TERRE HAUTE —
Theft and vandalism have struck the Giving Garden project — a community garden at the Wabash Valley Fairgrounds that has provided more than 21,000 pounds of fresh produce to needy people so far this year.
Master gardeners who regularly volunteer to grow and share fresh vegetables and fruit with area food pantries discovered the destruction of cabbage, broccoli, watermelons and gourds in the garden on Tuesday morning.
“It just kind of knocks the wind out of your sails,” said Greg Fields, chairman of the Giving Garden and a master gardener.
Someone pulled up all of the garden’s cabbage plants, cutting off the heads and taking them. Several broccoli plants were destroyed; watermelons were picked and smashed; and necks were broken off of several decorative gourds.
“It was about 100 pounds of cabbage alone,” Fields said. “I’m afraid someone took it to resell.”
The garden still has some vegetable crops — peppers, zucchini and young broccoli plants — and the master gardeners will continue their community project, he said.
But the gardeners may have to consider installing a fence or take some other action to protect the garden.
While this is the first time the garden has been vandalized in the four years that it has been planted at the fairgrounds, Fields said there have been some prior thefts of produce. In July, he said, he found that someone had picked vegetables and laid them aside as if to come back later to get them.
“If a person is hungry, that’s one thing,” he said of people taking crops to feed themselves or their family.
The vandalism, however, has left a sour taste with the master gardeners.
“The fairgrounds is private property,” said Jim Luzar, Purdue extension educator in Vigo County, noting that anyone who goes on the property to take something from the garden is trespassing.
A change in security is being evaluated, Luzar said.
He also apologized to those in need who depend on the produce from the garden.
“It will not disrupt the spirit of giving from the master gardeners,” Luzar said of the vandalism and theft.
Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @TribStarLisa.