How to Deter Theft in Community Garden

terryincs(z5 IL)March 31, 2011

I am joining a CG this spring as I am now renting a place and have no garden space. This is a newer garden, only 2 years old in a small rural town. The last 2 years a known person was stealing produce and actually taking it to a farmer's market in a neighboring town! I will be growing some special things like heirloom tomatoes and specialty peppers and eggplant. Any suggestions for deterring this thief from taking my stuff? he was a CG member and was kicked out for this year but that may not stop him. It is not fenced and is on the edge of town near a factory.

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I don't know if this is feasible for you, depends on how many member you have, but at our CG, we only have about a dozen members. We have a padlock on the gate, and every year the members get a key (one of our members works at a hardware store and gets the keys copied for free). We also have very good neighbors beside the garden that watch our for "funny business".

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 6:43AM
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terryincs(z5 IL)

There aren't many members but it is in a big open space next to an industrial building. They are providing the water. No fences, no neighbors. I don't know if it would do anything to post a sign saying I will prosecute. I am hoping folks will be out there a lot to make it look busy and maybe deter him that way.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2011 at 7:53PM
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You might have to stake out the garden and videotape him in action, then videotape him at the farmer's market with the goods.

If he's after the high-value produce, some of that has markings that are variable enough to make identifying a certain eggplant or tomato possible.

Then call the cops and make a theft complaint. With high-value veggies, it might even reach felony level.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2011 at 9:27AM
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Good luck. There are only a few members in our CG, it's surrounded by a tall fence and the gates are locked. Came back from vacation this spring to find someone had whacked the heads off every single sunflower!! It had to be one of us. You have to be a member of the neighborhood association to get a plot in the garden, most of us have been there for years. We've had eggplant and other things go missing. Sorry but noone is climbing a 10' chain link fence to steal a couple of eggplants! There aren't any needy people gardening with us that need to steal, the average income of my plot neighbors is over $100,000 per year, as a nurse I'm the poorest one in the garden.
Good luck.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   September 22, 2011 at 10:45AM
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Put up a video surveillance sign :P Even if it is not true, might be of help.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2012 at 7:59AM
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This may not help everyone in the garden... But if you want to look out for #1....
-Plant the stuff that is hard to harvest near the entrance to your plot. Sugar snap peas, beans, carrots, beets (you get the idea.)
In the middle plant the good stuff ($$$$). Maybe srpinkle some stuff that looks like deadly ag chemicals near the entrance and close to the good stuff. Baby powder, dried out crushed egg shells. Maybe 'he' won't take it if won't command a price premium that organic veggies get.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2012 at 2:40PM
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We have fake surveillance cameras set up. Not sure if it works yet or not. Our community garden is at the church.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2013 at 7:59AM
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I do not think police will take veggie thefts seriously unless you live in a low crime area and they have plenty of time on their hands. Maybe picket near the farm market with his picture and "do not buy stolen produce" might cause a big blowup though!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2013 at 11:26AM
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I plan to put alarmed fake tomatoes in my plot. About $20 to make with store bought wireless window sensor alarms. Wish me luck.

    Bookmark   June 10, 2013 at 2:09AM
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It wont help with one person wanting to sell the crops of others but for those passing by that simply want a snack which I would guess is the biggest issue for most gardens a eat me garden may help. I am pushing for one in our garden this year. Eat me garden.... a spot/plot that belongs really to no one that has editables that will not be missed. A sign stating that If you must take something take it from here! or something to that effect. If anyone has one of these I'd love to know what was planted and if it has helped... I am new here so you can pm me if that is possible so we do not take over this post.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2014 at 5:22PM
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Ink tomatoes! Like the ones they have on clothing in stores!!!! Or ones that emit a terrible odor, like rotting garbage! As much as I hear about theft in community gardens, I'm really surprised no company has come up with something like this yet.

All kidding aside, a tall sturdy fence and a padlock might deter him. The fence could be really pretty with some non edible vines growing on them. A hedge of something thorny along the bottom might make cutting through the fence and crawling over not worth it. Maybe some really nasty roses; I hear New Dawn, a monster pink climbing rose has some gnarly thorns. That sucker grows +12ft. Then layer some raspberry brambles, and you've got a beautiful and bountiful fence San Quentin Pen would be jealous of.

    Bookmark   April 9, 2014 at 1:26PM
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I don't believe in people who will steal expensive eggplant because the eggplants are expensive. Call me naive if you will.

If anyone is stealing veggies from a garden it's probably because they are desperate. If anyone is whacking flower heads, they are probably teenagers.

Fences are only a little bit useful in sketchy urban areas during the daylight to protect gardeners.

A better solution for stolen veggies is to continue efforts to invite the local community to the plots and to sponsor education programs, seed sharing programs, etc. So that your community garden can be a ... community garden, and not something to be protected from the local community.

    Bookmark   April 17, 2014 at 10:49PM
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