Sunday, June 30, 2013

It Bites!

Yesterday at the farmer’s market on my farm in Balch Springs, several farmers and home gardeners were standing around talking about how the lack of pollination on the vegetable plants this year was really hurting production. The wildflowers and sunflowers in my pasture are missing usual pollinators except for a few native bees from time to time. The edges of the pond are not filled with thirsty honeybees or dozens of frogs and toads as in years past. The squash, melons and cucumber blossoms at my farm and in yards across Mesquite, Balch Springs and Dallas are not producing fruits as they normally should. Instead, blossoms are falling off, un-pollinated, in areas where an excessive amount of fogging and aerial spraying took place last summer - and around my farm where we lost 90% of our hives this past winter. The immune systems of the bees compromised from the intake of tainted pollen the summer before.

On tables of at least 2 vendors were handouts and flyers, mosquito dunks and bits and lots of information about the fatal plight of the honeybees, especially in light of the unnecessary spraying. Requiem for a bee. You’ve seen the story by now about the Texas Honeybee Guild’s crushing past year in the Dallas Advocate, countless other magazines, television news programs and full length feature films. Or have you been tuned out or tuned in only to the sensational media coverage of how we’ve had or first human case of WNv and they were still alive – oh, no, wait, it wasn’t really WNv after all. But too late, out come the trucks. Do you see how this all works? 

And yet, in the professionally printed full color brochure put out by the County of Dallas – no where in it does mention even once about honeybees or how ordinary citizens can help the county eliminate the habitat for mosquito breeding by using a simple, cheap, extremely effective and readily available material.

BTi folks – dump it or dunk it! Do we let standing water than can’t be dumped or drained just stand there and breed mosquitoes? Do we call code compliance on our neighbors who can’t afford to have their gutters cleaned out because they are struggling to buy food and use a walker to stand? Do we complain to our city about how bad the mosquitoes are in our neighborhood - where there are endless abandoned horse troughs, swimming pools or creek areas that don’t have enough moving water to keep them flushed out?

How about empowering the people to do something more effective than douse themselves with DEET? (The CDC even mentions other FDA approved ingredients to use on ones’ self and kids.)  We have stood up in county and city meetings time and again freely sharing hundreds of hours of research so officials don’t have to look for it themselves. And what have they DONE with this information? What has been done with the monies received for increasing the mosquito abatement budget? Testing you say? Great – and what is being done more this year than in past years to educate individuals about their role and then telling those at-risk neighborhoods they need to step it up even more when those test results start to climb?  How about a grading system so neighborhoods know how they rate when the test results come in – and sharing those results with city departments so they can be on the look out for potential breeding grounds?

How is it we can go from ground zero to ground spraying before we even hit the 4th of July – and I’ve not received ONE SINGLE piece of information in my mailbox or on my door, or seen any mention at any cross street in my neighborhood about what we can do to prevent being doused with harmful chemicals in our homes and yards? The word is out about the dangers of the toxic chemicals. People are waking up to the fact that the media likes to scare people with inflated headlines and shocking news teasers. Children are asking questions. We are all asking more questions. Like how effective is spraying – really?

I would like to commend Scott, Zach and their outside contractor Ron, for working with me last week to improve a buffer zone around my farm’s perimeter – instead of taking a direct fogging on the north border as on the original spray map, and for dropping off literature for me to hand out at my farmers market. But what the heck new is being done this year? Where is the gambusia fish program for individuals’ ponds? Where are the new backpack sprayers or truck mounted sprayers that are capable of accepting the less toxic materials that Mr. Howard Garret and others have told officials about? What happened to all of the funding and how is it being spent in cities that pay the county to perform this daunting task of abating mosquitoes for them?

It’s time for new action folks. Our county can move faster than this. It’s time we start looking around the country and even within our own state, and adopt newer, safer and more effective ways to empower ourselves against the archaic and dangerous ways of the old days. We have the technology, information and manpower.

No one wants anyone to get sick, much less lose their life, to a mosquito bite. But we’re doing a pretty dismal job at taking the bite out of anything if we can’t move forward and empower the people and businesses to be more proactive in their role, too, without risking millions of people to the long term effects of spraying toxic chemicals on them. Let’s encourage retail counter top displays of BTi dunks and bits and coupons from the manufacturer on literature going to the public. I can’t tell you how many people at my market don’t know that BTi dunks even exist, much less that it is a safe and effective way to help them kill mosquito larvae in their yards – or tossed into neighbor’s abandoned pool.

How about a few billboards saying DUMP IT or DUNK IT! around town? Town hall meetings with neighborhoods in high-risk areas to educate people about what they can do in their own yards to eliminate the breeding grounds for mosquitoes. 

No one expects our government to be the silver bullet and answer all of our life’s problems. But shouldn’t we expect them to be a source of current information for the people and to effectively use funds to spread the word about empowering citizens to help them take care of this problem? What do you think? We can gather together for sporting events and other rallies. We need more of you to gather around city council meetings, county meetings, health department meetings – and any other open meeting that has anything to do with mosquitoes, health of citizens and accountability. There are over 6 million of us living in DFW. The 15 or 20 of us who have led the way, can’t be the whole march. Step up and do your part – please. Get informed. Get armed with the tools you need to protect your neighborhood and to eliminate the breeding and feeding ground for this pest. Protect your home. Maybe because I started this farm from the scratch more or less, I'm a bit vigilant about it, but none of us wants our homes to be prey to toxic chemical attacks.

And tell the media you’re sick of scare tactics and misleading news stories. Isn’t it time we took things back to reality? The severe form of West Nile fever occurs in 1 in 150 people showing symptoms. You’d think it was as widespread as heart attacks from eating fast food and smoking. Neither of which we do much of anything about to prevent.
Marie Eat Your Food - Naturally!