Updated from yesterday's print edition of the Shakopee Valley News
?One, two, three. Go,? Ryan Peterson yells to his kids before they swing open the patio door and rush into neighbor Rick Wymer?s home on Thursday night, trying to avoid the black flies that swarm the deck.
Peterson ? who answered his own door with flyswatter in hand when visited by a reporter last week ? has had it with the infestation that has his household hostage during the summer and fall due to the spreading of manure in a farm field adjacent to their cul-de-sac on Karner Drive in Shakopee.
?We have probably a couple thousand flies in each of our garages. We kill hundreds of them in our houses a week,? Peterson told the City Council in a plea for help from him and his neighbors during the public comment portion of last week?s meeting.
Residents of Karner Drive have hung fly-catching buckets from trees, sprayed their homes with repellent and depleted Lowe?s Home Improvement store of fly strips to deal with the infestations they say began after a local farmer began spreading manure on the leased field after the July 4th holiday. They say they see the tractor out there two to three times per day.
Although they?ve been told the situation was bad the fall before they moved in, Peterson and Wymer say this is the worst it?s been since they purchased their homes in late 2009.
Joe Peitz said his children don?t like playing outdoors any longer. He worries about the health hazard from such large volumes of flies.?
This summer, food for the neighborhood block party was kept in a ?quarantined tent? to prevent it from spoiling.
Without knowing the name of the dairy farmer, neighbors tried to talk to the driver of the manure-spreading tractor.
?I have approached him, but he slowed down, gave me a scowl and took off down the road,? said Peterson. ?He?s not being a friendly neighbor.?
Neighbors contacted police this summer with their concerns, but say the farmer, John O?Loughlin, turned the soil just once, and manure continued to be left on city streets used to access the 50-acre field. City Hall was their last stop after contacting the state Health Department, Scott County officials and city staff.
Without an ordinance in place governing feedlots in the city and given the state?s right-to-farm act, City Council and staff said they were likely limited in what they could do, but would look further into it.
O?Loughlin initially didn?t wish to talk about the neighbors? concerns when contacted by a reporter, saying the matter would be ironed out at the next City Council meeting. He denied spreading manure multiple times per day and said?the tractor driver that was approached by a neighbor was a hired hand, not him.
"I don't really care what they said," he said of the discussion at the last meeting. "I don't care to talk about it.?
After meeting with city officials on Monday though, O?Loughlin called back and said he plans to move the manure-spreading away from Karner Drive homes and take other steps to improve the situation. He said flies were an issue this year due to the unusually early harvesting of oats.
?We are definitely trying to solve the problem, but we still have got to fertilize our land,? he said.
State pollution and county feedlot officials recently visited the field. Despite the frequency of manure spreading, they found that the amount put down was acceptable, noting the farmer will still likely have to apply commercial fertilizer to get enough nutrients into the ground before planting.
While residents are concerned about the daily spreading of manure, it isn?t being applied thickly, said Scott Schneider from the Scott County Soil and Water Conservation District, noting that he?s never witnessed an over-application on the field. He explained that hard manure isn?t as nutrient dense as liquid manure, which is injected right into the soil.
?They can spread on that field quite a bit before they?ve covered the whole field,? he said, noting that the width of the spreader is narrow.
With the current high price of chemical fertilizer, hard manure is ?really valuable? to farmers as a fertilizer right now, explained University of Minnesota Extension educator Josue Hernandez.
Although routinely turning the manure (called ?disking?) into the field ? which has vegetation growing on it ? would lessen the flies, it could cause soil erosion and possibly dust problems along County Road 83 right now due to the dry weather, explained Scott Schneider.
O?Loughlin rents the field from his neighbor, Roberta Schneider.
She said she hasn?t been contacted by the neighbors who?ve raised the recent concerns, ?but I have heard it before.?
?People move into a farming area and then complain about the farming practices,? she said, noting that the soil was tested in the past. ?It?s all within legitimate bounds.?
Neighbors say they have no issues with farming, the spreading of manure two to three times per day.?
Peterson said this was not his experience growing up next to a farm field in Waseca, Minn., and he was told by a visiting relative, who works in the ag business, that the frequency of spreading is not normal.?
?We?re not against farming,? Peterson said. ?We like that it?s a field.?
Wymer feels like the field behind their homes is being used as a dumping ground since the farmer has limited acreage to spread manure around his own farm.?
?We wait all year for summer and it?s miserable,? said Wymer, commenting that a dairy farm probably has less flies than his neighborhood.
O?Loughlin said flies were an issue this year because of the oat crop, which was harvested earlier than normal due to the unusual weather.
?We hit that fly season head-on,? he said, noting that flies are worse in warm weather.
Next year, he will go back to planting corn in the field, which will be in the field until mid- to late-September, minimizing the fly issue. He doesn?t anticipate planting oats again before the land is finally developed.
In consultation with the city, O?Loughlin has now developed a plan to try to improve the situation for the remainder of the fall.
- He will stop spreading manure behind the homes and move the operation north near a gravel pit.
- When manure spreading is finished on the field, it will be disked in.
- The tractor will no longer exit the field on Thrush Street, which should lessen manure on the streets, and instead leave on County Road 83.
- The tractor will continue entering via Thrush because the left turns onto County Road 83 are too dangerous.
?Hopefully, we are headed in the right direction ? or a hard freeze,? said Shakopee Mayor Brad Tabke said in an email to Karner Drive residents, outlining these steps. ?It is a frustrating situation that won?t be perfect until the land is developed, so we?ll be working with this issue perennially and hope to find the best ways to work together.?
O?Loughlin has offered to switch to commercial fertilizer if Karner Drive residents are willing to foot the estimated $2,000 bill.
Tabke also noted that since flies can travel long distances, limiting the manure applications to a certain distance away from the homes likely wouldn?t help much.
Scott Schneider said there have been similar issues of conflicting land uses with farming in the county.
Residents would like the city to consider some rules for farming since county regulations do not apply.
Tabke said the city plans to look into what other cities do to deal with farming in city limits.