Whole Plants Stolen From Food Donation Garden

Large footprints were spotted in the beds. (Photo courtesy Janice Needham)

BERKELEY – Who would steal a garden?

That’s the question volunteers are asking themselves as the survey the damage done by persons unknown recently. The Wrangle Brook Community Garden has two sections. One for members to grow their own food. The other grows food for donations. That section got hit overnight.

They are asking anyone in the public to keep an eye out for anyone who suddenly has a garden of fully-grown vegetable plants.

They estimated that they lost 25 pepper plants, 10 tomato plants, and numerous other plants, said Janice Needham, the garden’s pantry manager. They were dug out of the ground, so the thief intends to replant them. What they probably didn’t realize was that the sunflowers that they stole can’t be replanted. They are just going to die.

The garden’s sunflowers used to be here. (Photo courtesy Janice Needham)

Some of the plants were stolen from the members’ individual areas. But most of it was stolen from an area that was used to grow food for the local food pantry, she said. Large footprints were seen in the pepper beds.

This is the third year the garden has been in operation. Wrangle Brook donates 3,000 pounds of fresh produce a year, primarily to the People’s Pantry.

“This was stolen out of the mouths of these people,” Needham said. Also stolen: the hard work and time that the dedicated volunteers spent since February cultivating these plants.

Recently, they had noticed a few plants missing. They were just gone, and the dirt was pushed over to cover the hole. This was the first large-scale theft, she said.

The dirt area in the front used to have pepper plants. (Photo courtesy Janice Needham)

The only thing that was destroyed was a fence, said Needham. This was bad enough since the fence – which is necessary to keep deer out – cost $7,000.

The garden is named after the nearby brook, which was a bathing beach a long time ago. It had become overgrown over the years, with derelict basketball courts. All that changed a few years ago when a group of volunteers reclaimed it and turned it into a nice little community garden that local residents could use. It’s located off Southhampton Road.

The garden members will replant and continue to work on creating more donations this year, said Bonney Parker, coordinator for the garden.

The fence was cut open for people to remove the plants. (Photo courtesy Janice Needham)

The garden members had just dropped off a shipment of 77 pounds of lettuce and Swiss chard. These are not heavy vegetables, so 77 pounds is quite a bit, she noted.

“We’re just stunned somebody would do such a terrible thing,” Parker said. “It’s just so cruel.”

The Berkeley Township Police tip line is 732-341-1132 ext. 611. Information can be given anonymously.

The dirt areas were where tomato plants used to be. (Photo courtesy Janice Needham)