Private Property Allies in an Agricultural Fruit Economy

Our homeowner’s association was uninformed about pesticide spraying. Fortunately, Deborah Moore, orchardist, master gardener, and former Grant County Commissioner moved into our condo association and we’re now spraying less pesticide more wisely.

Wondering whether our ignorance was common, I asked Bonnie Shanafalt the Chelan-Douglas County Horticulture Pest and Disease Board if valley residential property owners over-spray. She paused, considering her 450 active complaints about infected trees, before saying, “If anything, we’re probably under spraying.”

She educated me. Property owners should keep private trees pest-free so orchards stay pest-free, keeping fruit packers pest-free and keeping grocery outlets pest-free. Bonnie introduced me to the fruit industry’s allies: they are we!

Bonnie’s one-person department protects cherries, pears and apples. It’s funded by county assessments on orchard acres passed on in fruit prices, property assessments in Chelan County and general funds from Douglas County. Each orchardist fights a number of pests, haunted by a uniquely adapting pest for each crop: the current cherry fruit fly, the current apple maggot and the current pear psylla.

Jason Kelly, spokesperson for the State Department of Agriculture emailed me the cherries quarantine rule: “No person shall ship or transfer from the area of production, or within the area of production, or offer for sale for human consumption, any cherries that are infected with live cherry fly larvae.”  He added, “The protocol for California shipments includes a rising level of sanctions as the number of larvae finds increase.”

Those quarantines eliminate outlets for growers, threaten profitable operations, dismiss workforces and empower pest-free competitors. We property owners are agricultural allies in a buzzing war zone.

Fruit packers employ field workers to inspect suppliers and monitor areas. They’re welcomed. Duane Smith, pear orchardist in Sleepy Hollow, said, “I could never keep up with what he knows and the training he receives.”

They send complaints to Bonnie. Smith reluctantly reported a neighboring orchardist who went broke. “He couldn’t take care of his trees. He had no money.” Moore was commissioner during an orchardist’s difficult case. “We had to use Pest Board funds to go through legal channels to remove his trees and put a lien on his property.”

These statutory authorities flow from legislators and County Commissioners, all answerable to voters, the agriculturalists’ allies.

 Private owners have three choices to eradicate their pests. The recommended approach is cut trees down. An alternative is to pay a licensed pest applicator. I asked Smith if his license training is worthwhile. He emphatically said yes. “I learn how to use specific pesticides that only harm the pest, not animals.”

Or, owners could spray trees themselves. The WSU Extension Service website recommends a complicated spraying regimen. “This is primarily accomplished by reducing the use of pesticides through Integrated Pest Management practices and developing tactics to use pesticides in rotation.”

I’d cut my tree down because I’d probably create a more resistant pest.

Homeowners usually remove infected trees. Moore said, “When homeowners hear about the responsibility and liability they usually don’t plant them.”  Smith tells them, “One tree will provide far more than they can eat. Go to the local market and buy what you want.”

As usual up here in these clear skies, homeowners are good neighbors when informed, but I’m glad we have public authority to judiciously enforce those who are not. 

About Russellsclearskies

Writing to poke fun at a retired klutz like me who's curiously exploring the absurdities and complexities of the good life. .
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