We are looking for property (10-50acres) to start our own permi set-up and the question has arisen about trying to be sustainable while surrounded by chem ag. Are we going to be exposed due to biocides drifting on the wind? How much buffer is needed? I don't want to go and try to do the right thing and it results in my family getting soaked in airborne poison
cities have all the issues of exhaust as do suburbs
farmland will most likely be sprayed drifting onto your place
best bet may be marginal lands that are hard to use but even there you will probably have some rich jerk on the top of the hill spraying more herbacide on his three acrelawn as a farmer will on 100 acres
best bet is to worry about the things you can fix instead
I am of the opinion that humanity has just about poisoned the planet. Spays and dust can travel through the air for some distance, several miles in some cases. Groundwater contamination levels have been climbing for decades. There is the issue of contaminants in livestock manure used to make that last load of compost you had delivered. The seed developed over decades and centuries js being modified and claimed as corporate property. The ozone is still under attack from CFCs in refrigerators that were junked 20 years ago. Even if your location is secluded there is still the problem of the county or local utility coming through with a percloram truck to keep the weeds down along the roadside and power lines leading to your home.
Not all hope is lost just yet.
Every time someone takes a few acres out of the chemical loop, nature has a chance to repair the damage we have done. Spays and dust can travel through the air for some distance, but are not applied so much on windy days in order to get the junk where it is wanted. As distance is increased from the source, the concentration diminishes rapidly. Furthermore, rains will knock some of what is in the air out of the air. Every day more people are turning to sustainable agriculture, demanding clean food, and turning to the earth for natural solutions. We have a long way to go, but we have the advantage of nature working with us. Even 7 billion humans can't beat Mother Nature.
Look for natural buffers between your place and the sources of contaminants. Trees do a fine job of slowing wind and collecting nearby airborne sprays. Across the street from me is 70 acres of planted pines. It is not usually cost effective to spray or treat planted pines. Natural growth forest is even better. If you have a quarter mile between you and the bad guys, figure that as being pretty good. Running water, as little as a babbling brook, can easily serve as a barrier between your land and the evil ooze leashing out of the land next door. Next is the layout of the neighborhood. Scattered homes in the country composed of folks working 9-5 in the city won't see a great deal of chem use, whereas hanging your shingle in the middle of Iowa soybean country is asking for abuse.
Looking at the larger map, there are big areas that offer protection. To my east is the Osceola National Forest. Its gotta be 50 miles of nothing but woods. To my north is the Okeefenokee Swamp-a giant swath of nothing but alligators, mosquitos and the occasional bootleg moonshine operation. There are State and National Parks, nature preserves, mountainous regions, and cattle ranches that have vast stretches of land that are not suitable for mechanized agriculture. Look to the oceans and big lakes-not much going on there and lots of dilution if there is.
Seed the Mind, Harvest Ideas.
For what it's worth, I've owned two properties now both about 6 acres and both really rough at the outset. My first land was 6 acres with a mobile home for the cost of an SUV in central new york. Burn piles in random places, mismanagement all over, really nasty. But it was what I could afford. I recycled every last fleck I could, brought 3300 lbs of non recyclables to the dump, dug down, and started repairing. 6 years later, new family owns the land, also homesteading on it, you'd never know the place used to be really raw and nasty. They grow a huge variety of very healthy foods, as well as immune supporters, working with anti-cancer fungi, and adaptogenic plants (tulsi, ashwagandha) which combined I'm sure offset whatever residual junk is in the soil. It was a success, at least in my mind, and I'm glad I went through it.
My new property, although not obviously covered in burn piles, has old residue of petrol junk from when it was managed as marginal hay field. Little rainbows show up every now and again when I dig for ponds and the like. You really can't escape it. So I bring in truckload after truckload of woodchips to put all over the young forest and don't burn any brush, it gets laid into windrows to break down slowly and feed the forest. Things are improving, this is 3 years along. Again with plants that heal the soil and heal our bodies included in spades. It feels good, it feels important.
I can't afford prime, open AG land to do my research, so I work with what I can and in the end I've been able to help support the repair of 12 acres of this earth (so far), and it's really off and running. You just set it in motion, the plant community does literally ALL the real work. Eat well, learn about plant medicine, keep yourself strong and nourished and dive in to help do the repair work we're so overdue on as a species.