GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — It is harvest time at orchards throughout Michigan. But, not all those harvests are legal.
Thieves have hit at least three orchards since September: two in Michigan and one just over the Indiana border.
While none of the orchards are here in West Michigan, local farmers are taking notice.
“What a strange thing to steal and where are they going with them?” Ed Robinette, owner of Robinette’s Apple Haus & Winery, said.
In LaPorte Indiana, an estimated 50,000 golden delicious apples were taken.
Someone made off with a ton of pumpkins from a farm in the thumb area of Michigan in early October.
More recently, more apples were taken from an Orchard near Brighton.
The loss to farmers estimated to be tens of thousands of dollars. Insurance doesn’t cover those thefts, so the farmers hit by the thievery are out of luck.
Some farmers have resorted to setting up trail cams to try to catch the thieves in the act.
None of this makes any sense to Robinette, whose family has been growing apples for over 100 years.
“You’ve got to be able to transport it — they’re bulky. You’d have to have trucking and quite a crew to steal it and so, it’s just hard to fathom how this happens with nobody noticing.” Robinette said.
Even if you figure out a way to steal it, how do you fence fruit? Especially something that’s perishable.
“The big packing houses that are buying fruit from farmers. They don’t just buy fruit from anybody. They have to know where that fruit came from? How it was cared for during the year? (And) what kind of pesticides was on that fruit and when?” Robinette said.
He’s never heard of a black market for produce.
“I can’t imagine there is.” Robinette said. “Even a produce stand that’s buying fruit — they want to know where their fruit came from.”