On Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Pesticide Watch and the Oak Park community joined hands to celebrate their accomplishments over the year. Pesticide Watch Summer Celebration was a pesticide-free evening at the Fruit Ridge Elementary School Community Garden; with a delicious spread fruits and cheeses accompanied with organic wines and live music.

Mike Somers, State Director of Pesticide Watch, welcomed everyone to the ceremony and gave special thanks Magpie Caterers and Frey Wine Mendocino. Asael Sala, Community Organizer with Pesticide Watch, kindly thanked everyone for joining in on the celebration, especially Fruit Ridge Elementary School and The Language Academy. Dr. Goli Sahba explained how she and Lanae Davis started and managed the community garden. And Thad Huston presented an award to Frankie Hansberry and Cris Johnson, of Healthy Oak Park Community, for their local advocacy to promote healthy choices and healthy land uses in their community.

Sala was clearly passionate about his work and explained the problem, the solution and the action of Pesticide Watch and the community efforts. Sala stresses the problem when he says, “over 160 million pounds of pesticides are used each year in agriculture alone, with much more in homes, parks, schools, and other non-farming uses.” These pesticides are damaging to the nervous system and reproductive harm and Sala finds this particularly alarming as he and his wife are expecting.

Pesticide Watch works to reduce pesticide use, with a particular focus, by phasing out pesticides that cause the most health and environmental problems. Sala explained that California benefits from their efforts, by improving families’ overall health, cost for healthcare, and creates green jobs. How? Pesticide Watch is solving the problem with the local training, leadership development, and policy development. For instance, in 2009 the California Food Project was created. Sala proudly announced their accomplishments, such as passing a community ordinance that allows privately owned vacant lots to be used for gardening and another ordinance allowing residence to garden in their front yard. California Food Project also lifted the ban off backyard chicken keeping in city limits.

Sala said, “We respond to community needs to help residents develop local campaigns, to prevent these problems from happening again” Pesticide Watch and the Oak Park community are in alliance and striving for the same thing, a sustainable environment, and food that is local, healthy and organic. With help from The Language Academy the community started the first pesticide-free school garden! Fruit Ridge Elementary Community Garden is just that, a pesticide-free place where you can pick a piece of fruit and eat it, and not be scared. Check out a slide show of the garden at http://accesslocal.tv/2012/07/03/pesticide-watch-summer-celebration-slide-show/

“We believe that by lighting fires across the state we can help change this broken food system in California. And with California’s leadership and the country, obesity rates, pesticide use and California status dictate that we MUST ACT NOW! We cannot just wait for future generations to fix our problems!”

-Asael Sala