Half a dozen mothers from small town and rural Sebastopol in Northern California quickly rallied hundreds of people to their side to challenge Sonoma County’s Paul Hobbs Winery. He wants to convert a 40-acre apple orchard into a vineyard that would use pesticides; it borders five schools on Watertrough Road, including Apple Blossom and Orchard View. Together they have around 700 children, as well as many teachers, staff, neighbors and wildlife.
The mothers only found out in late April about Hobbs’ plan and in less than a week got over 400 signatures on their petition “Stop alcohol firms from endangering children and the environment.” The conversion has been in process for around a year--as some school officials apparently knew—but parents did not find about it until recently, when workers in hazmat suits showed up to demolish a house and barn.
“We are deeply troubled by the cumulative, chronic, and acute health effects from the use of pesticides, fumigants, insecticides, rodenticides, and other toxic chemicals,” the petition notes.
Parents complain that this fast-moving conversion has had no public input yet and is reaching its final stage. They see it as primarily a health issue. The parents are especially concerned about the possible presence--after decades of pesticide use in the orchard--of lead arsenate in the soil and the damage it is known to do to children.