Schnepf Farms has been a magnet for thieves in recent months, leaving the owner to raise a banner that offers an appeal to the conscience and a $5,000 reward.
Theft is nothing new on the 300-acre property at Rittenhouse and Riggs roads in Queen Creek, but the number of thefts and the value of the items have increased considerably over the years.
Ten years ago it was not uncommon for someone to snatch a few bags of potatoes or a new peach tree, said Carrie Schnepf. Someone even stole a tractor once but abandoned it near the farm.
But in the past few months, the thieves have made off with 10 heat lamps, generators, an air compressor, sound equipment, ATVs and electric John Deere Gators, bicycles, banquet tables and pedal cars.
The value: about $20,000.
“It’s just frustrating. We understand the economy is bad,” Schnepf said. “It would cost us thousands and thousands of dollars to put cameras everywhere and to put fencing around the entire farm, and we just can’t do that and, really, we shouldn’t have to do that.”
The farm has too much equipment to lock up, and the thieves are even striking in daylight.
Schnepf Farms has been much more than just a plot of land to grow crops, serving almost as an outdoor convention center.
It was the home for nine years of Country Thunder and hosted EdgeFest, an alternative music concert, and assorted other festivals.
It has an annual Peach Festival, Pumpkin Chili Party and quarterly Dinner on the Orchard, an event where diners are served a fancy meal in the middle of the Peach Orchard.
Schnepf said five juveniles and two employees have been prosecuted for stealing from the farm.
Out of frustration and hope to stave off the stealing, she has created two big banners for drivers who pass the farm.
“Merry Christmas to the persons who stole our heat lamps, air compressors, generators, sound equipment, ATV, Gators and our TRUST,” it reads. “Please do the right thing, or maybe a $5,000 reward would help. Neighbors please help us, The Schnepfs.”