Aug 23, 2009 by

I don’t know what’s up in the Peoria Journal-Star newsroom…but it’s becoming apparent that they’re hating on farmers more and more. It really pisses me off, to be frank. Not only because they are my former employer and (no matter how much I hate them) I believe they can and should do better, not only because my husband is a farmer, but also because I am a resident of the farm communities these derogatory articles speak of.

As a member of the communities and residents being villainized in the media, and a former resident of the communities and residents being unwittingly patronized by these ridiculous articles, I feel it is my responsibility to speak up.

Before I go further, let me reiterate that we are not organic farmers. We are not looking to become organic farmers. We have no issues with organic farmers and, in fact, wish them success in their endeavors.

Last week’s Sunday PJS featured 2 front page articles bemoaning the horrors that are crop dusting. They interviewed people who live near farms and have, supposedly, experienced negative side effects from their farming neighbors using crop dusting to spread herbicide and fungicide on their corn. They whined and bitched about the terrible chemical known as 2,4 D. They complained that they were given no prior notification that the farmers crops were going to be sprayed. They complained it was hurting their business ventures. They were upset that TWO children in the entire area became ill after a neighboring farm was dusted.

Knowing nothing about farming, chemicals, herbicides, fungicides, fertilizers and crop dusting…this may all sound truly horrific. Sick kids, surprise low flying planes, damage to a business, etc etc.

But let’s all unknot our panties and get our facts straight (in that order).

Number one on my list: Mackinaw Winery. Yes I’m calling you out, you idiots.
The owner, Greg Hahn, was quoted as being quite upset that crop dusting on the farm next to his vineyard had killed or at least damaged some of his grapes. I’m sure that’s true. Grapes are one of the easiest plants to kill, especially in the local climate. They are rather temperamental and very high-maintenance. I’d like to note that there is a local winery who also grows their grapes locally, who hasn’t had this problem. Their grapes are in a location that isn’t so close to farmland. Smart.

If someone came and killed off a bunch of my corn, I’m sure I’d be pretty angry too. But if said corn was planted right next to a driving range, and the reason it died was that it got hit by too many golf balls…would anyone really feel sorry for me? Wouldn’t it be my fault for planting corn next to the driving range? So why should anyone feel sorry for Greg Hahn and his grapes?

Number two: the people complaining that they didn’t have advance warning of nearby fields being crop dusted.
Anyone who has ever been present during a crop dusting knows, you do not need advance warning. The first time I was home while our crops were being sprayed, I had no idea it was going to be any different than any other day. I had no idea anything was going to happen. No advance warning of any kind. When the crop dusting plane flew over our house (they fly low so as not to waste any of the chemicals they’re spraying via chemical drift) I started crying. It scared the piss out of me. The plane was so low, it sounded like we were being bombed. I hit the floor, the dog freaked out, it was quite pathetic, looking back. Once I got off the floor and looked up, saw the plane out the window, I calmed down and that was the end of it. Why would I have needed advance warning? If you can’t hear that plane coming well ahead of its arrival, you need to have your hearing checked.
Also, what good would it do if you did have advance warning? If you knew it was coming up, what would change? You shouldn’t be outside in an area being sprayed, so if you hear it coming, go inside. I cannot think of a single instance where a person would be required to remain outside even though the fields are being sprayed.

This leads me to my next point: Sick kids from chemical drift
First off, a whopping TWO children were sick from chemical drift last year. TWO. They probably have the most stupid parents in the world as well. Also, for those who aren’t clear, when the media says they were “sick,” they make it sound like sick with leukemia. Not true. It’s more like a sore throat, perhaps a little woozy for a day or 2. You could have those symptoms from going to preschool, the grocery store or being in contact with your own family members.
What I can’t figure out, is why these kids were still outside after the crop dusting. Again, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to hear these planes. Even if you couldn’t, it smells SO BAD after they’re done spraying, that there’s no way kids would want to stay outside. Just catching a little whiff with my screen door open, I thought I might pass out. WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?! Why did their parents/sitters/whoever not make these kids come inside? The scent goes away in a few hours, I’m sure those kids would have loved to have a legit excuse to come out of the heat and play video games for awhile. I would have made my dog come inside, if it weren’t for the fact that she beat me to it. If my golden retriever is smart enough to come in…why isn’t your kid?
Then there’s that pesky issue of common denominator fault. If you build a house next to a farm, isn’t it really your own fault if you experience any chemical drift? If you don’t want to deal with it, move back to the suburbs where they most sensory offensive thing sprayed is lilac Febreeze.

Finally, complaints about the “horrible chemicals” in general:
If you want to buy organic, please do. It won’t hurt my feelings. But please quit ruining food for the rest of us. In my opinion, unless you are a scientist, farmer or the like, your opinion does not count. Yet none of those people seem to be the ones clogging the media with senseless babble about chemicals. When you work for the FDA, USDA, EPA or CDC, then I will be interested in your opinion.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it a million times after this, it should not be a moral issue whether you eat organic or non-organic. It should not be a moral issue how you farm. Farmers are not out to kill the rest of us with their evil chemicals, fertilizers and the like. Farmers, like any other decent human being, stop doing things if it’s hurting people. Farmers would be out of business if they were poisoning us all with their food crops.

Farmers are in a thankless, vilified and, more than anything, overlooked occupation. I’d like everyone to really think about where they would be if every farmer decided they wanted a job with a desk, no manual labor, A/C, 9-5 hours, health benefits, promotions, raises, and best of all: the ability to leave their work at work. Instead of complaining about the prices of food (which farmers -contrary to popular belief – have ZERO control over) and the chemicals used to grow it, be thankful that there are people out there who are willing to forgo the comforts of a desk job so you can have food year-round.

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