Watertrough Childrens Alliance-
help us protect our children
 
5/22/13

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Who: Watertrough Children’s Alliance 

Presents: Public Forum on Health Risks of Toxic Chemical Farming 

Where: Sebastopol Grange, 6000 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol 

When: Wednesday, May 29th, 7:00- 9:30 PM

Watertrough Children’s Alliance is a group of parents, children, educators, and community members associated with five schools: Sunridge, Apple Blossom, Orchard View, Nonesuch, and Tree House Hollow Preschool. At this free event, speakers will address the concerns and issues related to health risks of toxic chemical farming, and the progress of our mission to keep our children safe.

"Surrounding the schools, we have in place all of these 'safe zones,' like the '25mph speed limit,' or the 'no drug zone,' or the 'no tobacco zone,' or the 'no sex offender zone'. Somehow I think dousing them with heavy agricultural chemicals in the name of 'freedom to farm' without a 'no pesticide zone' is completely out of whack!," said Amber Risucci, a concerned parent of a child at Sunridge School.

Parents are deeply troubled by the acute, cumulative, and chronic health effects from the use of pesticides, fumigants, herbicides, insecticides, rodenticides, and other toxic chemicals potentially involved in the conversion process of removing historic apple trees and planting a wine vineyard adjacent to the schools.

"The risks and health issues connected to the use of these toxic chemicals could impact many. There are 700 children and at least 75 staff members at the schools in close proximity to the site. During the conversion process, uprooting trees and churning up soil will likely unleash contaminants. Dust, erosion, and runoff mitigation measures approved and overseen by appropriate governmental agencies are essential in such a process. Who will take responsibility for the potential health impacts to this sensitive population?" asks Joy Hamel, resident and mother.

This group is committed to organizing to engage the current policies and standard practices that need changing. Their current petition has over 700 signatures.

"Our mission, at this point, is to keep our children safe from the massive spraying and dust that will occur during this time and beyond. Many allies have stepped in with varying interests. We are all here to keep our children safe, period." said Jina Brooks, mother of a child at Sunridge School.
 
 

Alliance Fights Paul Hobbs Winery Orchard Conversion

http://www.sonomacountygazette.com/cms/pages/sonoma-county-news-article-1480.html


Mothers and Allies Challenge Wine Industrialist

By Shepherd Bliss

Half a dozen mothers from Sebastopol and its countryside quickly rallied hundreds of people to their side to challenge Sonoma County’s Paul Hobbs Winery. He wants to convert a 40-acre apple orchard into a vineyard that would use pesticides; it borders five schools on Watertrough Road, including Apple Blossom and Orchard View. Together they have around 700 children. 

The mothers only found out in late April about Hobbs’ plan and in less than a week got over 400 signatures on their petition “Stop alcohol firms from endangering children and the environment.” The conversion has been in process for around a year--as some school officials apparently knew—but parents did not find about it until recently, when workers in hazmat suits showed up to demolish a house and barn.

“We are deeply troubled by the cumulative, chronic, and acute health effects from the use of pesticides, fumigants, insecticides, rodenticides, and other toxic chemicals,” the petition notes.

Hobbs is an international wine baron with a history of clear cutting forests without permits and then paying small fines from his extensive wealth. He owns vineyards in at least half a dozen countries and sells wine for an average of around $60 a bottle.

Hobbs’ Public Relations Manager Tara Sharp claims that the winery plans to be “good stewards of the land.” Its track record is otherwise. Hobbs “zeal for deforestation” was detailed by journalist Will Parrish in a June 2, 2011, article in the Anderson Valley Advocate (AVA). 

Sonoma County Supervisor Efren Carrillo published a blistering critique of Hobbs in 2011. “Hobbs has shown a blatant disregard for Sonoma County, its resources, his fellow vintners and community sentiment” Carrillo is quoted as saying on the Sonoma County Gazette website. “His wines are unpalatable as they carry strong tones of environmental harm with overwhelming notes of arrogance.”

The petition was signed mainly by locals, but residents of Norway, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Poland and Saudia Arabia also signed the online version. At least one signer is a local elected official, John Eder of the Sebastopol City Council. In 1999, the Sebastopol City Council passed a resolution to avoid using pesticides on City-owned property. 

Some signers of the current petition request that people boycott wine made by Hobbs, which includes his Cross Barn label.

Sonoma County Agriculture Commissioner Tony Linegar met on May 1 with half a dozen adamant mothers, as well as a former Sebastopol mayor, an attorney, a scientist, and a teacher. The meeting lasted for well over two hours. Linegar agreed to form a working group on the problem and meet with them again May 13.



MOTHERS COMMENT ON VINEYARD CONVERSION

“We represent many people who are upset by this vineyard conversion. We do not want to be poisoned,” mother-of-two Nicole Baum said. She hopes that this incident might lead to changing some laws, especially as more people move into the countryside.

“Nobody wants their child exposed to something that could hurt them,” added Christine Dzilvelis. “My daughter loves the orchard. It is peaceful and pretty.” It also provides nutritious food—“an apple a day keeps the doctor away”--rather than alcohol. 

