Purchasing Land - How close is too close to pesticides from neighbors?

Discussion in 'Designing, building, making and powering your life' started by Benjamin Theodore, Apr 11, 2017.

  1. Benjamin Theodore

    Benjamin Theodore New Member

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    Hi there,

    Question:
    How do you determine how close is "too close" to "traditional" farm land?

    General Background:
    I have been looking for land for a few months. We're renting in south Florida now and am looking for anything over an acre (ideally 2.5 acres or more). Initially I started looking in Florida, but then expanded my search to Georgia and California (even entertaining the Big Island of Hawaii for a while). Although (or perhaps *because*) we have done extensive renovation projects in the past, we aren't ready to undertake a project to construct a home from scratch right now, so we are looking for land that already has a livable structure on it, even it is needs some work. Our budget is $75,000. This will not be the first place that we've owned, but will be the first place that has land where things can be grown on it. Our goal is to experience the peace and joy of nature and practice some permaculture methods just for our own use (not to make money from farming). We've mainly lived in cities as adults. My wife has lived in cities her whole life. I grew up in a rural area so I have some experience of living amongst trees. This land might be something we keep for the next 50 years or it might be something we experience for a year or two and then move on. We are open to whatever happens. In the past 20 years since college we've lived in the Boston area mainly, then the San Francisco area for a year, London England for five years, and now Florida for less than a year.

    Details on a specific parcel we found:
    We found an old house in northern Georgia on 3 acres and within our budget. It already has some pecan and walnut trees. It has a well. I'm not certain on the condition and depth of the well, but let's assume for now that if it is damaged or too shallow that I'll get that remedied.

    The potential problem: parcel is directly adjacent to a logging/timber tree farm of several hundred acres.

    I contacted one of the logging companies (a $25 Billion / year company) and surprisingly a representative called me a day later. Although they seemed a bit evasive and political in their speech, they did tell me that they use "dap and urea" fertilizer when first planting and right after any "as needed" thinnings. They said that when first planting they use glyphosate (Monosanto's RoundUp) and imazapyr pesticides as part of the "chemical site prep". Other than any thinnings that might go on, they harvest the trees every 25 years in one go and clear cut the area. They replant within 2 years per SFI certification regulations. They said that the current forest hadn't been "touched in years". I googled imazapyr and the adsorption coefficient is low enough for the state of California to declare it to have the potential to contaminate groundwater. It has a half life of 500 days or so.
    http://www.pesticideinfo.org/Detail_Chemical.jsp?Rec_Id=PC33386#Water

    It is not 100% clear to me if the pesticides are really only used once every 25 years or not, even though I tried asking that direct question. They kept saying things like "we follow standard forestry practices" etc.

    I realize that all of the above sounds much better than a neighboring food farm that sprays RoundUp 3 times every single season. I also looked at an organic farm in the Gainsville Florida area on google maps and saw that it was right across the highway from acres of what appeared to be tree farms. So if it is good enough for the organic farm, then perhaps I shouldn't be worried? If the 25-year mark happens in a year or two, and the trees are cut and replanted, I feel that I'll be sitting around wondering how long it is taking for the chemicals to leach into my well. It seems enough of a red flag to just walk away and keep looking. What do others think?

    Thanks!
     
  2. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    The two places you mention could be for sale because of problems with the neighbors.
    On a more constructive note, according to the EPA, imazapyr is pretty non-toxic to anything but plants. An issue for you may be your irrigation water source (the well?) and if the imazapyr leaches into your water supply in sufficient quantities to damage your plants - and if you can use alternative water sources (rainwater?) for irrigation. I would be inclined to get the well water tested to see what, if any residues you have. Try to determine when the the last application occurred and for every 500 days you count back to the last application date, double the current concentration to figure what your worst case pollution will be and check to see if those levels are toxic to plants (500 days = x2, 1000 days = x4, 1500 days = x8, etc.). Note that imazapyr breakdown is very dependent on local conditions. A 500 day half life seems very long. This publication discusses toxicity level and table 8 summarizes testing and concentrations. It also discusses other potential sources of pollution such as runoff and overspray at the time of application. Concentrations in the publication are expressed as weight per area. You would need to estimate how much irrigation you would apply and use your estimated concentration in your water supply to determine the weight of herbicide that irrigation would apply. Multiply by the number of days you water to arrive at an overall application rate.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2017
  3. BajaJohn

    BajaJohn Member

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    On a slightly different issue:- My wife and I had a similar background. I was a country boy and she was a city girl. Early in our life together we rented an "idyllic" house with a large garden. It was in the middle of a cow pasture on the outskirts of a tiny village about 15 miles from a large city. The only difference was that it was my American bride's first introduction to England where I grew up. She loved some things about it but just couldn't deal with the isolation she felt there. We eventually moved into the city. You seem to be OK with a short-term experience but I thought I would offer the caution.
    The other thought I had was that here in Baja many people use mobile homes/campers as their homes. Several people I know bought a lot to park their mobile home on and lived there in relative comfort as they built their house on the lot. Your local regulations may not permit you to do that but maybe something to look into.
    The very best of luck in your quest.
    John
     
  4. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    i would not worry as much about the forestry practices nearly as
    much as i do about the farming practices.

    the more land you can afford to get the better. 2 acres isn't
    nearly enough if you want any kind of buffer zone.

    we are surrounded by farm fields on three sides and all of them
    have sprayed many times, including windy days when little to none
    of what they apply even hits what they are aiming at. it is often
    a contracted service and the sprayers show up no matter what
    conditions are like.

    the other thing though with a small lot is that you are often next to
    other people who's idea of lawn care includes sprays and
    whatever else they think of coming up with to use. sadly, the
    lawn chemical industry is well funded for advertizing and many
    people are habituated to purchase things that they really wouldn't
    need... ah, well, don't get me started on that...

    good luck with your search. :)
     
  5. WAA WAA

    WAA WAA New Member

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    I am also pondering this one looking at 15 acres. what does one do - just deal with and ignore? or try to find a larger block and reveg a buffer. i noted a lot of people have their land in the middle of forest if they are so lucky.
     
  6. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    because every area is different with different regulations for fire
    and such, i can't say what a specific person should do without
    knowing a large amount more.

    around here fire is rare (but does happen) so keeping places
    under brush control to avoid fire damage is also rare. the
    thing most people do is have lawns anyways with short grasses
    that they mow, some trees, some bushes.

    15 acres is better than 2, but what was the land used for before
    you are arriving? if it was heavily sprayed already then it will
    take some years before certain compounds are changed/degraded
    and some may persist quite a long time.

    a buffer zone may not be needed if none of your neighbors are
    spraying.

    i wish i had enough space here that i could have a larger
    buffer zone around each edge. the space can be used to
    encourage native/wild diversity and give wildlife space to
    roam.

    for us the road to the west is a small area. the area to
    the south is a grassy strip, not nearly as big as the road.
    the north we have a hedge and a small road. to the east
    is a field which does not get sprayed (so far).

    we have sprays from farmers, mosquito control on the roads
    and also dropped from planes and once in a while herbicide
    for the large drainage ditch to keep trees from growing in
    there.

    the largest impacts seem to be on the native bee species.
     

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