Sunday, June 2, 2013


Last Wednesday I attended the meeting organized by the Watertrough Children's Alliance re: the new vineyard conversion planned by Paul Hobbs.  At that meeting, Tony Linegar, the current Sonoma County Agriculture Commissioner railed against organic pesticides and other organic applications as being as toxic or even more toxic as chemicals used today.  (See earlier posts re: Paul Hobbs)

Here is a response by Sebastopol Farmer, Shepherd Bliss that was posted on

Tony Linegar
Yes, there are "organic pesticides," as Ag Commissioner Tony (Linegar) said at the May 29 Public Forum. Among what I use on my farm are the following: lady bugs, dragon flies, redwoods, spiders, oaks, coyote bush, etc. They create a healthy, vibrant ambience that reduces the few insect pests and weeds that prey on my berries, by making a polyculture rather than monoculture. You can even buy these "pesticides" at stores. There are also organic sprays and soaps, which are not as deadly to the soil, water, air and beneficial insects, as are the chemical sprays, especially the heavy metals.
Chemical pesticides tend to kill most or all the insects, including bees, which at least a third of our crops need. The flight pattern of the bees from my dozen hives can make it to the Watertrough schools, which is one of the many reasons I oppose the vineyard conversion. Bee colony collapse has been proven to be caused by certain pesticides, which is why the European Union have outlawed them. GMOs, such as promoted by Monsanto, have also been pulled up by the Hungarian government and recently outlawed by other governments, such as Japan. Our focus needs to remain on the 700 children in those Watertrough schools, but we are a small part of a world-wide problem, which requires global solutions--"Think globally, act locally."
Permaculture, biodynamic and other organic and authentically sustainable practices reduce pests in natural ways. By farming with nature in mind, rather than against it, one can create an ag environment that is conducive to life rather than opposed to it. Having an upper story of vegetation and using no-till practices with ample mulch and compost reduces pests. The use of herbicides de-nudes the ground, so nature then throws up the covering that it prefers, which creates the need for more chemicals and one is on the chemical path. Farmer/teacher Bob Cannard, who speaks at Bioneers, helped me change my attitude toward weeds, which conventional growers fear and tend to wage war against. Weeds are not all bad. In fact, for crops like my berries, they help them compete. They do need to be taken out at a certain point, before harvest. That can be done in a variety of ways, including the use of hands, mowers, and flame throwers.
Shepherd Bliss

For further documentation of these contentions, try to see the new film "The Symphony of the Soil" or the older film "The Future of Food," both by Deborah Koons Garcia.

What I am seeking to do here is refute one of the tales told at the May 29 Public Forum by the wine industry's advocate--the Ag. Commissioner. Do not be fooled. I am not contending that some organic pesticides do not cause damage; I am asserting that their cumulative impact is not as bad as chemical pesticides, as he contended. They do not leave DDT, lead, and arsenic in the soil to be disturbed decades later by vineyard conversions.

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