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Community Garden explains 'no picking' policy

Theft is a problem again this year at community garden
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By Mike Bosela

The Columbia-Adair County Community Garden, located at the intersection of West Guardian and South Monroe Street (behind the Adair County Food Pantry), is blessed with fertile soils and good lighting. In other words, it is rigged and we are more or less ensured good harvests.

Some of our more successful crops thus far this year have included our carrots, cabbages, and sweet onions and we are excited about what lies ahead. Our tomatoes our on the cusp of ripening and we are growing a variety of interesting watermelon cultivars (Ali Baba, Orangeglo Sangria, etc.). It sounds like a fairy tale right? Well that is until produce 'theft' is factored in.

The first casualties were the cabbage, but since we had so many planted it wasn't a big deal. However, the 'taking' has since spread to other crops and the frequency and degree of stealing has increased with each passing week. At this point we are losing produce on a nearly daily basis from both our communal gardens and our rental plots. This is unacceptable to us since our subscribers have paid money to use these plots for the summer and have invested significant amounts of time and effort planting and caring for their crops.

We also had similar problems last year. Although the thefts did not start until later in the growing season, the results were no less heartbreaking. In one case, a pair of middle school students who had rented a plot lost both of their watermelons to theft. The watermelons were their prize possessions and for one of the boys this was the only produce that he was going to eat out of the whole garden. One day they showed up to tend their garden and both of the melons were gone. To make matters worse, the the watermelons were picked before they were ripe and presumably ended up being thrown away.

Since the Community Garden is relatively new (this is our second year), and some residents may not be familiar with our harvesting policy, I wanted to write this letter to clarify and to try to nip this problem in the bud. In fact, since some community gardens employ a 'free pick' policy where visitors to the garden are encouraged to help themselves, the 'stealing' that I am describing may be primarily a result of a misunderstanding and a lack of clear signage at the garden.

Since our community garden includes rental plots a 'free pick' policy would not appropriate for us. In fact, this year 11 of our 15 raised bed planters are rented for private use by individuals and/or families. The rest of the plots are used to grow produce for sharing with the community via the food pantry and Farmers market. However we would like to maintain control over these plots to ensure that the food is harvested at the right stage and reaches our target audience; lower income families and the elderly. Thus we have arrived at a 'no pick' policy for the garden as a whole. It is not because we are stingy or cold-hearted. It is out of concern for our subscribers and to ensure that we can provide the best quality produce to the greatest number of people. However, we are always looking for ways to improve and would appreciate any suggestions for changes to our policies or procedures. We can be reached at or by phone at 270-384-8192.

This story was posted on 2015-07-23 12:58:56
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