Men stole 4K pounds of peaches from Clemson University farm, deputies say
OCONEE COUNTY, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Two men are facing charges after 4,000 pounds of peaches were stolen from a farm owned by Clemson University.
The Oconee County Sheriff’s Office was called to the theft at Musser Fruit Research Farm on South Friendship Road on Aug. 22. Days after the investigation began, more peaches were stolen. The farm manager says thieves took between 4,000 to 5,000 the first night. Then around 2,000 to 3,000 the second night.
A manager at the farm told deputies he estimated the market value of the peaches to be between $3,000 and $5,000. Employees said their peaches are a “Big Red” breed that is easily identifiable.
Farm workers called around to vendors that regularly buy peaches. One business told them a man came by the week prior with a sample of their peaches, “saying he’d have a truckload of peaches the following week.”
Deputies said the suspects, 38-year-old Donald New and 23-year-old Scottie Ledford, both from Piedmont, were staying at Oconee Point Campground, which borders the orchard. Farmhands said they found locks on their gates cut.
The university farm told investigators they keep meticulous records about each tree in their orchard and the fruit they bear. In addition to the money lost, the theft also cost them a year of research. For 13 years, the research center has studied how soil health impacts peach tree health to improve harvesting around the country.
Investigators say, the suspects sold some of the peaches to one business. Only a portion of the peaches stolen have been located and returned to the farm.
New and Ledford are charged with grand larceny, trespassing, and damage or destruction of a research facility. They have been released from the Oconee County Detention Center on bond.
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