Dzilvelis and others in the new Watertrough Children’s Alliance are concerned with pesticide drift, asbestos, lead and arsenic poisoning in the soil, and water contamination in the Atascadero Green Valley watershed.

“As the Director of a preschool on the Apple Blossom campus,” writes Barbara Stockton, “I am utterly appalled that this development might occur.”

“My motivation for challenging this vineyard is the science that shows the short- and long-term negative effects of pesticides on children,” commented Estrella Phegan, mother of a five-year-old. “If even one children was impacted with increased asthma, and many more will be, I want to make sure that would not happen here. We Moms are the children’s voices. Keeping our children safe at school is basic.”

“We have children at Apple Blossom and Orchard View schools,” wrote Michelle Muse upon signing the petition. “Our children will be within feet of herbicide and pesticide applications. This is not acceptable.”

Supporters of the mothers are sending letters to the daily Press Democrat and the weekly Sonoma West, which published articles on the pending vineyard during the first week of May. “We work to bring awareness to our community of the risk of losing our apple heritage, and with it some of our food security. Wine grapes are not food!” wrote Paula Shatkin of the Slow Food Russian River chapter, which is part of an international organization started in Italy with hundreds of thousands of members. 

“Apples are part of Sebastopol’s cultural heritage, part of our sense of community, and they are family friendly. Children cannot pick or eat wine grapes. Families cannot preserve them or make cakes and pies out of them,” Shatkin added. 

Sonoma County does have many sustainable grape growers who are environmentally friendly and use organic, biodynamic, and other integrated pest management practices.

Sun Ridge, a Waldorf charter school based on the philosophy of Rudolf Steiner, is one of the five schools contiguous with the planned vineyard. At their annual May Festival at their downtown campus, attended by a couple of hundred people, the vineyard was a subject of conversation among parents, as well as some children.

“I’m upset about not only the health risks to children but also to birds and bees, as well as the loss of open space where wildlife can live and visit,” commented six-year-old Ely’s father Thomas Cooper. “Even young kids at Sun Ridge are upset by pesticides,” commented Jina Brooks. “Waldorf schools are about sustainability and this vineyard would be the opposite.”

“Sonoma County is apples. The annual Apple Blossom Parade is our tradition,” commented eleven-year-old Olivia Litwin. “Apples taste better when they are from here.  Apples are good for you and you can make lots of tasty things with them.”

“I got involved with this struggle because I know we can do better for everyone involved—the kids, the farmers, others in the world,” added Dzilvelis. “My daughter loves being at Orchard View School. We would have to leave if circumstances prove not to be safe.” 

“We just got a grant to teach eco-friendly things about communicating with the land, rather than taking away from it,” mother Amber Risucci noted. “This is a whole eco-system that we are trying to protect. Many parents have organic gardens and feed our kids as best as we can. Why would we then send them to schools next to large corporate vineyards that negate what we do at home? We try to live as people whose food nourishes us, rather than harms us.”

INDUSTRIAL VINEYARDS AS CHEMICAL WARFARE

Setting up a new conventional vineyard is like chemical warfare against the soil and other living creatures nearby. Only a few would be pests to the vines, but in the attack the protected chemical warriors kill many beneficial insects and other critters to create their sterile mono-crop. Then the stakes go orderly into the ground in regimented, industrial rows.

This is not nature’s way. Nature will then try to recover by sending up a cover, labeled weeds, to which the chemical warriors return to de-nude the ground again. One would not want to be nearby, especially if you are young, fragile, and vulnerable.

The hazards of agricultural chemicals are revealed by the following:

The West Fertilizer Company near Waco, Texas, accidental explosion of chemicals on April 17 this year killed 15 people, mainly firefighters, and leveled 80 homes.

168 people were killed in 1995 by the deliberate igniting of agricultural chemicals at the Oklahoma City Federal Building, including 19 children under 16 years old. 324 buildings were damaged and 680 people were wounded.

The European Union recently banning certain pesticides because they have been implicated in the massive bee colony collapses, which threatens the pollination of one third of humans food supply.

“How can the school continue to be called Apple Blossom if there are not apples to be found nearby?” writes Amy Taganaski, who has two children there. It is not the right place for a vineyard, contend the mothers and their growing number of allies.

Nor the right winery. Hobbs has been described as the “bad apple” of Sonoma County’s bloated wine industry.

This current struggle, according to former Sonoma County Planning Commissioner Rue Furch, may “help us move the county to a more sustainable agricultural future.”

The petition can be found at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/263/347/984/stop-corporate-alcohol-firms-from-endangering-children-and-the-environment/#sign



(Shepherd Bliss operates a farm near the proposed vineyard, teaches college, and can be reached at3sb.comcast.net)

 
 
After seeing hazmat suits and barns being torn down, some of the mothers from the Watertrough Rd schools connected by seeing a post on a local online bulletin board

Here is a link to that post and you can read the ensuing conversation:

http://www.waccobb.net/forums/showthread.php?97567-Apple-Blossom-School-now-will-be-Wine-Grape-School-!!!-!!