Dallas' Urban Farmers Are Tired of Getting Sprayed with Pesticides, and Say They Have a Better Plan

Categories: Environment

eatyard.jpg
Dylan Hollingsworth
After their time in the Army, James Jeffers and Steve Smith have turned to the soil of Oak Cliff to get back to health.
Bad news from Eat the Yard, the army veterans-turned-organic local gardeners who were on our cover a few weeks ago: they think that four of their seven gardens got hit with the toxic insecticides the city has been spraying to kill West Nile-infected mosquitoes.

To be safe, Eat the Yard has been pulling up crops at all seven of its gardens. They don't want to risk selling people organic crops that might actually be loaded with pesticides.

"We're at a complete loss right now. We're financially stagnant for the next two months," co-founder James Jeffers tells Unfair Park. Jeffers hadn't anticipated the spraying until he stepped outside last week in South Oak Cliff and noticed a strong chemical smell in the air.

Jeffers says the City of Dallas website has been less than helpful in trying to figure out when and where spraying will occur next. Most recently, the City of Dallas website posted a notice warning that more spraying would take place on August 11. But while that press release is dated as August 9, it appears that it wasn't actually posed on City Hall's West Nile page until the 11th, giving local farmers, gardeners and beekeepers little time to plan.

"We have to know where they're spraying so we know which bees we need to cover," says Brandon Pollard of the Texas Honeybee Guild.

The Honeybee Guild, Eat the Yard and a group of about 40 others have been distributing an open letter to the Dallas County Commissioners and Dallas City Hall, breaking down the reasons why a substance called Bti Larvicide is safer and more effective at killing West Nile-infected mosquitoes than adult insecticides.

Jennifer Land, from the Concerned Citizens for Safer Mosquito Control, is optimistic about the responses she's received from County Commissioners and City Hall so far.

"We've been very appreciative of the County and City staff's willingness to meet with us," she says, adding that she wants to see those encouraging meetings turn into action. "What we'd like to see happen next is a switch from prioritizing adult insecticide to prioritizing larvicide."

It's too early to say if Dallas will take action, and how. In the meantime, Zachary Thompson, the Director of the Dallas County Health and Human Services, had plenty of nice, vague things to say about the pro-larvicide effort.

"Let me frame it this way: I want to commend Jennifer Land and the committee that has been looking at that," Thompson tells us. At some point in 2014, the County might make more use of larvicide. We think.

"Here's my point: They provided good information, they have definitely raised awareness on the importance of larviciding. We're going to take the information that they've provided and incorporate that in the review process as we head into the 2014 West Nile season."

Jeffers from Eat the Yard isn't so sure. He testified about his damaged crops at the County Commissioners meeting Tuesday. He says that during his testimony, half the Commissioners were looking at their phones, and it seemed to him like "they just told us what we wanted to hear... I just thought it fell on deaf ears."


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23 comments
romeolipschitz
romeolipschitz

Well, what the hell did they think would happen to their "urban garden"?

By definition, it's a garden in the middle of a big city! Move it out where the environment is WAY more conducive to farming. You want to be a hipster city gardener? Then except the realities of city farming. It ain't always gonna work.

doublecheese
doublecheese

Do Austin and San Antonio have West Nile problems?  Maybe we need bats to eat the mosquitoes.

tedbarker45
tedbarker45

Many of my new friends (Winfrey Point) scrambled every which way last summer in order to try protect the bee colonies.  I would like to know if the statistics regarding a demise of  beneficial bees and insects are available.

AverageJoe
AverageJoe

This is an unfortunate event.  Another anecdotal thing I have noticed this summer is a complete lack of bees in my yard.  My tomatoes never budded again after the first buds in the Spring and neighbors with gardens are reporting the same thing.  I fear the short term "win" will have longer lasting effects that we will be seeing for years to come.

naim_679
naim_679

NO ONE is required by ANY LAW---to allow themselves to be sprayed with poison; to control a disease that cannot and will not be controlled in such a manner.

see themindfuldissenters.com for more information

"Your life in is your own hands; don't drop it".

Jimmy Wright
Jimmy Wright

there's pesticide on my food waaaa its not organic anymore waaaa

Ateen Khakpour
Ateen Khakpour

As a proponent of organic farming and urban living, all I have to say is that you have to pick and choose. Living in urban areas comes with a price and so does living in the country. You can't risk the lives of millions of people because your organic heirloom tomatoes or whatever got sprayed. This article would have been legit if there was a solution provided

soopnan
soopnan

Yeah...sorry about your farm, but 11 people died last year due to the combined effects of being old and having a mosquito bite.  It's terrible that you had to rip out your farm, but if even one life was saved it was the right decision.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

" He says that during his testimony, half the Commissioners were looking at their phones, and it seemed to him like "they just told us what we wanted to hear... I just thought it fell on deaf ears."

Pretty much tells you what the Commissioners think of their constituents.  After all, they don't need your vote for another couple of years at least.

Yolanda Cotton
Yolanda Cotton

I'm sure there's a better way than spraying chemicals in the air. There was a news story where one city gave the residents bug killing floaty things that they put anywhere there was standing water. Does anyone remember that story?

mcdallas
mcdallas

Your tax dollars at work!

primi_timpano
primi_timpano topcommenter

The county's mosquito experts did not consider this? Who are these so called experts?

schermbeck
schermbeck

These Vets could be a very powerful voice for not indiscriminately poisoning things with chemicals whose full health and ecological impacts are still being figured out. I hope they'll effectively funnel outrage over this disaster into an effort to make sure it doesn't happen again.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@tedbarker45  

I have a bee tree in my yard.  When the spraying was done last year, one of the aircraft flew overhead.  Fortunately, the colony appears to be thriving this year.

CogitoErgoSum
CogitoErgoSum topcommenter

@soopnan That's setting up a false dichotomy -- you're saying, "Either we spray this noxious stuff that poisons the environment or people will die." Wrong. There are other, less environmentally detrimental options that include introducing larva-eating fish into the ponds, lakes and streams.

WhiteWhale
WhiteWhale

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul How do expect to paid attention to when the Commissioners do not get a percentage of the crop revenues off the top as well as generous campaign contributions?  Have you held a fund raiser or employed one of their relatives?  Is it the Commissioner's fault you are not playing the game properly?

RTGolden1
RTGolden1 topcommenter

@schermbeck Hate to pop your little bubble there scherm, but no, they couldn't.  The Dallas political establishment views veterans the same way they view anything else.  If a Vet can be used to further one's political career or some singular cause, by all means, the politician will trot said veteran out and make a nice show of paying respect.  Otherwise, the vets get a holiday and a parade and the rest of the year they need to stay in their place.  A vet who voices dissent is viewed only as a threat and that threat needs to be nullified.  No politician in Dallas is going to give a dissenting vet a platform from which to draw support.

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