Thieves pilfer squash, berries, beets from Greenbank gardens
By NATHAN WHALEN
Whidbey News Times Staff reporter
October 23, 2009 · 3:27 PM
After a decade spent growing food in the gardens at the Greenbank Farm, gardener Michael Seraphinoff noticed a disturbing trend throughout this year’s growing season.
Somebody has stolen entire crops of fruit and vegetables from the community gardens at the publicly-owned farm.
“I’ve been farming at the Greenbank Farm for 10 years now and I’ve never had anything stolen,” Seraphinoff said.
But that changed this month when his entire crop of Hubbard squash disappeared before he had a chance to harvest it.
His produce isn’t the only crop missing from the various gardens operating at the farm. Earlier in the season, somebody stole the ripened strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. More recently, beets were also picked clean.
“Apparently, they cleaned out some of the patches and that made some people upset,” Seraphinoff said.
He said the missing food suggests that times are tough enough to compel people to go to someone else’s garden and grab food.
“I’m a bit concerned that we have hungry people in our community,” Seraphinoff said.
One Greenbank Farm official was a bit more skeptical of the thieves’ motivation. Farm manager Virginia Bloom noted that the thieves didn’t take just enough to eat, but swiped entire crops from the gardens.
Several community-based gardens are raising crops at the Greenbank Farm. The community pea patch, which is on about an acre of land, is located in a fenced-in area near the farm buildings.
“People look at it as an extension of their backyard,” said Bloom. There are about 24 gardeners participating in the community garden.
There is also a market garden on another acre of land. Bloom said the market lot is broken up into several portions where residents grow food to sell at nearby farmers markets.
“When someone steals those things, they’re taking away their income,” Bloom said.
She said the police haven’t been called concerning the pilfered food and there’s not much recourse for the growers.
While the pea patch has a fence surrounding it, there isn’t a lock on the gate and the market garden doesn’t have a fence yet. Bloom said she hopes to add a lock and more fencing by the start of the next growing season.
Seraphinoff said he has mixed feelings about the added security. He doesn’t want to see added barriers at the farm. He also has concerns about how the fence will affect the land. He said weeds can pop up near the fence posts, which can also become a haven for rodents.
“You can have as many new problems as you solve by putting up fences,” Seraphinoff said.
The stolen food hasn’t sullied Seraphinoff’s experience at the farm. The adjacent Community Supported Agriculture program gave him squash to replace the 15 that were stolen. He is planning to grow crops in both the patch and the market garden next season.Contact Whidbey News Times Staff reporter Nathan Whalen at email@example.com or 360-675-6611 ext. 5058.