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Q. Dear Umbra,

I live in a pretty nice trailer park with lots of room to grow beautiful organic food. My neighbors spray pesticides at the fence line, and the pesticide drift has poisoned some of my vegetables and the soil. I stopped talking to them the second time it happened. The park manager has told them not to do it. But they continue. How can I stop them from trying to poison me? I talked with the mayor and she didn’t know what I should do, as there are no city laws addressing the problem. And what do I do with the soil and the plants that have been poisoned?

Patricia
Lafayette, Colo.

A. Dearest Patricia,

I am going to let you in on a little secret. There are times when I dole out advice from up here on the Advice Doling Console and I think to myself, “Hmm, easier said than done.” I know this is going to be one of those times, because it is hard to find a confident-yet-not-overly-confrontational way to talk to people about their habits, especially people with whom you share a fence line. But let’s take a look at how you can protect yourself and your veggies.

Like so many Americans, your neighbors have been led to believe they need poisons to keep their yard pretty and pest-free. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), we use 67 million tons of chemicals on our lawns each year, dropping a cool $700 million for the privilege of contaminating our surroundings and ourselves. Homeowners use 10 times the amount of pesticides per acre that farmers do. And as you’ve discovered, toxic particles can drift several feet, or even many miles, depending on the method of application and other factors.