Pesticide Case Studies
Northern Virginia - Hill School Controversy
In 2005-2008 the Hill School in Middleburg Virginia became the center of a debate over pesticide use at an adjacent vineyard.
In 2005-2008 the Hill School in Middleburg Virginia became the center of a debate over pesticide use at an adjacent vineyard (Boxwood Estate Vineyard). Although initially this situation became a politically charged situation, it eventually was resolved so that everyone in the area could live in harmony with the issues that created the situation in the first place. Those issues included a vineyard upwind from the school grounds and a fear of drifting pesticides from the vineyard contacting students and others who used the school grounds. The players included an affluent group of citizens, an affluent and well-known vineyard owner, school officials, a very vocal and well-informed group of activists linked to a national advocacy group (Next Generation Choices Foundation), concerned parents, students, and government officials.
The situation has pretty much calmed itself after everyone came together to find a solution to the concern for pesticide spray drift entering the school grounds. The state pesticide regulatory agency (Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services - Office of Pesticide Services), the Virginia Pesticide Control Board (now part of the Virginia Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services), the Hill School board, the vineyard owner, and the activists came together in multiple meetings and discussions to work out a solution. The school would monitor the air at the edge of their land facing the vineyard using protocols designed by Stewart Agricultural Research - a prominent research group associated with drift minimization solutions. The state pesticide regulatory agency agreed to investigate any drift cases promptly. State land grant faculty agreed to provide expertise to convey understanding on both sides of the technical issues/solutions involved.
The vineyard owner, viticulturist and others working for the vineyard have been extremely cooperative. Solutions provided included installing windbreaks, employing application equipment with drift prevention devices, use of low toxicity/risk pesticides, moving some grapevines away from the area near the school property, and notification of the school prior to application. To date no pesticide has drifted off site (or had it drifted prior to the controversy). These measures were put into effect to calm the fear of potential drift and to reduce the likelihood that drift would occur in the future.
Continued communication is the key to keeping the situation under control. All parties have been very cooperative in keeping these lines open.
This situation prompted Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension to create additional support media (in cooperation with the VDACS) for its drift minimization (pesticide safety education) program. These items include a brochure targeting people living near agricultural operations and operators spraying pesticides near sensitive areas. The brochure was entitled "Control Your Drops - Protect Virginia's Sensitive Areas." This brochure along with bulletin board signs, and a Powerpoint presentation were distributed to Extension agents statewide for use in their programs. A "Control Your Drops" page is located on this website for public use.
More recently, Virginia Tech has worked with wine grape growers in Virginia and North Carolina to develop a pest management strategic plan and a unique set of best management practices (standards) for promoting the use of integrated pest management (IPM) in grape vineyards (IPM Elements for wine grapes in Virginia and North Carolina).