Thieves Sought for Taking More than 90 Pecan Trees - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/10/06

Thieves Sought for Taking More than 90 Pecan Trees

Jody Kemp surveys his twice-targeted property. Jody Kemp surveys his twice-targeted property.

We hear about things stolen all the time. Cars. Furniture. Almost everything. But how do you steal an orchard? Someone in Toombs county did it. Twice.

Now one grower's field has become a crime scene and you can help catch a thief.

All across south Georgia, pecan trees are in bloom as they start the season. Jody Kemp just hopes his stay in the ground long enough to get that big. In one night last month, someone stole 50 seedlings out of the ground.

"You work out here with four people drilling holes with an auger to put them in the ground and come out here to find them gone," he said. "What's even worse is to replant and they've stolen them again."

That's right. Last Sunday, he replanted and by Wednesday, 40 of those were gone. "You don't sleep good after it happens," Kemp told us. "You get a knot in your stomach thinking about it."

While Kemp estimates he's out $5,000 for the trees, the crooks won't get that much for them. Unlike stolen TVs or stereos, these trees can't just sit around forever.

"They've broken dormancy and when you disturb them now, you've broken the new root growth and buds get broken," explained Kemp. "If they're planning on selling them and somebody buys them bare-root this late in the season, they're wasting their money on them."

He says pecans were supposed to be an alternative to growing tobacco. While drought and disease aren't as much of a challenge, he never thought theft would be an issue.

If you have any information on this case, you're asked to call the Toombs County Sheriff's Office at 912-526-6862.

The thieves stole 92 trees in all. Kemp is offering a $1,000 reward for information.

Reported by: Dal Cannady, dcannady@wtoc.com

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