The not-so-beautiful truth about living in the country, in the Midwest.
I’ll start with a brief update on the case we opened last year(June of 2019) through the Indiana State Chemist & Seed Commissioner. If you didn’t catch what happened, the full blog post with descriptions of the events & a whole lot of heart pouring out is here, but in short-the neighboring farm made an aerial application that ended up killing a ton of our bees & left us wondering what affect these chemicals could have on us, how it could affect our Wild School, & what we could do about preventing it from happening again. We received the case summary from this incident in late May 2020 by mail & it states that ‘the lab results indicated high levels of propiconazole (active ingredient for Miravis Ace) & cyhalothrin(active ingredient for Province II) in the sample of bees(at our hive) & in vegetation sites(samples from our front yard, side yard ,& back yard tree leaves). Both active ingredients are highly toxic to bees.’
The report goes on to further state that the pesticides label also reads, ‘This product is highly toxic to bees exposed to direct treatment or residues on blooming crops or weeds. Do not apply this product or allow it to drift to blooming crops or weeds if bees are visiting the treatment area.’ If you remember from my post last year, the field they were spraying behind our barn is a Hay field with Clover & the Clover had just started blooming. Our family celebrates this arrival every year with Clover tea from plants on our land. Unfortunately, it has come to be a very stressful time of year, for just about every year we have lived here in the past 8 1/2 years because of the drift we receive.
The applicators form says that the boom height at time of application was 8-10 feet. That’s not true. Not once was the applicator that low, not once! He barely ever dropped below the height of our barn. See it for yourself.
And it was awful to pull up the data sheet from the manufactures of Province II to find these warnings:
- Do not enter or allow worker entry into treated areas during the restricted-entry interval (REI) of 24 hours. (Oh, you mean our entire 4 acre property?)
- Do not allow livestock to graze in treated areas. (Oh, you mean the pigs that were literally sprayed on as they were eating?)
- Do not apply within 150 feet of aquatic habitats (such as, but not limited to, lakes; reservoirs; rivers; permanent streams; marshes; natural ponds; estuaries; and commercial fish ponds).(Wait? There is a Marsh area right next to one of the fields that was sprayed & isn’t the organization that hired this to be sprayed, a recipient of the River-Friendly Farmer award?)
In the end, the applicator & Bluebird Ag were cited for ‘for applying a pesticide in a manner that allows it to drift from the target site in sufficient quantity to cause harm to a non-target site.’ It states that a civil penalty in the amount of $250.00 was assessed for this violation & notes that consideration was given to the fact that this was the applicators first violation of similar nature & that a restricted use pesticide was involved.
I was ticked off that there was misinformation given from the applicator, I was really upset after reading the manufactures data sheets about the products & all the warnings that we had no clue of, but I thought just maybe, me raising a bit of commotion last year would change things. Well, that brings me to the title of this post.
On April 26th, I was inside getting food ready & heard the kids(ages 8, 6, 4, & 2) yelling out back. I rushed out the door to see them running towards me & I was instantly overcome by the the awful smell & immediately realize that the smell was coming from the cloud of spray my children were running in. At this point Violet(2 1/2) is near tears & very upset because although I am not hyperbolic about farmers spraying the fields, our children need to understand that they should run as fast as they can inside when they see a tractor spraying. Well, I don’t know if it was curiosity or complacency, but they didn’t make it inside fast enough & I wish I could go back & change that. Because of the tears they have seen me shed over this issue, the anguish & injustice they have witnessed, & the education they have received, Violet is now scared of tractors & comes running to me, terrified. I scoop her up & we quickly head inside. I take a video from the kitchen window(after all these years of experience, I now always take a video) & call my husband about what happened. I am completely overwhelmed. At this point, I don’t know what they are spraying, but I know my children had it all over them & we definitely all breathed it in. I think about calling the organization that runs the farm, I think about sharing it online, I think about how we can’t complete our nature journaling now because the kids are scared & don’t want to go outside until they know it’s safe-but I have absolutely no clue what they sprayed, so I have no information on how to handle the coverage we got on our property. So, I put on a movie, my mind goes black, & we change the subject. I was literally so overwhelmed, tired, discouraged, & disappointed that I just couldn’t. I didn’t start a report with the state chemist. I kind of just tried to erase it because after all, what the hell can I do about it? The applicator is breaking laws. The farm that is hiring these applicators(in which we have problems every damn year)feeds us a lot of lip service every time it happens, but so far, nothing has gotten better for us. In my eyes, they are choosing profit, over the health & safety of my children & all the other kids we have out here at the Wild School. Can you tell this Momma is at her wits end with this issue?
