It’s not tiny glistening ornaments on the pines, furs and spruces at Hubbell’s Grove Christmas tree farm in Rochester Illinois; it’s the foamy cases of up to 400 solidified eggs deposited by a female praying mantis. Is it a case of insect infestation, quite the contrary? For thirty years Marvin Hubbell, a scientist and employee by day with the US Soil and Water Conservation, has known the value of this magnificent creature. Because of it, he has been able to grow his tree farm without the use of chemical insecticides, herbicides and fertilizers. By leaving the task to the elegant and insatiable praying mantis, who is always ready to pounce on an unsuspecting bug, Hubbell has been able to keep his Christmas trees free from both pesky insects and harmful chemicals.
Many naysayers said it couldn’t be done without chemicals but Hubbell proved them wrong with a tree survival rate of 85-95%!
At the very early age of 6, Hubbell had a sense about the use of chemical pesticides, so going organic wasn’t a question when he committed to the family business of a Christmas tree farm 30 years ago. Planting his rows of trees every spring was the perfect way to connect his two young daughters with nature.
Most conventional Christmas tree farms in the US use chemicals like atrazine to keep their trees free of pests. Unfortunately there are no independent comprehensive studies widely available on the effects of pesticides once a tree is in a warm environment. What studies have shown though is even very low levels of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals like atrazine can have effects. According to Dr. Jason Rohr, a leading researcher on atrazine at the University of South Florida, while the use of atrazine on Christmas trees and its effect on humans is unclear, the evidence on fresh water amphibians and fish is very consistent- and it’s predominantly adverse.
For Hubbell this has always been about families. He has many returning customers, families that come back year after year with their own traditional Christmas tree shopping routine. Hubbell’s new fans, especially the children, gather round to hear him talk about the role the mantises play on the farm. If you happen to pick a tree with the tiny glimmering ornament, it’s included in the cost! They will gladly remove it to leave at the farm but you are more than welcome to take it home and put in your own garden. However if you decide to and leave it on the tree you might find yourselves parents to hundreds of tiny praying mantises!
Hopefully Hubbell’s chemical free Christmas tree farm’s success will catch on. Agriculture production without these chemicals has repeatedly proven to be a remarkable success so why would we want to bring something in our homes to put in front of babies and little children who are at the highest risk from exposure?
5Phases is dedicated to a healthy and organic lifestyle for the whole family. Starting with baby, we develop products keeping the environment and health of your family in mind. For more information, visit our Facebook page or online @ www.5phases.com.