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Don’t Go Stealing Our Crops

I’ll never forget the day my husband came home and told me he’d had to run ladies out of our sweet potato field. He had plowed the field that morning, and before workers could get there to harvest, the ladies were helping themselves to our crops. 

People stealing crops is not new, nor is it legal. In fact, in North Carolina, it is a felony that has been on the books since the 1800s. According to the NC General Statute, the “larceny of ungathered crops” can earn someone up to 30 months in prison. The statute also addresses the theft of ginseng (which grows wild in western North Carolina pine needles or pine straw), horses, mules, swine, cattle, or dogs.

Not only is the theft a felony, but also it’s trespassing and a liability on farmers and landowners. Most fields have either “No Trespassing” signs posted or purple paint on light poles, trees, posts, or somewhere on the property. (In North Carolina, the Landowner Protection Act allows landowners to post their land using purple paint. This may be different in other states.) 

This year, I’ve seen reports about arrests for thefts of a truckload of watermelons and one about someone stealing industrial hemp plants. Those are just the thefts that were reported or where someone was caught. It doesn’t account for the people who helped themselves to a few peanuts they wanted to take home and boil. Or the ones who didn’t think twice about snipping cotton stalks to use for decoration. Or someone who went in the cornfield to take stalks for their front porch. If they stole a few ears to cook, odds are around here they took dent corn, not sweet corn, so their dinner tasted as good as their deed. 

It may not seem like much to take a few apples or a bucket of sweet potatoes, but to us farmers, it is a big deal. We have invested time, money, sweat, and more into making that crop. We are growing these crops to support our families – not to decorate your holiday table.

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