I live in California. You know that ultra-progressive state that’s supposed to be way ahead of everyone else on environmental issues and regulations? At least, that’s where I thought I had moved to when we came to Central California in January 2008…
I’d been gone from California for 12 years when life unexpectedly paved the way for me and my mom to return to the Golden State. I’d grown up in the Bay Area, and had lived both further north and south in the state. My grandparents had lived in this area for 20 years. So, we knew Central Cali from visits. We didn’t really care for it, but didn’t know how messed up it was until we came to live here. Geographically, we’re south of Fresno and north of Visalia.
This area is touted as an agricultural wonderland, with a bounty of every fruit imaginable. Even better, all those “Happy California Cows” you see on TV? The very same Holstein cows live right here in this bountiful wonderland! Trust me, they are a sight to behold, and not because they live in lush green pastures and talk to cameras. Wait – here’s a photo I took last week as we were driving (CLICK on photos to enlarge them):
Yes, that’s a frequent sight around here. And another yes to that being a happy cow – she’s dead (not sleeping, really dead – she was still there on our return trip). I’m sure she’s at peace now, away from the filth, overcrowding, and repeated breedings of her ilk (and giving birth out in all that filth). Words cannot possibly do justice to the conditions these cows live in. Until you see these factory farms, you really can’t appreciate where your dairy products come from. Oh, and another horror we see regularly – tails chopped half off. Perhaps the tails get in the way of the milking equipment? However, that leaves these cows, who are standing in their own crap with almost no shelter (super high tin roofs, no sides), no way to fend off the flies that plague them. Thousands upon thousands of “Happy California Cows”… Got milk?
From happy cows we move on to California fruit – not the human kind;-) There’s an orange grove out back where we live, probably less than 100 feet away. It’s in the photo on the side of my blog titled “Golden State” (taken within days of moving here and not knowing anything about the area yet). It seemed so cool when we first moved here. The trees are a lot prettier to look at than the squash plants and such that I remember from our visits. In fact, we were awed by all of the orange groves now covering this area. What a huge crop! While I’ll admit that they are yummy, I will never feel as confident about eating these oranges as I first did.
I thought because they had peels, oranges were tough fruits and didn’t need spraying. Wow, was I ever wrong! I have never, ever seen anything that is sprayed as frequently as these trees out back. Seriously, it’s after midnight as I type this, and they are spraying for the third night in a row. Two nights ago, not knowing they were spraying – there’s never any warning – I was awakened at 4:00 a.m. to such strong toxic-smelling fumes that I thought something had happened to the house. I soon heard the amazingly loud roar of the sprayer tractor and realized it was the sweet scent of pesticides filling our home. While we do recall the spraying last year, we don’t recall it being at night. It’s bad enough during the day, but at least you have some warning and can shut your windows. While closing them doesn’t stop the fumes from coming in, it at least gives the illusion that it does.
We have no idea what they are spraying, only that it’s strong enough to cause headaches, sore throats, and nausea – and leave us wondering the long-term effects. I can’t imagine that it isn’t toxic. Even if it’s supposedly “safe”, nothing is good in that high of a dose. I really can’t imagine it’s that great for the trees, either. As an organic gardener, I’m still trying to puzzle out why any tree or plant needs such heavy spraying as these oranges – they were being sprayed at night last week as well. Gosh, judging by the hordes of insects that fly onto and into our home, I’m sure it’s doing a lot of good. More than anything, though, I wonder about the frequent sightings of Anna’s hummingbirds with various stages of deformed beaks. I have taken several photos, which I know are graphic. Hummingbirds are near and dear to my heart, and in all the places we’ve lived with them, we’ve never seen anything like this. It isn’t just one or two, it’s several. It starts on the beak and proceeds up the face, appearing to cause tumors around the eyes, too.
The hummingbirds live here year-round. They drink nectar from flowers. The many different fruit trees provide an abundance of flowers. Those flowers are all heavily sprayed. I don’t proclaim to be a scientist, and I obviously don’t know the cause of these horrific deformities. Yet, can we really ignore the possibility that these chemicals are doing serious damage? Obviously, around here, we can and we do. Agriculture is big business, and big business generally wins over anything else. Hurrah.
