Thursday, April 26, 2007

Local farms in the news

Following on the heels of a successful Piedmont Farm Tour, NBC 17 news this week did a great story on how consumers can buy a share in a local farm, also known as "Community Supported Agriculture" or CSA. CSA's are popping up all over North Carolina, and they're a great way for consumers to get a bounty of fresh, locally-grown produce all season long at a good price, and directly from a farmer they know and trust.

Some CSA farmers like Hilltop Farms' Fred Miller, allow members to come out and work on the farm (look for PESTed staffer and Hilltop Farms member Billie Karel weeding organic strawberries in the NBC17 story!). Working at the farm increases a family's connection to the place their food comes from, a welcome change in today's industrialized food market, where one box of cereal might contain ingredients from farms and factories on every continent.

A bill working its way through the NC General Assembly would put some state investment behind local, organic growers in North Carolina. The NC Organic Economic Opportunities Act would fund state research on the current status of organic agriculture in North Carolina, and its potential for growth. Even with CSA's and farmers' markets on the rise in our state, the vast majority of organic foods eaten here were grown someplace else - most often California.

You can support local, organic agriculture in North Carolina by urging your state representatives to support this important bill, and of course by buying locally. Check out this handy list of CSA farms in NC to find out how you can sign up for one!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Since when is a tundra swan a ‘pest’?

Hint: Try reading the Navy's environmental impact statements for the proposed Outlying Landing Field in Washington & Beaufort counties.

Governor Easley recently took issue with the Navy's plan to use a highly-toxic pesticide, Avitrol, as part of its plan to manage "bird air strike hazards" at the site.

The possibility that the Navy may need to resort to using Avitrol, a highly toxic pesticide unregistered for use in North Carolina, underscores how profoundly inappropriate the proposed site is for the OLF.

A pesticide is a poison registered with the EPA for use against pests. Under the EPA’s definition, a pest is an unwanted organism that poses a threat to human health or economic activity. A rat is a pest because it can destroy property and harbor disease. Under the Navy’s Environmental Impact Statement, tundra swans and snow geese – species carefully conserved at the neighboring Pocosin Lakes Wildlife Refuge – become “pests” on and around the proposed OLF site. Within the same document, the Navy discusses both conserving and destroying migratory birds – treating them as both desirable and undesirable organisms in the same management plan.

Common-sense pest management relies on preventing the conditions that give rise to pest problems. In the case of tundra swans and snow geese, this would mean removing the food, water and habitat that the pests – geese and swans – rely on.

In the case of rats in a school building, for example, removing food, water and habitat is as simple as repairing leaky pipes, tightly closing garbage cans, and sealing up holes in the wall. In Washington and Beaufort counties, however, removing birds’ food, water and habitat will simply be impossible. While the Navy does have plans to change some land use and farming practices near the site, the Navy cannot change the fact that the proposed site is essentially an agricultural area, full of food for migratory birds, nor the fact that the site is neighbored in three directions by open water. Those very conditions that give rise to the “pest” problem – hundreds of thousands of migratory birds – make low-risk, common-sense management impossible for the Navy. Therefore the Navy will have to resort to drastic measures that are far beyond the realm of common sense, including baiting birds with poisoned bread and pellets to discourage them from living near the proposed OLF site.

This plan does not only pose threats to the targeted bird populations, but to many other species as well. Avitrol is highly toxic to birds and to mammals, and accidental ingestion by non-target species, including songbirds, ducks, coyotes, dogs and foxes would pose a significant danger. If used on neighboring farm fields, Avitrol would put farmers and workers at risk of accidental exposure, and contribute to pesticide runoff to the estuary.

This drastic and wrong-headed approach to problem-solving belies the fundamental problem with the proposed OLF: it doesn’t belong there. The risks posed to pilots, neighbors, wildlife and environmental quality are enormous, and the proposed risk management techniques – like using unregistered pesticides to poison protected species – would only make matters worse.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

PESTed in Greenville, NC

Veggie painting at the Greenville Kids FestPESTed spent last Saturday at KidsFest - The Greenville Convention Center was *packed* with some 7000 children and parents from the Greenville area! PESTed did some fun educational activities with the children, and also spoke with parents about using safer alternatives to pesticides at home, school and childcare.

At left, you see several young children pounding colorful bits of vegetables to transfer their pigments onto squares of muslin fabric in an activity we call "Veggie Painting." Kids work out some energy with all that pounding! They also learn about some new vegetables they might not have tried before, and about the high vitamin content of fresh fruits and vegetables....and when they're finished, they have a beautiful piece of abstract veggie art to take home!

Color-A-Bug at Greenville Kids FestPESTed also has a "Color-a-Bug" station for kids - see some of our young artists, at right.

We're planning to bring the PESTed info & activity booth to several more festivals in different parts of North Carolina this month - check out our calendar for the schedule. Would you be interested in coming to help out at one of these events as a volunteer? Or, would you like to see the PESTed booth come to your town this year? Let us know!