The owners of Brown's Family Farms were relieved that their wild Newfoundland blueberries had escaped the worst of Hurricane Larry, but when they went to harvest the last of their crop on Saturday, they received a nasty shock.
More than three acres of the farm, about 40 kilometres outside St. John's, had already been harvested, likely by hand rakes, said co-owner Nancy White. The thieves knocked down a sign and covered the field in tire tracks and footprints.
"There's not a berry left on the bush," White said in an interview with The St. John's Morning Show. "We were pretty upset and pretty much just kept walking around in disbelief."
White said it's difficult to determine the exact number of berries stolen, but a conservative estimate puts the loss at 1,000 lbs — in Newfoundland terms, she said, that's about 200-250 salt beef buckets worth of blueberries. However, the true loss could be as much as 3,000 lbs, she said.
White said she and Brown purchased the land in 2018, and they've been working hard to get their farm up and running. They grow Newfoundland wild blueberries, rather than the cultivated variety sold in most grocery stores.
White said the blueberry heist must have taken significant time, many hands, and professional equipment.
"It's not a gallon of berries, it's a significant amount of berries. So whoever harvested these berries would have the equipment and the capacity to deal with it," she said.
She said the culprits are likely selling the berries to a bulk buyer or, if they have the right equipment, processing the berries themselves.
"You could see those berries anywhere."
White said the theft is a blow to their business, especially since they can no longer fulfil some of their bigger orders.
"I think we're going to be seeing challenges with this for the next while," she said.
White said they've found berry pickers in their fields before, but when asked to leave they usually comply. They've always had a fence and signs to deter peoples but they're going to look at additional ways to secure the farm.
White and Brown have been in contact with the RCMP, and they're checking trail cameras to see if there is any video of the thieves. White hopes someone with information about the theft will come forward.
"I don't think they understand what they've done. Maybe they do. But, you know, we'd really like for people to just respect farmers' property."