A family’s roadside fruit stand in Greater Victoria was robbed on the first day of the season.
Leeanne and Jack Guthrie spent hours on Sunday picking raspberries at their son Jonathan’s small farm and were excited to get the season underway, selling them at their stand. However, by evening they found they had been targeted by a thief and their stand’s fridge and cashbox were empty.
The baskets typically sell for $5 and the couple can make $60 on a good day.
“The reason we were so upset was we had just opened it up, dusted it off, put the fridge out and the first two baskets go missing,” said Jack.
“We just thought, ‘Already?’ It was a real kick in the stomach, so disheartening,” agrees Leeanne.
The couple have lived in their home on Wallace Drive for 32 years and have run the road-side stand for much of that time. The stand was already there when they moved in and their house, built in 1938, once sat on a large strawberry farm. To them, the stand is a community resource and running it continues the legacy of the area’s small town charm. Over the years, the stand has also grown to be a focal point for their family, with the couple moving from selling flowers to plums, from their backyard tree. Their son Jonathan fell in love with agriculture selling the plums and is now a farmer, running Mt. St. Michael’s Farm in Saanichton with his wife Kate.
“Jonathan’s friends would come over and pick plums and we’d say, ‘You know what? Whatever you pick, you put on the stand and you keep the money.’ It was good, it made him a hard worker and now he’s living it. It’s in our blood, that’s for sure,” says Leeanne.
Unfortunately, the theft hasn’t been an isolated incident, with Jack and Leeanne able to reel off a list of neighbours who have had their stands stolen from. Last spring, Jonathan’s own beautiful wooden stand was vandalized, with wooden boards crow-barred, and the cashbox ripped out.
“Over the past year we’ve lost $30 or $40, it isn’t huge but it’s still like someone’s dipped into our pocket and taken 4o bucks, it’s definitely theft,” says Jack.
“You feel violated, it’s wrong and it makes me sad,” adds Leeanne.
Stand owners are now wondering what they can do. Many like the honour system as that’s the type of community they believe they live in and want to trust people. But others are now looking at technological solutions like cameras and even e-transfer payment systems.
On Sunday, Leeanne posted on Facebook about her experience and was overwhelmed by the supportive response.
“The community coming together has been unbelievably positive,” she says.
“It’s rallied the neighbours and hopefully they’ll keep an eye out,” agreed Jack, noting that people have been paying the correct amount since the theft.
The Guthries are keen to emphasize that if someone is facing difficulties, they would be happy to help them get a picking job or even gift them the raspberries if they are truly in need. They just hope the thief reflects on the energy and investment farmers like Jonathan spend to grow produce, and the hours stand owners put in to provide such community resources.