Forgive my sarcasm. However, I really believe this whole area is toxic. I’ve gone back and forth on writing this. I know that the above is not positive. If you follow my blog, you know that I’m learning about the Law of Attraction and applying it to my own life. I believe very strongly in it. I believe strongly enough to see how my thoughts led me here, above and beyond reconnecting with my grandparents. Although I’m filled with appreciation for the blessings that also came as a result of this move, I’ve spent too much energy concentrating on the fact that I don’t like it here. So, why am I writing a post that emphasizes things that I don’t like?
I’m writing this because I believe that what’s happening here is wrong on many levels. This isn’t the California I thought I knew. Looking at the mess that this state is in, I have to say that I think this area serves as a huge example as to why. This area is a contradiction to everything people believe California to be. Rampant pollution and factory farming are just two of several things that need to be changed here (gang violence, stray animals everywhere are two more big ones). Yet, I don’t see anyone addressing these things. No one seems to be looking at the long term costs of ignoring these abuses.
I’m writing this to question why? I’m writing this because I don’t know what else to do, and I don’t feel I can continue ignoring it, too. I’m writing this because I want people who don’t live in this area to know where their fruit and dairy products really come from. I’m writing this because although we are more than ready to start the process of moving on from here, I am here right now and I do have a voice. It’s time I started using it again.
P.S. I e-mailed the person listed for Pesticide Use Enforcement for Tulare County and cc’d the Agricultural Commissioner on Tuesday evening (06/02), regarding the spraying near our home, but haven’t heard anything back yet. It’s now 1:00 a.m., and it’s still going for night three.
Update - I finished writing this yesterday, the 4th, and just received a response to the above e-mail:
My name is David Case and I am the supervisor in the pesticide division. Sorry, I did not respond sooner, I have been ill. Mr. Deavours is not in this week, however he will be in on Monday.
There are few regulations regarding spraying pesticides next to residences. Most of them are for restricted use pesticides applied by air as cotton defoliants. We have restricted permit conditions for aerial applications of pesticides within 1/4 mile of schools.
A pesticide applicator has the right to apply pesticides right up to his property line. The pesticide applicator does not have the right to allow pesticides to drift from his application to sensitive sites surrounding the treatment area. There are laws and regulations that are in place to prevent that from happening and when it does happen those same laws and regulations are used to properly punish the violators. If the application is fertilizer only, the application is out or our jurisdiction and we do not have the authority to take any action.
Odors are around us everyday, some pleasant, such as a rose, and some can be unpleasant, such as a dairy. The difficulty is when there is an odor associated with a pesticide application. Pesticides are made up of two components. One is the active ingredient (the chemical in the pesticide that kills the insect, weed, fungus, etc.) the other are the inactive ingredients. Either one or both can create odors. They also can come from a legal or illegal application. If the pesticide application creates an odor, it is usually not a pleasant one. After all, you do not want anyone entering a field where a pesticide application has occurred because it has an attractive odor.
Most pesticide applications in Tulare County occur without any problems. There are approximately 75,000 pesticide applications in Tulare County in any given year.
If you see or believe there has been drift of a pesticide onto your property, please give us a call. We can conduct an investigation and take action against the applicator if we can prove violations have occurred. If you have symptoms due to a pesticide exposure, see a doctor if you believe it is necessary.
As for the timing of the application, pesticides are applied at night because of several different reasons. One is that the temperature is much cooler at night and the pesticide handlers wearing the regulatory required safety gear are more comfortable wearing the safety gear. Also, this is true in blooming citrus, applications can only occur at night when the bees will not be effected by the application (regulation only allows certain pesticides to be applied at night to commercial citrus when it is blooming). Another reason is that once personnel are on a nighttime schedule, it is easier (and better for the employee, to keep them on that schedule. One more reason is that some pesticide labels have temperature cutoffs that require you to make the applications during the cooler part of the day.
If you believe that there has been pesticide drift onto your property, please contact our office @685-3332 and file a complaint.
If you would like more information read California Department of Pesticide Regulation's "Community Guide to Recognizing & Reporting Pesticide Problems" at the following link: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/dept/comguide/index.htm
Supervising Agricultural and Standards Inspector IV
Tulare County Agricultural Commissioner's Office
4437 S. Laspina
Tulare, CA 93274