Thieves hit Newton community garden

NEWTON, Kansas – Thieves in Newton have hit one of the last places you might expect, a community garden!

“It’s called the Giving Garden, not the Taking Garden,” Scott Eckert, the garden’s co-founder, said.

That’s what has green-thumbed volunteers disgusted that people would sneak into their community garden in Newton and steal watermelons and cantaloupes, produce that goes to a good cause.

“The little pans we put the metal on stayed there. We always take the pans out when we pick the melons, so we knew that somebody else was picking them,” said Gerald Greene, the garden’s volunteer master gardener.

The Giving Garden has grown fresh produce for 15 years. The fruits and vegetables are donated every year to the Harvey County Salvation Army to feed the hungry for free.

“People think it’s the taking garden and it’s not,” Eckert said. “If you want something out of here, go to the Salvation Army and they’ll give it to you.”

In many cases, the stolen fruit wasn’t even ripe enough to eat. Some were left to rot in the Kansas heat.

“They didn’t pick it when it was ready, they picked it just because it was there, and so the crop is lost,” Greene said.

Newton Police have investigated produce thefts at the garden before and are looking into this case, but the garden’s directors say they are resisting the urge to put more security measures in place.

“The idea is for people to get that it is a community garden because it’s wide open,” Eckert said. “We want people to know about it. We want people to know what it’s for. We just don’t want people helping themselves.”

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