So, when the letter comes about the 250 bucks we will receive I sigh & think, ‘that’s nice, but that is not what I am after.’ When two guys come from the organization/farm and say they’d love to show us their future plans, that we’ll love it, & that things just aren’t going to change overnight, I feel like puking as I think about my kids running through that fog, of what I now know was Roundup. But I am overwhelmed. I am so disappointed. I am so tired of fighting with what is suppose to be an organization that prides itself on Catholic values & love for the environment, that I smile & explain that we are not out to get them, that we are just people who care and want things to be better. I really know nothing about Roundup other than I don’t use it, it kills stuff, & it was in the news a lot a few years ago because someone won a case with Monsanto that Roundup did cause them Cancer. I should probably read up, scour through data, & look to see if my children are at risk for anything. I should probably find out my rights, write to the local paper to stand up for all us little country folk, I should head to the organizations front door and seek answers & an explanation. When they came to our farm last, I told them about our children being sprayed by Roundup, again, their response was basically ‘things aren’t going to change overnight & by the way, we’ll be back next week for a second round of spraying.’
Please tell me how any of this upholds some of these written core values they profess:
We believe justice demands advocacy on behalf of those in need.
We believe in attentive listening and courageous response.
We believe in responding to the needs of the time.
We believe all life on the planet is sacred and deserves respect and protection.
We believe each person has rights and responsibilities and must be respected and treated fairly.
So again, on May 31st, they sprayed a second application of Roundup. Thankfully, this time we heard them coming. I set up a camera & we ran inside. See for yourself, do you think it was a little too windy that day to spray? After contacting the state chemist’s office, I was told that for Roundup, even if the wind is blowing in the direction of a sensitive area, no-matter the speed, it is against the manufactures instructions. A few days later we found evidence that plants all the way in our main garden, Herb Garden, plants next to our house, & Forest Garden had all been sprayed with Roundup. We literally eat from everywhere on our property. I could see Lilly’s heart just sinking and her walk slowing as we walked through our 2-acre Forest Garden, in which we eat from & play in daily, to find Roundup damage all over some of our favorite snacks, beloved trees, & plants we’ve watch grow alongside our growing children for years.
I know, the applicator is in the wrong, legally. (To be clear we are starting another case for the incidents this year & the State Chemists office will decide on the final outcome.) But when this happens to us every year, when we have reached out in person, via phone, via email, taken to publicly sharing what has happened to us, why is this still happening?! I see your words on paper, I hear your voices saying you practice advocacy, where are your demands for justice for your own next-door neighbors. No, I don’t want to see all the paperwork about your plans for amazing things in the future. No, I don’t want to waste my precious time advocating for ourselves with a powerful, wealthy, religious organization that claims to be aligned with our values of treatment & respect for the earth. No, I don’t want to spend any more time filing reports with the state chemists office. If it hasn’t been clear, all I want is for you to demand justice for my family, not in prayer, not on paper, in practice. Please, stop hiring companies that spray chemicals onto our home. Please stop letting people get away with it. We have worked so very hard for what we have. We have planted & tended to so many seeds here throughout our land. We share this tiny, but mighty farm with not only our children, but many other families & their children. At this point, there is no trust, there is no respect, we just want to be left alone.
One last thing, I do want to acknowledge the good intentions of many out there. I know there are definitely wonderful things being done, but there is no lump sum of love you can give to others, that will negate the absence of follow-through & compassion you have had for our family. And why is it that you can find it in your hearts to go out of your way for so many other causes, but not for us?
As a large, religious organization in our community, you have high claims & the potential to carry a lot of weight & I see it as my duty, as an active community member, to hold you to those. To speak out-especially when your actions are harming others habitually. It brings me absolutely no joy at all to go through this public shaming process, but history has shown that documenting, talking, emailing, does no good. We have put our roots down deep here, we don’t see ourselves going anywhere, anytime soon, & we have a lot to share with our community. I will not continue to live this way. I should not have to spend so much of my energy fighting for our rights. I know the answer is not easy for you to figure out, but it is your obligation & responsibility to. Please step up.
-Amanda Jo & John Boener