Children are sacred
Many of us enjoy the bounty of Sonoma County’s agricultural community, our local meats, dairy, fruits and vegetables and the value added products. We produce fantastic olives, cheeses, breads, and of course our world renowned wines.
We also have one of the fastest growing organic food industries in the United States. Our farmer’s markets, restaurants that offer seasonal and spray-free dishes, even national chains are offering organic product lines.
This is a trend for a reason. Increasingly, individuals understand that reducing and ultimately eliminating our synthetic, chemically dependent agriculture is critical to a healthy future. Spray-free local agriculture protects our lands, our communities (note the recent horrific explosion of the chemical-fertilizer plant in Texas next to a school), ourselves and those with the most to lose when inundated with poisons, our children.
I urge every farmer to at least be spray-free. I also understand that things happen in stages. Even though the organic movement is developing quickly it is not all going to happen at once. We do, though, need to advance to the next stage. We need to end spraying within a quarter mile of all of our schools in Sonoma County. This need is illustrated by the proposed development of a vineyard next to Apple Blossom and Orchard View schools.
We have the opportunity to petition the State to create safety zones around our schools that are spray-free, though it is very difficult to acquire such a designation. The potential risk to our children is too great to not move this policy forward. Think about it, a 150 pound adult and a 40 pound child may both be exposed to the same chemicals, but the ratio of chemical to body mass is much higher in the smaller person who also has a less developed immune system.
It is true that we as parents should have been monitoring the spraying of the apple orchards next to the schools for much longer. It is public knowledge that in 1998 children were poisoned from chemical drift at Apple Blossom.
That being said, parents are organizing now. And any spray near the schools is clearly not worth the health risk for the economic reward. I see protective mothers, outraged, organizing. The school board and superintendent are involved. Something has shifted in what is acceptable. Concerned parents have created a working group with our Agricultural Commissioner, Tony Linegar.
In the short-term, we urge the landowner, Paul Hobbs, to make this vineyard an organic vineyard. Many other wineries in our beautiful county grow organic grapes, and make a lot of great wine in the process. Of course, we would be even happier to see the apple orchard remain and be converted to an organic orchard, perhaps even a learning center for the adjacent schools. There is a valid concern over what heavy metals and other toxic residue would be stirred up if the old apple trees are uprooted.
We have the opportunity to create a real partnership for our schools, economy, and between neighbors. We have the chance to play it safe, and not potentially endanger the children. I remember when I was a child on the bus to Apple Blossom and the bus driver yelled at us to shut the windows fast; we could all see the pesticide cloud billowing out of the tractor and drifting over Watertrough Road.
In the long-term, we also need to work with the County Supervisors to improve the Vineyard Erosion and Sediment Control Ordinance, (VESCO).
Currently, a farmer needs to file a report a month after pesticides have been sprayed. Spray notification beforehand makes sense. Let’s eliminate pesticide runoff to neighbor’s properties, our creeks and ground-water supplies. And we need to create policies to infiltrate more of our groundwater instead of sheeting or piping it off the property as fast as possible.
So what do you say, Team Human, can we all work together to protect the children?
Craig Litwin is a graduate of Apple Blossom and Twin Hills, and has three children in the school district.