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Media Contact: Lea Brooks
January 22, 2009 (09-01)

DPR Recognizes Four Organizations for Efforts to Reduce Pesticide Use

(Editors/reporters: Honorees are based in Fresno, San Francisco, Santa Clara and Yolo counties.)

SACRAMENTO – FreshSense LLC of Fresno County, Pestec in San Francisco, the Santa Clara Valley Urban Runoff Pollution Prevention Program and the city of Davis in Yolo County, respectively, are being honored today as 2008 IPM Innovators by the Department of Pesticide Regulation for their emphasis on integrated pest management, a combination of natural and preventive strategies and pesticides less toxic than traditional treatments.

"This year’s IPM Innovators are role models for change from traditional pest control to a combination of strategies that reduce or eliminate toxic pesticides," said DPR Director Mary-Ann Warmerdam. "Recognizing innovation fulfills our mission to encourage businesses, government entities, homeowners and others to consider pest control methods that are more protective of public health and safer for the environment."

Since IPM Innovator awards were initiated in 1994, more than 100 California organizations have been recognized for their efforts to reduce risks associated with pesticide use and for sharing their research and methods with others. Warmerdam will present the IPM Innovator awards at 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 22 in the Sierra Hearing Room on the second floor of the California Environmental Protection Agency in Sacramento. The public is invited.

This year’s IPM Innovators and highlights of their efforts follow:

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 Harvested-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 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) that will carefully monitor pest populations in its orchards and minimize the use of pesticides. Field trials are just being developed for this GPS that would enable growers to treat hot spots before a pest problem gets worse.

More information about the program is available at 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, you 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, you would solve the problem by closing the entry point.

This cultural 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 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 to improve water quality 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, including educating the public about their gardening practices to prevent pesticides from washing into storm drains and training for 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, Sunnyvale and the towns of Los Gatos and Los Altos Hills.

More information about the program is available at 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’ 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 for IPM education that included the posting of signs indicating where mulching and other pest-control strategies were being used that residents could also use at home.

The city has an IPM manager who coordinates pest control efforts and training citywide. 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 less-toxic herbicides on city land. UCD studies have 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 on its Web site, posters, handouts, signs, press releases, community-access television, booths at Davis’ popular weekly farmers market and festivals and at volunteer training. Field days are provided to groups of volunteers and other interested parties.

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

One of six departments and boards within the California Environmental Protection Agency, DPR regulates the registration, sale and use of pesticides to protect people and the environment. For more information about DPR and previous IPM Innovators, see

* A map of the meeting location may be found at All visitors to the Cal/EPA building are required to sign in and receive a security badge. Valid picture identification may be required. Please allow up to 15 minutes for this process.