Historical Pesticide Purchases for a New Jersey Apple Orchard from 1931-1936 and 1943-1945 with Notes on Remnant “Legacy” Pesticide Concentrations in Soil


  • David Moskowitz, et al




For more than a century (1905-1998) the Smith Farm in East Brunswick, New Jersey was well-known. At its peak it was the largest apple orchard in the state. The father and son proprietors, George and Lawrence Smith, were innovators, pioneering new and improved orchard management and apple growing techniques, and were dubbed “Apple Kings” and “Master Farmers” for their work. In 1998, the pesticide purchase records at the farm from 1931-1936 and 1943-1945 were serendipitously rescued from a dumpster. The receipts and other materials provide a historical glimpse of two time periods marked by rapid and significant changes in agricultural pesticides from largely naturally derived, to synthetic, a legacy of World War II chemical innovation. As cutting-edge orchardists, the Smith’s employed and experimented with the most up to date pest control methods of their time and their pesticide purchases reflect that. However, many of the chemicals used at the farm remain in soils for long periods after application. Soil sampling in 1998 identified extensive contamination from these “legacy” pesticides, an issue plaguing orchards across the United States. In 1999, with the oversight of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, the contaminated orchard soils were remediated as part of a process to develop the property for housing. The orchard is long gone now, and in its place there is a housing development known as Apple Ridge Estates (with streets named after apple varieties). The history of the pesticide purchases at the farm may provide an important lesson about how one generation’s innovation may be seen as a subsequent generation’s curse.