Saturday, November 15, 2014

Crop dusters share kinship, comradery at annual meeting at Gaston's White River Resort


A unique group of aviators who share a love for flying and agriculture are meeting at Gaston's White River Resort at Lakeview Friday through Sunday.

Members of Cropdusters United, a non-profit group made up of 1,500 crop dusters from across the country, are holding their second annual meeting at the resort.

A gathering of 200 to 300--including pilots and their families--are expected for the event.

The organization's president, Perry Lowry of Hamburg, says although most won't be bringing their aircraft, there will be a dozen or so crop duster planes at Gaston's landing strip and the public's welcome to view them.

Lowry says there are about 3,000 crop dusters in the United States.

Cropdusters United was begun in 2010 and it's a group that "has connected the dots" and allows its members to put faces with names.

It's a group of kindred spirits that Lowry describes as a self-help organization.

The 32-year old Lowry says his love for crop dusters came from his father and brother, who both spent decades in the business.  

 Another member of the group, 62-year old Tommy Benton of Monette, began as a crop duster in 1976. Benton, who left the business for 15 years but now owns his own flying service, says there are risks.

But both Benton and Lowry say crop dusters are not the aerial cowboys they are sometimes portrayed. Lowry agrees there are risks, but says the industry has changed.

The two say today's crop dusters follow stringent safety procedures when spraying or using chemicals and herbicides. The pilots use respirators, and wear rubber gloves and goggles and they work to ensure chemicals they apply don't drift to other property. The men say their working season runs from February to October, and sometimes longer.

Despite the safety precautions, Lowry says there's still an element of flying by the seat of your pants.

Benton says most agricultural pilots and operators are in their 50s, 60s and 70s which leaves the future of the industry in question. There don't seem to be a large number of young people joining the ranks.

But those involved in crop dusting are a close knit family and Benton says they take pride in what they do.

That was Perry Lowry and Tommy Benton with the group Cropdusters United who are holding their annual meeting at Gaston's White River Resort. The event continues until Sunday. 

Story and Audio:

No comments:

Post a Comment