Tuesday, May 20, 2014

I'm No P-S-T!

                                (no, I didn't mis-spell it...read on!)

There was a very worried looking lady standing in front of me at the Market.

Cabbage looper moth looks pretty on the weeds
but, can destroy a food crop
“You ever haven’t heard of any type of Organic Pesticides, have you?”

Before I could answer…she went on.

“Someone told me that there are organic pesticides… but, I said that MUST be wrong…”  she looked more than a little confused.

"Because ALL pesticides are really BAD, aren’t they?" worry wrinkles appeared in her forehead.

I suppose my flippant answer of “well, pesticides are only bad if you are a pest!”  wasn’t quite the answer she desired. (and, in retrospect, it probably wasn't the smartest thing I ever said)

I couldn’t help it…the whole subject of pesticides punches my buttons AND for some perverse reason, the word P-E-S-T always reminds me of one of my past moments of somewhat embarrassing infamy. It was either rant at this concerned stranger or giggle at my past and look like a crazy person. I let the rant pass, choked back the giggles and tried grant a civil explanation. I don't think I really changed her mind, but she made her purchase and went her way.

But, the story of my past mis-behavior was teasing me in the back of my mind.
she looks harmless
but, she can be a PEST
and should be controlled

As the child of two “only children”, I do not have the privilege of a bevy of same-age cousins.  The closest in age on one side of the family is Secondcousinandrew who is at least fifteen years my senior.  Most of the time, he tolerated my presence.

 But, once I overstepped the bounds…gravely.

When I was about three or four, we were at some extended family gathering. I think it was a wedding reception. Secondcousinandrew had found a pretty girl to talk to…maybe she was his date, I don’t remember.  Completely unaware of the intricacies of flirtation, I was convinced that my contributions to the conversation were as equally important as his boring comments.  (yeah, I just kept talking and talking…and demanding their attention) They hushed me once, ignored me, they talked louder, then they turned their backs.  Finally, he couldn’t take it any longer.  He turned around, looked me straight in the eye and hissed,

“STOP IT! You are a P-E-S-T!”


no, really…WHAT?  I couldn’t even begin to spell…WHAT did he mean? His tone indicated things were not at all good.

“But, Andy!  I no P-S-T!"  

My indignant (and rather loud) wail of a response just happened to occur during one of those odd moments of complete silence that intermittently occurs in large crowds.  Everyone looked.

I turned to one of my parents and said in a slightly less loud voice. “Tell Andy I no P-S-T!  No, I "amn’t"!  What IS a P-S-T?”  

 Mortification would be an understatement as to my parent's reaction when EVERYONE looked AGAIN.

Ah, yes, the stuff of family legends. Alas, I heard repeats of the story for years. And Secondcousinandrew referred to me forever after as "the pest". I think I now know why that is the last family gathering I remember attending…and why Secondcousinandrew and I haven’t seen each other in...well, a very long time.

Later, someone filled me in on what the word meant.  Despite my very vocal protestations, by definition, I was certainly a PEST.

A pest is "a plant or animal detrimental to humans or human concerns" 
(as in agriculture or livestock production)    

I was most certainly a detriment to Secondcousinandrew’s human concerns!  Definitely!

 There comes a time when action must be taken against any sort of PEST.

 …and I’m pretty sure that if Secondcousinandrew could have gotten his hands on some sort of pesticide, (or at the very least a repellent..or maybe a flyswatter) I would have gotten a liberal dose.  While I don't think he really wanted to kill me...I was being a pest and really needed some level of control.  And, in retrospect, I can’t blame him for his reaction to my behavior.

Funny, embarrassing family stories aside, pesticide use is a very big concern in today’s world.

The word pesticide can include herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, miticides, bactericides and parasiticides.  As a matter of fact, there are probably a couple of –cides I may have overlooked. These all have very specific usages and can prove invaluable in any operation.

There are organic and conventional pesticides, naturally-occurring and synthetic pesticides.  All have the same purpose...to control or kill pests.   Each type has some level of toxicity. Some work better than others. All add to the expense of any operation, fall under some sort of regulation and are not used carelessly. 

If you take nothing else from this post…please remember THIS!

There are a whole lot of things that threaten our healthy food supply....and

If producers NEVER used anything that repelled, deterred, controlled, or killed pests…we would all be cold, naked and VERY hungry…or worse (like dead).
I don't know about you, but I find that gives a new perspective.

Just like the pre-school me, PESTS do NOT respond at all well to cajoling, ignoring or even angry words.Little NO TRESPASSING signs, thinking positive thoughts, having healthy, robust plants won’t deter the hungry critters, either.  

MUCH (if not most) of what you read on the internet, much of what you might think you know about pesticide use is just plain wrong. 

Please do NOT read this as I am a proponent for horrible, chemical annihilation of the human species through some sort of mis-use or over-use of pesticides. I'm NOT a proponent of abusing our environment, either. I am NOT saying that concerns about pesticide use and possible residues are unwarranted. ...and I really do NOT have issues with pre-schoolers! Not at all.  However, the public needs some serious education when it comes to farming practices.  

As a consumer, your best defense would be your own education.   Find out how pesticides work and make up your own mind as to what concerns you, what YOU think may affect your (and your family’s) health. Don't trust those clever memes and TV doctors and question the credibility of those who don't speak (write) from firsthand experience. Do you have any idea WHAT the producer’s answer to your question means? Do you have any kind of understanding when it comes to chemistry?

FYI, farmers aren’t out there, somewhere, spraying pesticides willy-nilly, hoping to kill you while they make a fortune. Really. (that would just be silly) There are prescribed uses and procedures and enforcement of the rules. Inputs cost money and excessive usage isn't cost-effective. A safe and affordable food supply is in EVERYONE'S best interest.  

The only things producers want to control/kill are the pests that interfere with human concerns (you know, like your food supply).

what's left of a kale leaf after a caterpillar has a meal...
not much left for you and me!

Personally, I’m not too worried…

            I’ve done my homework, I understand how these things work,…and … I know that…

                                                  I’m no P-E-S-T! 
                                                                 (got it right that time)

            No matter what Secondcousinandrew said.


                                     ...and I bet YOU aren't either!

If you want to know more about food production and handling, I would like to help you find answers to your questions.  If I don't have personal experience or know the answer...I know people who do. I’ll be glad to help you find the information you need.


  1. Very well put! With some of the web sites out there I think people would be surprised to know that this attitude is the norm for most family farms. Family farms make up most of the farms in North America.

    1. Thanks for the comment, Farmer Sam!
      It is very sad what most folks think about farmers. That's why it's so important that farmers share their stories.

  2. well said Barbara - I agree with every word.

  3. Agree also. And as a person who digs in dirt for a living, you might find http://josephinaballerina.blogspot.com/2014/05/uh-oh-update.html
    pretty funny. It's my post about a different sort of planting!