have lifted and moved the chemicals. I still think that the wind during application was the issue, due to the patterns of damage we're seeing on the property.

He apologized profusely, and offered to compensate for anything that dies. They are calling out the Dept. of Agriculture to do testing and determine what happened. Most importantly, their attitude about this is right where it should be. In the meantime, in conversations with the Dept. of Agriculture, I have learned what my rights are (more than I thought, actually)... and I've got the numbers and names to call if we have problems again.

In the meantime, I am still very interested in planting some sort of protective windbreak to hedge my bets (no pun intended) in case something like this does happen again.

Investigating potential uses of conifers and bamboo to make a windbreak, as these appear to be the most resistant to 2,4-D and broadleaf herbicides in general.

 
Roxanne Sterling-Falkenstein
Posts: 107
Location: Cave Junction, Oregon
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Firstly that is just awful truly sickening. I'm very glad you have a dialog with them.
What to do? Lovingly and strictly from my own point of view, being a fairly ballsy, super-freaking duper friendly old lady... a, make you a loaf'a bread every so often kinda neighbor. The conversation could move to him moving into transitional, then organic crops. You know, like over the next few years you could plant suggestions to convince him (it's not always an easy thing to tell someone to try something new) & offer to help him with the land nearest to you as a test plot,for some transitional crops..some bio diversity. I think explaining the benefits (pollination etc..) of having a perennial crop like fruit trees could be easy..then explaining why a poly-culture orchard is even better. Time will show him the successes possible. Find the right time ( that's respect ) but... Always go for the very best thing you can, always bring your truest self to a problem.

 
Matt Smith
Posts: 181
Location: Central Ohio, Zone 6A - High water table, heavy clay.
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As much as I'd like to think I could bring these folks over to a more sustainable way of doing things, I can't see it happening. They own and farm huge tracts of land all over the area. They're building brand new silos, and have big new equipment... guessing big debt to go with it. They're playing the Big Ag game as hard as they can, which is I guess the only way you can play if you want to survive.

Maybe one day, when diesel is far too expensive and circumstances become such that a handful of humans cannot intensively cultivate hundreds of acres on their own... but likely not until then.
 
Bob Dobbs
Posts: 145
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I would get one of those boom trucks to come out when his corn starts to get tall... Or maybe a few dump-trucks full of salt.

Seriously, I would raise cain, sue their pants off! All big ag farmers that I have had the pleasure of knowing knew exactly what they were/are doing, and absolutely don't care because they think that the rapture is coming and god will fix everything anyways...


Maybe you are on the right track with the bamboo, plant a big line of phyllostachys right on the edge of your property with a steel barrier on your side of the property.


What I would do for an ounce of seed for those roundup-resistant super-pigweed guys that bust combines in corn & cotton fields...
 
K. Johnson
Posts: 57
Location: Missoula, Montana
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Tough problem. As for windbreaks, why not try the old standby the fast-growing tall cottonwood/populus species? Google things like "Ohio populus windbreak"
eg http://ohiodnr.com/tabid/5290/Default.aspx
Some of those species are ultra hardy and grow many feet per year.

Best Wishes
Kathy J.
 
Roxanne Sterling-Falkenstein
Posts: 107
Location: Cave Junction, Oregon
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Bob Dobbs wrote:

What I would do for an ounce of seed for those roundup-resistant super-pigweed guys that bust combines in corn & cotton fields...

it's just an amaranth type..common in many places. Ironically it makes an easy to grow animal feed..
http://toronto-wildlife.com/Plants/Amaranth_family/pigweed_redroot_6sh25_083010_640x480.jpg
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