When Ben Obal opened his family’s farm stand in Courtenay Friday morning he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“It’s just sad and I’ve lived here my whole life right,” said Obal, who owns Bates Beach Farm Market with his father, Mike.
According to Mike Obal, thieves took everything in the stand. From cases of produce they’d grown to coolers full of pies they’d baked, to stacks of homemade soups and even artisan soaps.
“They cleaned out our cooler, took probably 30, 40 dozen eggs from us,” added Mike.
Besides the produce, thieves also made off with electronics that kept the business running.
“So frustrating, and then they take tubs of ice cream, frozen ice cream – which I’m thinking unless you’ve got a big commercial freezer – we’re talking pick-up truck loads. This is what we’re talking about,” Mike told CHEK News on Saturday.
He estimates more than $6,000 in produce was taken from the stand, that has donated truckloads of produce to local food banks in the past. The theft is hitting especially hard right now, said the owner, after a year of rising fuel and fertilizer prices that have reduced profits dramatically.
“Just to damage it and rip us off like that. It really boils down to what humanity’s about and it’s so hard to recover from that,” he said.
According to area farmers, the theft is part of a rash of break-ins and thefts from local farm stands this year.
“It just really infuriated me. I have many friends who are farmers in the Comox Valley and I know that this is not an isolated event, unfortunately,” said neighbour Scott Melville.
In November, the Red Barn Market in Saanich’s Matticks Farm location was broken into and thieves made off with thousands of dollars in products there too.
“But farmers can’t afford this. We’re paying $2 more per litre, and my produce prices are lower this year than they’ve ever been,” said Mike.
“When something like this happens, it’s just one more nail in the coffin where you go, ‘What are we doing this for?'” he said.
So the Obals are closing their farm stand for the year on Sunday, weeks ahead of what was planned, to make repairs and improve security. The family is appealing for anyone with information on their break-in to share it with Comox Valley RCMP.