continued "What we're not sure of is how long this is gonna go. We've heard somebody say it might go until next March, and if in fact that is the case, then we probably will be out of business."
No one can say with certainty when the quarantine will be lifted. For now the California Department of Agriculture continues to fly its three planes on the scheduled evenings. Van Rein offered a synopsis of events to date and projected treatment. "The treatments have used new material to quarantine [areas] in California," Van Rein said. "It's a product called Naturalyte. The active ingredient is called spinosad. The Naturalyte is an organically approved treatment.
"Since the first treatment was in the first week of January, we've had nine treatments total. The treatments are done overnight.
"The treatments have been very effective just based on our trapping data," Van Rein explains. "We had captured approximately 260 adult flies in traps in the weeks leading up to the beginning of treatments. We've had 20 since then. We have very strong evidence that they're having the desired effect, but because the infestation was originally so intense, based on the biology of the insect, we expect to still find some more flies, at least for the next few weeks. Even though we're applying treatments, there are probably still developmental stages of the immature flies in the ground. They wouldn't be affected by the treatments until they emerge as adults."
A panel of scientists from the USDA met with the California Department of Agriculture team in Valley Center in mid-April. According to Van Rein, "They did give us a recommendation that we continue with the plan to treat for two life cycles of the fly after the last fly find. We can't set an end date on the treatments until we've stopped finding flies. Each time we find a few we have to reset the calendar."
When the treatments are completed, a second phase will commence. Sterile male flies will be released, ensuring that any remaining female flies will mate with sterile flies, thus eliminating further breeding possibilities. Again, the date is undeterminable.
In the meantime, Behneman-Pinaire said, "It's really hard. It's a day-to-day thing. We're just telling God, 'What do you want us to do?' Probably one of the changes would be to start turning the water off on some of our groves and possibly even selling them. That's what we're trying to decide; is it profitable for us to keep watering this fruit, which in fact we won't be able to sell for who knows how long?
"My son just got through saying, 'Mom, I just looked out at the grove and thought, can I actually turn the water off on this?' He said, 'I would just be devastated to actually have to do that.' "
Schostag is equally unsure. "I don't know what the future holds. My dream is to keep this property as pretty and as natural as possible without selling out to a builder. It's happening all over Valley Center. Farmers can't afford to be farmers, so there are subdivisions going in."
For now Schostag had to find a new job to keep her family afloat. She works at Bell Gardens in Valley Center. "I miss the pride in growing and selling my own outstanding fruit," she says, "but I'm still in the produce business. As to whether I will go back to farming and the markets, I don't know. I'm a little bit brokenhearted and a little bit mad that it all happened, but farming is in my heart, and I don't think that will ever change."