A B.C. farm had a vital piece of equipment stolen during last month's floods, and is asking neighbours to support each other by keeping an eye out.
Daniel Oostenbrink, co-owner of The Local Harvest Market, says their M9540 Kubota tractor was stolen from their Lickman Road property during the early morning hours of Nov. 26.
"It’s painful. We are not angry at the thieves, we are more just sorry that they feel the need to do this,” he tells Glacier Media. “It hits the heart a little harder when you have your fellow human beings stoop that low.”
Their fields were flooded after a series of storms rolled through the province, causing widespread damage and flooding.
"We had two feet or something like that total. Most of that fell in the second half of November, which is just crazy,” Oostenbrink recalls. "Our fields are generally well-drained because we invested a lot of money into putting in a draining system but we had water everywhere, three to four inches over all the fields.”
He says the damage wasn’t as bad as his neighbours in the floodplain areas, but their crops were impacted.
"There were a few things that suffered. We lost some of our carrots, celery really impacted. Celery, we can usually keep quite late in the season, but we lost quite a bit there.”
When they were trying to clean up from the flooding, they noticed their tractor was stolen.
"It was gone. They [the thieves] bypassed our gate, at the front there. There are universal keys in all these tractors,” he says.
Normally, the farm keeps its tractor locked inside with an alarm system. But Oostenbrink says it was hooked up outside, as staff were dealing with the flooding.
RCMP tells Glacier Media police officers are doing countless patrols in the affected flood areas.
Abbotsford Police have roving patrols along roadways and have also set up checkpoints in Sumas Prairie. The checkpoints are staffed 24 hours a day to provide extra protection.
The tractor will cost about $50,000 to replace.
"We're left without a machine that is a pretty essential piece of equipment for us because we have 40 acres of a mixed vegetable pasture farm," says Oostenbrink. "We need a pretty large tractor to pull our spreaders and do some of the work we need to do.”
The B.C. farmer is now considering using manual labour and not relying on a piece of machinery to do the job.
“Maybe there is a way to do [it] without a piece of equipment and replace that with human strength and employ the local population,” he ponders.
A security camera did capture some of the theft and also showed vehicles driving by as it happened. Oostenbrink is asking people to be vigilant. If you see something suspicious, call police, he says.