Michigan farmers were the victims of pumpkin and apple heist earlier this month. In the span of just one week in early October, two farms lost thousands of dollars in produce and law enforcement are surprised by just how much has been stolen.
In early October, thieves plucked and stole 180 bushels of apples - some "right off the trees" from Spicer Orchards, a Genesee County farm, The Detroit News reported. Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell told the newspaper, "Whoever did it was well organized and apparently had a market for (the apples)." He estimated that Spicer Orchards lost about $14,400 in produce.
Matt Spicer, harvest manager of the farm, told ABC 12 Flint, Michigan he estimated that about 7,000 pounds of fruit - about 22,000 apples - were stolen. He said he was "upset" because "it takes a whole year to grow apples." The ABC 12 reported that the thieves didn't just steal ripe apples but also those not ready for harvest and others on the ground.
In neighboring St. Clair County, farmer and owner of McCallum's Orchard and Cider Mill, Ray Peltier, tells TIME at least 400 of his pumpkins were stolen around Oct. 7. That number could surpass 1,000 by the time they finish assessing the damage, he adds. Peltier estimates they may have lost around $7,500 in produce.
"This was not a one man job," Peltier says. "It was a crew."
He had told ABC 7 News Detroit that "it's mind-boggling" to think how so many pumpkins could be "taken that fast."
Peltier says he believes the theft occurred Monday, Oct. 7 between 2 a.m. and 7 a.m. but that he didn't realize the pumpkins had been stolen until later that evening. He said he had to cancel a children's event involving face and pumpkin painting.
Peltier says that staff from Spicer Orchards called him after the theft to express their solidarity and tell him to be careful about protecting his crop of apples, too.
The economic toll appears to be dire for Peltier, who says, "I can't afford to lose any income. We just can't. And we did."