We are deep in the heart of farm country around these parts. With corn fields surrounding our property, it’s very hard to grow food without pesticides creeping in, but still we try. But when the trees we planted on our property line start dying the day after the aerial crop sprayer goes over, I get angry.
We planted pine trees on the edge of our property, in hopes of filtering out any pesticides from the corn fields next to us, and that seemed to work. The pine trees were 50 feet from the corn field ten years ago, and they did well, growing full enough to create a hedge row border. Soon, the trees were ten feet tall, and we couldn’t even see the corn field, so we stepped back another 50 feet and planted our fruit trees.
We planted three pear trees, three apple trees, two plum trees, and two cherry trees. We also put up three trellises for berries. I hauled buckets of water to all those trees for a whole year, and by the second year, they had all taken root and were growing well. By the third year we started seeing fruit, and soon we were canning fruit. Our plan to be self-supporting was starting to pay off.
But I noticed the corn field getting closer and closer to the fence dividing our property each year, until one day a few years ago the fence was torn out by plows. It wasn’t my fence, so I had no control over that, but they were creeping right up on our pine trees. I was annoyed, but I did not expect what would happen next.
Last year just after the crop duster came through, both our pear trees lost all their leaves. Our big, beautiful pear trees declined in health quickly and died by fall. I called my farmer neighbor, and he assured me that nothing the crop duster sprayed could possibly kill my pear trees. My wife had just mulched around the trees, clipping off all the suckers and using our own natural compost. She thought she might have killed the pear trees with what she did, and it made her feel terrible. We are in our 50s and expected those trees to bear fruit until long after we are gone.
This year we planted new pear trees, and they were doing great. We also had a bumper crop from our cherry and plum trees. Then it happened. I heard the crop duster go over our house, not 50 feet off our roof. Two days later, almost every leave on our cherry trees turned yellow, and within a week the tree was almost completely bare of leaves. Our brand new pear trees also showed signs of stress, with one or two branches dying on each tree. Now I’m angry.
If these pesticides will kill our trees, what are they doing to my wife and kids? My first inclination was to call the Department of Conservation, just to confirm what had happened and bring light to this terrible act. When I called, the DNR said they were very busy but assured me it must have been something we did, because the government had tested all pesticides, and they would never allow crop dusters to spray something that would kill trees. That was when I realized we were on our own here.
I ask you, Off The Gridders, what should we do? Surely there is something, some recourse. Short of putting up a bubble around our property, how do we keep these pesticides out of our land, out of our drinking water, and off our garden? I am at a loss. Do we re-plant in another 50 feet? Why should I have to give up 50 feet of my ground just because the farmer wants corn right to the edge of his property? I want to go pour kerosene on his corn, but surely that would get me locked up. So, why isn’t my farmer neighbor being locked up for killing my trees? I have no answers, and I am frustrated. If anyone out there can help me, please respond in kind. Have a great week, Off The Gridders, and thank you for allowing me to vent.