NEWBURYPORT — A startling pediatric study linking pesticides to the childhood neurological disorder attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, better known as ADHD, is serving as the latest reason to buy produce locally, local farmers say.
A Journal of Pediatrics study published May 17 found that children with higher levels of the organophosphate pesticide malathion in their urine were more likely to have ADHD.
Farmers, such as Glenn Cook of Cider Hill Farm in Amesbury, Dick Chase of Arrowhead Farm in Newburyport and Matthew Kozazcki of Tendercrop Farm in Newbury say their locally grown fruits and vegetables are far less likely to contain those kinds of chemicals.
For Chase, the findings weren't surprising, and he said if parents are concerned about their children being exposed to the various types of organophosphates, they can feel confident purchasing fruits and vegetables at his Ferry Road farm, since he does not use these materials at all.
"We do not use organophosphates whatsoever," Chase said. "Our fruit trees are sprayed one to three times in late May and June, right after petal fall, in order to prevent flies from laying eggs on the developing fruit. That is the only spraying we do on the farm."
Chase said he uses no pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, or insecticides, and instead tries to educate his Community-Supported Agriculture consumers that imperfect produce is the best produce.
"What we do with our CSA is people are learning to eat not for the cosmetic value of something, but for the nutritional value and for the safety of it."
Chase said his recently harvested spinach and beets have tiny holes in the leaves caused by flea beatles, and little tunnels in the leaves created by leaf miners. But he said his customers know that such minor flaws are preferable to eating something that might be unsafe. He said his farming methods, handed down by his grandfather, who received training from his grandfather before him, are successful because they were developed before the advent of agricultural chemicals. They plan their plantings around the dates when certain insects are apt to be active, for instance, and learn to tolerate some weeds.