Lodi, Calif. (KTXL) – San Joaquin County deputies recovered and returned more than 100 bare-root cherry trees that had been stolen from a Lodi farm.
The same farm was hit twice in less than a week.
“It’s real expensive, a real problem in agriculture,” said Bruce Blodgett, executive director of the San Joaquin County Farm Bureau.
Blodgett said for some farmers, this kind of agricultural theft could be the difference between having a harvest or not.
“If they can’t get their trees now, they’re delayed another year, that means they’re a season behind. That means one more year where they will have no income,” Blodgett said.
San Joaquin County deputies recovered 111 bare-root cherry trees from a Stockton homeless encampment.
“You know it doesn’t happen every day but it does happen quite, quite often, I think too often and it tends to be seasonal,” said Deputy Sandra Mendez, San Joaquin Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman.
Mendez said the department’s Agriculture, Gangs, Narcotics Enforcement Team or AG-net detectives discovered the stolen crops while investigating a separate case.
“Totally by coincidence,” Mendez said.
Deputies arrested 43-year old Marcos Barron for being a felon in possession of stolen property.
The cherry tree roots are valued at more than $3,000.
Blodgett says cherries are a top-10 cash crop in the county bringing in millions of dollars a year, so any theft impacts farmers and the local economy.
“It affects those packing houses, it affects the amount of hours that are available for work for folks, it affects a whole host of people,” Blodgett said.
Farmworkers and deputies say they’ll keep working together to stop agricultural theft from happening and to catch anyone responsible.
“Having people that are out in the rural areas and patrolling in these rural areas is so important” Blodgett said.
“That is why we have the agricultural detectives out there because we have an ongoing issue with not just trees being stolen but fruit, tools and equipment,” said Mendez.
Deputies were able to return the stolen bare-root cherry trees to their rightful owner.