How to Comply with Arcadia's Fruit Fly Quarantine

USDA officials say processing homegrown fruits and signing compliance agreements are the best tools to ending the Oriental Fruit Fly quarantine, which includes Arcadia

By Justin Chapman, Arcadia Patch, 1/18/2011

A little-known fruit fly quarantine in the Arcadia area and beyond is restricting the ability of local produce exchanges and farmer's markets to freely exchange citrus fruits grown in the area.
Officials from the US Department of Agriculture gave a presentation in Altadena last week on the Oriental Fruit Fly (OFF) quarantine area, which includes Arcadia.
The Oriental Fruit Fly poses no human health risk, meaning you can eat your own fruits without any threat to your health. 
However, it can be very damaging to homegrown fruits, so the USDA prohibits fruit that could be infested by fruit fly larva to be moved within or out of the area.
That means fruit cannot be shared even among neighbors, unless it has been treated, fumigated, or processed.
So what does that mean for fruit growers who want to avoid the use of pesticides?
Basically, you have to process it. Any method you can think of to use fruit that isn't eating it raw right off the tree would qualify.
According to USDA Plant Health Safeguarding Specialist Ernesto Marines, who gave the presentation, "processing can include freezing, juicing, dehydration, puréeing, or cooking the host material."
He added that processing is the best option for residents who want to share their locally grown fruits as long as the method used ensures that the life cycle of the fruit flies ends.
"Pre-harvest treatments require the use of pesticides, which most people don't want to use, and that's fantastic," Marines said. "Post-harvest treatments are too expensive and not economically viable."
The quarantine was declared Aug. 5, 2010, and is expected to end May 23, though that is only a target date and is flexible depending on whether more fruit flies are detected. The quarantine area totals 89 square miles.
The quarantine was issued after seven adult flies were detected on Sept. 20, 2010. Marines said three of the flies were female, and two of those had mated. The best way to combat the Oriental Fruit Fly, said Marines, is to sign compliance agreements with USDA so officials can better monitor the situation in the quarantine area.
The compliance agreements not only apply to residents, but also farmer's markets, nurseries, grocery stores, yard maintenance, and any entity or business that grows or sells host material.
"It's beneficial for growers, harvesters, and businesses to enter into compliance agreements with us," said Marines. "That way you can be informed about the situation sooner.
"The earlier you're informed, the more options you have under our regulations about when and where you can grow, sell, and share," he added. "Compliance agreements are the best means of handling this kind of situation. It's a tool of convenience."
Kristin Petherbridge of RIPE, an Altadena based produce co-operativce, said she hopes to organize another community meeting in the near future to get more residents and businesses to sign compliance agreements with USDA.
"It was intimidating at first when Ernesto Marines was telling me about the quarantine," said Petherbridge. "I thought this was going to be such a hassle and that we'd have to go through a lot of red tape, but then you get to find out more information and it really just becomes about being educated about what's involved and learning about the proper procedures to comply and then doing it. So I'm not quite as intimidated about it anymore."
Learn more about the Oriental Fruit Fly, the quarantine, and compliance agreements at

Danny's Farm Owners Not Giving Up on Goal of Helping Autistic Kids

Cathy Gott said the zoning issue that forced Danny's Farm to move to the Almansor Center in South Pasadena will mean they can still help local autistic kids. They are also not ruling out a move back to Altadena

By Justin Chapman, Altadena Patch, 1/12/2011

Although Cathy and Jim Gott are very disappointed that they had to close down their beloved petting zoo and activity center for autistic children this week because of a violation of an L.A. County zoning code, Cathy said this will not stop their mission to serve children with special needs, as well as employ adults with special needs.
The Almansor Center in South Pasadena has already opened its doors to the Gotts' mission by creating a smaller scale of Danny's Farm in terms of what animals will be available there, including bunnies, guinea pigs and even some domestic animals such as cats.
"We're trying to be positive in that at least we have a place to go," said Cathy. "We continue to serve children; it's just at Almansor now.  Thank God we can keep our special needs staff. We're a family, we can stay together, and we are still fulfilling our mission by employing adults with mental problems."
The Gotts have been working over the last few weeks to make the transition as their Altadena farm was being shut down.  The closure of the property was originally reported on Sunday on the Altadenablog.
Gott said that although the animals will be smaller, the location benefits them in terms of the clients they can serve. They can reach out to more children in their goal to address autism.
Even though their Altadena property is a licensed day-care facility and licensed to serve children with autism, the property was never zoned to host the number of animals it had, and likely never will be, according to county officials.
"Danny's Farm, which included a petting zoo, a day care and an activity center, it was not a use that was permitted by the underlying permit, the nonconforming review," said Oscar Gomez, the Supervising Regional Planner with the county Department of Regional Planning. "It was also not listed as permitted by the zone of the property. The zoning is R-1, which is low-density, single-family residential. So you can see how you wouldn't want a petting zoo right next to your backyard."
Although the nonconforming use permit did not allow any activity except boarding horses in stables and giving horseback riding lessons, Gomez said the county worked with the Gotts for a long time to help them find a more suitable place.
And though the Gotts would love to remain in Altadena, they are fully aware that they cannot operate Danny's Farm, which is named after their autistic son, at its original location.
"Regardless of how much money or power or clout or anything of the sort, that property is a nonconforming use site (NCR)," said Cathy. "It can never be altered, and it is only zoned for private equestrian boarding stables and horse riding lessons, and that's it. I'm a fighter. I would get the community together in a heartbeat to save that site for Danny's Farm, but there's nothing to fight for. We have wonderful donors and community support, as well as support from the county and the Department of Disability.  Everyone loves what we were doing, we just can't do it at that spot."
She added that they never wanted to move because they love that spot, and that they've tried every available option, even meeting with Supervisor Michael Antonovich, who she said has been very supportive of their mission since the beginning, almost three years ago.
"Antonovich is very supportive in what we do with our mission," said Cathy. "I'm not angry at the county. They supported us from the beginning; they gave us money and came out on our opening day. They've been wonderful."
So why was Danny's Farm allowed to operate for nearly three years if they were violating a zoning code? Apparently the county was unaware of the violation until a neighbor filed several complaints.
The Gotts then received a cease-and-desist letter last month giving them 30 days to vacate the property. All of the animals that could not be transferred to the Almansor Center have found safe homes where the Gotts can visit them. They hope someday to bring them back to another Altadena location.
"It's just amazing how this has brought such a beautiful part of our community together," said Cathy. "We'd love to someday be in Altadena. There are some Altadena properties that are agriculture and commercial mixed-use sites, but they're occupied by other people. I'm happy to meet with anyone to talk about any kind of possibilities. I'm very open-minded, but right now I didn't have any other choice. We have nowhere else to go in Altadena at the moment." 
The Gotts know the man who filed the complaints and even spoke with him, but they are not angry at him because they now know they were not in compliance.
"I want to do it by the books regardless if someone complains or not," said Cathy. "This was built from our hearts. The Altadena Stables totally embraced us and were very accepting of the population we served and our employees. It's been very positive, and although it's changing, we're going to continue. We're not going to let this stop us. We just have to do it correctly without violating codes."