On Being an Organic Neighbor

Wheat harvest near Pendleton, Oregon.
Photo credit: Lynn Ketchum
Q:
I am interested in starting an organic farming business. The property that I am currently looking at is surrounded by wheat and grass fields, as well as blueberries and hazelnut trees near by. Are these crops high pesticide and/or fertilizer use? If so, how likely is it that the spray will contaminate my field or leach into my water supply? The property uses a well for irrigation. - Benton County, Oregon
A:

Thank you for submitting your question to Ask an Expert. It is difficult to say without knowing more about your site, and your neighbors' farming practices whether there is a risk of contamination from your neighbor's fields. If you are planning to run a certified organic farm, however, the size of the buffer zone between your fields and those of your neighbors would have to be determined by your organic certifier depending on a variety of risk factors specific to your site, such as whether you are downwind from your neighbors, or whether there are features such as hedgerows between your properties.

Typical buffer zones between organic and conventional fields are around 30 feet wide. It would probably be a good idea to talk with your neighbors to learn about their use of chemicals and and also with the organic certifier you plan to work with about requirements for buffer zones and contamination risks based on your situation. 
Here is a listing of organic certification agents.

Thank you and best wishes. Feel free to reply with any further questions.

--A. Formiga

P.S. The use of term "organic" is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture. Please see the eOrganic articles "An Introduction to Organic Certification Requirements" and "Can I Use this Input on My Organic Farm" for more information. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials.

A. Formiga
eOrganic Project Director
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