CIRS Blog about Rural California
Dewey Welker has lots of dreadful memories.
With great clarity, down to the way his father turned up his shirt sleeves that day and the deep gray of his father’s jeans, he can describe every moment of being abandoned outside a liquor store at age 4.
He remembers stealing his first pair of shoes at age 7 and, a little later, beating up another boy to rob him of his scooter.
Marijuana came at 9, cigarettes at 12. His best friend introduced him to methamphetamine at 15.
That boy would later shoot himself.
“All five children get lunch at school,” mother Maria Chavez said through a Spanish interpreter. School lunches help the Chavez’, whose names have been changed, make ends meet.
Arturo Chavez, 7, is my clinic patient in South Los Angeles. He has developmental issues, notably a speech delay. But with help from medication and therapy, he is catching up to his first-grade peers. He is an engaging little boy who loves to tell stories, even with his speech difficulties.
Arturo has four siblings, ages 4 to 17, and all are in school. Maria Chavez, their mother, is unable to work, in part because of Arturo’s frequent appointments. The children’s father’s monthly income as a restaurant cook is less than $4,000.
“At the end of the month, it’s difficult,” Maria Chavez said. “So we go to food banks or our church for food.”
New state rules about the application of pesticides on farms near rural schools and daycare facilities take effect Jan 1., following years of campaigning by groups advocating for teachers, the environment and public health. Yet these advocates argue that the rules still don’t do enough to protect school children and school staff from potentially dangerous chemicals.
The new rules adopted by the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) prohibit spraying pesticides within a quarter mile of schools and daycare facilities on weekdays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Advocates argue that the buffer zone of a quarter of a mile doesn’t do enough to protect the estimated 5,500 students, teachers and daycare workers who spend their weekdays at the farm-side facilities.
“At the end of the day is this where we want to be? No. We wanted the buffer at one mile. But, are these new regulations better and more consistent than before? Yes, they are,” said Paul Weller, a spokesman for Pesticide Reform.
DPR’s long-awaited rules apply to fumigation, aerial, ground air-blast, sprinkler and dust application of pesticides on fields. These application methods may cause pesticide drift, when potentially harmful chemical become airborne and drift from farms into the surrounding communities.
The Strategic Growth Council recently approved nearly $34 million in new grants for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP).
SALCP is one a suite of Climate Smart Agriculture programs developed in California to meet the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals. The state program aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with urban sprawl and rural ranchette development by protecting at risk agricultural lands. SALCP is part of a larger effort to promote in-fill, transit-oriented development by the Brown administration.
The Council funded 25 agricultural conservation easement projects and 2 Strategy and Outcome grants for local governments to improve farmland conservation planning and policy development. The latest round of funding brings the total number of awarded conservation easement projects to 52 and 8 local government farmland conservation projects since the program began in 2014. The Council has invested nearly $76 million since the inception of SALCP.
A high school senior with farmworker roots may have found a way to keep workers safe when the weather is scorching hot.
Faith Florez, 17, has created an app that alerts workers when temperatures reach 95 degrees. It also gives tips for keeping cool and serves as a direct link to first responders in case of emergency.