VIDEOFly above the boom with a crop duster

For Crop Dusters, Oil Boom Presents Obstacles, Danger

At 26, Grant Swartz has spent much of the last decade in the air, as an agriculture pilot dusting crops over rural Glasscock County. That’s been long enough to see the oil and gas boom drastically alter the landscape of his community east of Midland.

What was once a simple flight is now an obstacle course peppered with rigs, miles and miles of power lines and crews of oilfield workers on the ground. To do his job, Swartz must at times fly as low as 5 feet above ground — and he can’t release chemicals around people. These obstacles have complicated his job and at times prevented him from even doing it.

Glasscock County

Glasscock County by the Numbers

2000 2010 2013
Population 1,406 1,226 1,251
2002 2012
Number of farms 199 186
Farmland (acres) 493,000 434,000
Oil production (barrels) 4.6M 15.4M
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas Railroad Commission