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The 2008 IPM Innovators Awards

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The 2008 Awardees are:

FreshSense, Fresno County

FreshSense is building the market for sustainably produced fruit and motivating growers to adopt more environmentally friendly pest management practices. It initially sold stone fruit, but expanded to citrus this season.

The Parlier-based company currently provides consumer research, marketing strategies, promotion and quality standards and practices for three brands grown in the Central Valley: Ripe 'n Ready; Treehouse Kids; and Zeal, an eco-label targeting socially and environmentally conscious consumers.

FreshSense was launched by owners Fowler Packing Co., SunWest Fruit Co. and Ballantine Produce Co. to more effectively and efficiently build specific brands, initially Zeal, in the United States and abroad.

All Zeal and Treehouse Kids fruit is certified by Protected Harvest, a nonprofit organization that promotes sustainable agricultural practices. The organization certifies farmers for "green" production practices by documenting that a product has met environmentally sound and scientifically based soil, water and pesticide standards. Protected Harvest-certified producers receive higher prices for their fruit, enjoy a steadier market and save money with their agricultural practices.

Zeal is the only major brand that is 100 percent guaranteed to have certified fruit. Treehouse Kids is a small, promotional brand that FreshSense uses for specific marketing purposes.

Ripe 'N Ready is premium stone fruit that FreshSense does not guarantee, comes from farms certified by Protected Harvest. Much of the fruit is certified, but FreshSense is still working to incorporate Protected Harvest standards into approximately 40 percent of its orchards. This effort is a work in progress since the standards are adjusted each year and becoming more strict.

For example, FreshSense is working with local water authorities to build natural stone weirs and settling ponds in its foothill orchards to help filter water runoff from the hills before it reaches streams and rivers. This practice will be added to Protected Harvest's standards in the future. FreshSense is also developing a global positioning system (GPS-based approach) that will help it carefully monitor pest populations in its orchards and minimize the use of pesticides. Field trials are just being developed for this GPS-based approach that would enable growers to treat hot spots before a pest problem gets worse.

More information about the program is available at www.freshsense.net or by calling FreshSense Chief Executive Officer Blair Richardson at (866) 747-3673.

Pestec, San Francisco

Pestec is a family-owned business that provides IPM services to residential homes, public agencies and businesses throughout the San Francisco Bay area. Since opening in 1985, Pestec has focused on prevention and nonchemical strategies first and, as a last resort, pesticides that pose less of a risk to public health and the environment than more common treatments.

Pestec's philosophy reflects Chief Executive Officer Luis Agurto Sr.'s upbringing in Nicaragua. For example, his family would take a bed infested with bed bugs outside to kill the pests rather than treat the bed with pesticides in the bedroom. Rather than poisoning rats on a monthly basis, they would solve the problem by closing the entry point.

This approach makes good business sense. Pestec's employees and customers are not exposed to toxic pesticides and customers are willing to pay a premium price for fast and effective service.

Pestec's pioneering strategies include:

  • Using a dog for routine inspections and monitoring for bed bugs. Pestec works with public housing authorities and hotel managers to ensure safe elimination of bed bugs.
  • Advocating good landscaping practices, less irrigation and baiting strategies for Argentine ant infestations.
  • Using bicycle messengers to suppress mosquito larvae in San Francisco's 21,000 catch basins under contract with the city.
  • Controlling bird and tropical rat mites through exclusion and sanitation.
  • Building bee tunnels for tree-nesting honey bees, which usually don't survive removal, in Palo Alto and San Francisco.
  • Innovation sharing and public outreach. Pestec works with third-party certification programs to teach competing companies how they can also deliver advanced and safe pest management.

Agurto Sr. is a member of the Structural Pest Control Board and President Luis Agurto Jr. is chair of the San Francisco chapter of the Pest Control Operators of California.

More information about Pestec is available at www.pestec.com or by calling Luis Agurto Jr. at (415) 587-6817 or (925) 757-2945.

Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program, Santa Clara County

The Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program was created in response to the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board's focus on storm water pollution prevention and water quality improvement in South San Francisco Bay.

Santa Clara County, the Santa Clara Valley Water District, San Jose, and 12 other communities recognized the benefits of addressing storm water issues on a countywide basis and signed a memorandum of agreement to manage storm water runoff as an association. In 1990, the association received the first municipal storm water permit in the nation from the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

The association's current permit contains requirements to address pesticides in runoff from municipal and private property because pesticides are known to be toxic to aquatic life in creeks and the bay.

The program has extensive outreach efforts that focus on how individuals can reduce pesticide pollution that runs off their gardens into storm drains and on training landscape workers in both English and Spanish. The program partners with 28 pesticide retail stores in Santa Clara Valley to help the public identify safer alternatives to conventional pesticides and choose more environmentally friendly products.

In addition to the county and water district, association members are the cities of Campbell, Cupertino, Los Altos, Milpitas, Monte Sereno, Mountain View, Palo Alto, San Jose, Santa Clara, Saratoga, and Sunnyvale and the towns of Los Gatos and Los Altos Hills.

More information about the program is available at www.scvurppp.org/ or by calling Jill Bicknell, assistant program manager, at (408) 720-8811.

City of Davis Parks and General Services Department IPM Program, Yolo County

In the 1980s, the city of Davis controlled pests like most other cities, with scheduled applications of pesticides and fertilizers. Its transformation to a model of integrated pest management was heavily influenced by the University of California, Davis, and residents who demanded more environmentally friendly pest control to ensure the safety of their children and pets in parks, greenbelts, landscaping, bike paths and other public spaces.

Davis's initial IPM efforts were boosted in 1996 when it created a task force comprised of UCD experts, landscapers and other specialists to recommend ways to reduce pesticide use by businesses and residents. In 1998, Davis received a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to demonstrate how their IPM practices, such as mulching and other pest control strategies, can be used by homeowners.

The city has an IPM manager who coordinates pest control efforts and citywide training. The city conducts landscape pest control workshops featuring UCD researchers, extension specialists, local landscapers, nursery owners and pest control advisers.

Being a university town has its benefits. The city has collaborated with UCD to compare the effectiveness less-toxic herbicides on city land. UCD studies addressed wildlife habitat, aquatic weed management and biological control of the elm leaf beetle on city land. City projects include alternative pest control and fertilization trials in parks and greenbelts using solarization, flame weeding, the effect of composting and irrigation rates on poor soil, predatory nematode effectiveness against turf grubs and effective microorganisms in turf.

The city distributes pest control information via its Web site, posters, handouts, signs, press releases, and community-access television, at booths at Davis's popular weekly farmers market and festivals, and at volunteer training sessions. Field days are provided to groups of volunteers and other interested parties.

More information about the program is available at www.cityofdavis.org or by calling Davis communications specialist Robert Wallis at (530)757-5656.

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