One Reader Shares Personal Experience With Killer Compost on Her Homestead


| 9/15/2010 1:43:00 PM


Tags: compost, killer compost, aminopyralic, toxic compost, milestone herbicide,

Killer compost has negatively affected farms and gardens across the country. Toxic herbicides containing the chemical aminopyralid have become more common on ranches and lawns. Since aminopyralid is resistant to breaking down, many small-scale organic farmers have suffered devastating losses after unknowingly spreading compost laced with the chemical on their garden plots. One reader from central Oregon shares the story of her personal encounter with killer compost.

When I bought my farm, I inherited a weedy pasture that had clover and plantain that seemed to be out-competing the grass in some sections of the field. As I was planning to board a couple of outside horses, possibly elder retirees with delicate constitutions, I consulted my veterinarians. They unanimously felt that it would be best to restore the pasture for the sake of horse health. I subsequently sought help from my county extension agents as well as a local feed store that specializes in field management to devise a good strategy. Both the university extension and the feed store encouraged me to use herbicide to restore the grass and make a safer, more nutritious horse forage.

When I moved to the farm, it was the culmination of my long-awaited dream to have a commercial organic produce farm. Because of the low fertility and lack of organic matter in our central Oregon soil, I knew that composting would be critical to improving the quality of my land. I felt lucky that I would be creating my own compost with my horses and laying hens, thus saving the expense of having to truck it in.

I had told both the extension agents and the feed store representative that my primary business was produce; I was expecting to apply for organic certification in the fall, thus it would be extremely important to avoid contaminating the garden with any toxic chemicals. We agreed that the feed store representative would call me to make an appointment to come out, walk my pasture and discuss my options. A few days later, an applicator arrived without an appointment and with a tank of herbicide. It was a typical, harried day on the farm and I was taken by surprise. But, here he was. I knew I had explained my situation thoroughly to the store manager, so I took the applicator to the field. On the way, I made sure to point out my adjacent organic garden and compost piles and, once again, emphasized my need to avoid any contamination.

A few weeks after the field was sprayed, Mother Earth News arrived in my mailbox. It has become a kind of ritual to make the magazine’s arrival an excuse for a break from the physical labor of farming. I made some tea, reclined on the living room couch and read the entire contents. There was one article in the issue that gave me particular pause. It was an article about the dangers of the herbicide aminopyralid. The story described how produce farms in England and Pennsylvania had been ruined when farmers unsuspectingly used composted manure from animals that had grazed on fields sprayed with aminopyralid. I learned that the chemical remains potent for approximately two years, and does not break down in compost. I pitied those poor farmers and wondered just how long they had to put their dreams on hold, how much farm income they might have lost, before their soil was clean and usable again. Then a chill ran down my spine — what if aminopyralid was in the tank that came to my farm?

But surely, I assumed, because of my prior discussion with the feed store manager and because I pointed out my manure compost piles to the applicator, I would have been warned of the chemical’s long-lived toxicity and had me the option of not using this particular chemical. Just to be sure that I’d been protected, I called the store and requested that a list of the chemicals used be sent to me.


laura roys
11/30/2010 10:15:41 AM

Hi Gigi, I really appreciate you taking time to share your story. The word about aminopryalid needs to be spread---and fast! Up here in the Pacific North West of Washington state, our county has been hit hard by aminopryalid tainted dairy compost: home gardeners, local organic farmers, community gardens, it seems like everyone has an aminopryalid story to share. The Washington state dept. of agriculture swears they have removed all the tainted compost from our county, but all the same, I know it will be at least two years before our gardens return to normal, based on the research I've done (and the difficulty of removing every bit of contaminated soil and plant matter). Your information about herbicide drift was especially alarming---I thought I just had to make my own compost courtesy of our small livestock, but now I find out aminopryalid contamination can be airbourne as well! The lack of awareness in the general public is horrible too. Our neighbors could be killing our gardens and contaminating our soil without even knowing it! I think we need a grassroots outcry over this in order to force the EPA and Dow Chemical to act and get this stuff off the market. Unfortunately, the damage will continue in the meantime. I wonder if there is a way for all of us who have been hit by this chemical to network and support each other? Thanks again for sharing your story! Laura


stephanie neimiller
9/16/2010 11:17:13 AM

Dear Ms. Meyer, I read your story and was completely disgusted at the practice of these chemical companies. I would like to offer a solution for you. Avenger Weed Killer - OMRI Listed and approved for organic production by the USDA National Organics Program. Our weed killer is faster acting and just as effective as glysophate WITHOUT all the hazards of synthetic weed killers and chemicals. Our weed killer uses what nature provides to kill weeds - d limonene or better known as citrus oil. It's safe to use around animals and doesn't translocate into the ground. Check out our website avengerorganics or give us a call and we'll be happy to answer any questions you may have. I'm sorry you went through this, but there is a product out there that won't hurt your organic farm and will get rid of weeds. Sincerely, Stephanie


stephanie neimiller
9/16/2010 11:16:49 AM

Dear Ms. Meyer, I read your story and was completely disgusted at the practice of these chemical companies. I would like to offer a solution for you. Avenger Weed Killer - OMRI Listed and approved for organic production by the USDA National Organics Program. Our weed killer is faster acting and just as effective as glysophate WITHOUT all the hazards of synthetic weed killers and chemicals. Our weed killer uses what nature provides to kill weeds - d limonene or better known as citrus oil. It's safe to use around animals and doesn't translocate into the ground. Check out our website avengerorganics.com or give us a call and we'll be happy to answer any questions you may have. I'm sorry you went through this, but there is a product out there that won't hurt your organic farm and will get rid of weeds. Sincerely, Stephanie




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