Much to my surprise, I learned this week that we would not be getting our regularly scheduled share. The reason? The neighbor’s fields are being fumigated with methyl bromide, and our farmers do not feel comfortable with the potential risk of exposure.
I’ve written passionately about methyl bromide on this blog before. But it bears repeating – these are very dangerous chemicals that farmers inject into the soil to sterilize it in order to grow just a handful of tender crops, especially strawberries. And no amount of caution, or plastic sheeting, or well-intentioned farm work is adequate to prevent exposure to the gas. Every time we have seen a field being treated, we see part of the protective plastic meant to keep the gas in the soil just flapping in the wind.
It’s tempting to think of the farmers who use methyl bromide as greedy and evil and menacing to my organic farmers. Like they’re standing at the edge of the property taunting my farmers with “Hey, you’re welcome for the no nematodes. And the poisoned water. And the CANCER.”
But realistically? They’re probably just growing strawberries the only way it really works to do so in large scale farming. Chances are, if they could get away with not fumigating their fields, and saving some scratch, they would.
Which means that the only way to combat methyl bromide is to kill the market that makes it profitable. So, no matter how badly you want to make Giada’s Strawberry Mascarpone cupcakes, it is your duty to only do so when strawberries are actually in season where you live. Because in just a few years, methyl bromide is being phased out and its nasty and even more dangerous relative methyl iodide is moving in. And by then, I will probably have gotten so frustrated that this blog will turn into a full-time rant about the complex dangers of industrial agriculture. Help me prevent that, will you?
For those of you who need a visual translation of all those words above, I made this.
1) Strawberries are truly dangerous
2) I suck at photoshop (also art)
I suggest that you print this page, cut out the strawberry, and tape it to your jacket the next time you are headed out to the Farmer’s Market. When people ask you about it, you can use it as an introduction to have a frank conversation about the complex world of soil sterilization and pollutants (which you care about so much that you were willing to skip the need for an actual pin or something and just tape your beliefs directly to your clothes). Pretty much all the detail you need is linked above.
(If any of you actually do this, I will need to know about it!)