The statistic I saw was that chemical usage in suburban areas was 2-4X that
per acre (not per capita) that of the farm average. This takes into account
all home chemical use of fertiilizers as well as horticultural and other pest
As a farmer who has chosen to use organic production methods, I would rather
toxic chemical usage shink to nothing both on the farm and in the home. That
said, here are some of my observations on the current state of the art.
1) Particularly here in California, farmers are acutely aware of the
hazard/benefits of any chemical they are using. Every farmer, including me,
must have a pesticide applicator's number and report the usage of any pest
control substance including the crop onwhich it was used, the dilution, tha
area covered, if that substance has an EPA number. Safer's soap and
Grasshopper Attack (Nomesia locustae) are two that get occasional use on our
farm. If restricted substances are used, the farmer/applicator must take a
test on the law, application procedures, posting and symptoms before the
permit is issued.
While there is no perfect system when it comes to chemicals, both farm and
pest control folks here have to jump through hoops and report. Also, for
restricted use pesticides, suppliers must have your applicator number and
report that before they can sell to you.
I never met a farmer, regardless of growing practices who wasn't acutely
aware that his/her family lived on the very land where they were applying
The irony in this is that home owners can go into any home improvement store
and buy the identical substance without going through any of this. Not
everything is available this way, but enough to concern me greatly.
2) Reading skills in this country are at an all-time low and Math illiteracy
at an all-time high in this country. Meals perpared at home from scratch
have become almost non-existant in many quarters. Given this, what the heck
makes us think folks have the skills to make proper dilutions of chemicals?
Personally, as a first step, I'd like to see a ban on anything but pre-mixed
chemicals at the homeowner level. And a total ban to the public on chemical
that is considered "restricted use" at the level of the farm/pest control
3) Just as combining certain foods and medicines is a bad idea, so is
multiple chemicals applied to the same area. We already know very little
testing is done in this area. What we do know about chemical interactions is
certainly not passed down to the using public.
4) One of my greatest concerns about any chemical are the manufacturing
processes and waste products of that manufacture. The fewer chemicals we
use, overall, the less these impacts will be.
Thank you, Bill, for doing what you do. Organic advise is not widely
available to the general public. Our addiction to "quick fixes" has lead to
a take-a-pill or use-a-chemical approach to the world. In our end of the
planet, a gentleman named Steve Zein has been providing similar services to
suburbanites in the Sacramento area for years.