North Carolina farmers battle roadside potato thieves

ANGIER, N.C. (WNCN) – Farmers in Harnett County have to deal with a lot of things to make sure their crops get to your plates – bugs, birds, weather, but one thing that may be unexpected is “neighbors.”

Harnett County farmers say each year they have to deal with people coming onto their private property and stealing sweet potatoes.

For many, sweet potato season is how they make their living.

On Dupree Farms, dozens pick potatoes so your Thanksgiving spread is complete.

But the employees aren’t the only ones out in the fields.

“See this lady right here, I don’t know who she is. Just out there picking them up,” said Roger Dupree of Dupree Farms.

Dupree says back in the day, a scarecrow was enough to keep unwanted guests off his crops, now the times are changing.

“You see potato fields on the side of the road, that doesn’t mean they’re free,” he said.

While CBS North Carolina was with Dupree in his field, he had to scare off several different people.

He says he can understand when people take them to eat for themselves, but in some cases people are loading up their own trucks to sell them.

“They had four or five big bags in the back of the truck,” said Dupree. “Takes advantage of me we work hard ever since last spring, and it’s all our work”

Dupree says it happens so often, he can’t even be sure how much money he’s losing.

Price loss aside, Dupree says one of the biggest concerns is the liability of people on his property.

“Somebody could fall and break their leg, and then they’re blaming me because there is a hole out there,” said Dupree.

When a 40-pound box of sweet potatoes is only $12 dollars, Dupree says it’s much easier and safer just to buy the potatoes from them.