We arrived at the Virginia Tech, agricultural center and headed into the building. We signed in, went into the room and saw about one hundred people. We met many of the researchers that we have communicated via email, saw some conventional people like Bob Black from Catoctin Orchards, and met Eric Rice who is an organic orchardist in Western Maryland. The meeting came to order and the head entomologist started out with all the media attention that BMSB was getting and that this was an unprecedented variance in their daily routines. When you think about it unless you are into growing or entomology these people are relatively unknown to the world. The work they do however has greater impact for all of us and they are truly unsung heroes.
I sat in the room feeling like an imposter; here were all these people that have dedicated their lives to understanding and documenting all that "bugs" us. The subject matter is immense and their are specific specialties which makes it even more awe inspiring. We were very fortunate to be part of this event.
Dr. Leskey had said that never before has so much attention been put on a single bug and entomology. She then showed clips from news organizations featuring accounts from cities, counties and finally farms. Then they started to discuss updates from the previous meeting. They were speaking in Latin for the most part but we had read ahead and could track a little. At least we knew when they said Halyomorpha halys we knew they were talking about the BMSB. When they referred to Pentatomidaes, they were talking about all stinkbugs and other similar insects.
Then they started to talk about the spread of the bug and pheromones that were working to attract the BMSB both male and female. This is when my ears started cropping up and I was writing furiously spelling the words phonetically. They talked about spray cycles and infestation patterns within orchards, under study, where the greatest concentrations of the bugs were in the orchard. Each University presented their findings and all pointed to the different types of damage to fruits and crops and a continuing presence of these bugs.
After the updates the farmers started addressing the groups, there were three large conventional orchards representing 200+ acres each and two organic farms, Eric Rice’s and ours. The conventional people were talking of the devastation and of their spray patterns and the different types of chemicals used. It was dismal, one after another talked of the devastation. They spoke of seemingly good-looking apples being put away only to find internal damage when taken out of storage. We lost all of our apples, persimmons and raspberries but being so small the loss was not as great as the others’ were. Each farmer pleaded for the groups help and stressed the importance of getting relief before next growing season.
Then I got up after the three conventional people and looked out at the large room. I thanked Dr. Leskey for the invitation and said, Hi, I am Brian my wife and I own and operate Miolea Organic Farm. Then I blurted out, “We are screwed”, I know it was not appropriate but after hearing what I just heard and knowing that there was no organic method to control them that is how I felt. The audience took the statement in the jest it was meant. There is however truth in jest.. I then went into what we faced, what we did, what we had observed and how we tried to control them. I noted that our cherry tomatoes were untouched and other vegetables that had not been affected. I thanked them and stressed the fact that small organic farmers were going to be the hardest hit first. I also volunteered the farm and said We would be willing to work with anyone including being a sponsor for funding from OREI.
There is nothing like facing your fears and over-coming them. Do not get me wrong, I was sick going to, sick before speaking but was not as sick after speaking. What buoyed me most was meeting these people and hearing what research they are involved in and what is planned. I left the meeting with a strong sense that from this group that it is just a matter of time.
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