Local News

Lee County Farmer Victim of Crop Sabotage

Posted April 23, 2008

— The state Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services and sheriff's deputies are investigating a case of tobacco sabotage at a Lee County farm.

John Gross has been watching the growth in his greenhouse of what eventually would be 150 acres of tobacco plants. Around this time, he usually is transporting his plants from the greenhouse to the field, but this year his crop is ruined.

"We almost pulled our hair out trying to figure out why," Gross said.

When Gross returned from vacation last month, he noticed a concrete block that usually holds the greenhouse door shut had been moved. He later noticed his plants were dying.

Gross asked state agriculture officials to investigate. They determined someone had put a toxic chemical on his tobacco plants.

"They went all the way down one side and all the way down the other side" of the greenhouse, Gross said.

While tests are being done to determine what chemical was used, deputies are trying to find the person responsible.

"We're not sure if it's something personal or a competitor at this time," said Capt. Jeff Johnson, with the Lee County Sheriff"s Office.

Gross estimated that losing his plants will cost him $50,000.

"I haven't done anything to anybody. I haven't had any trouble with any neighbors. I don't know. I'm at a loss," he said.

Gross has insurance, but he said it only covers crops already planted in the field. However, his farm owner's insurance may cover some of the loss.

The sheriff is offering a reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Anyone with information about the incident should call the Lee County Sheriff's Office at 919-718-4563.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • mramorak Apr 24, 2008

    ok,i get it.

  • Tom Morrow Apr 24, 2008

    There is no doubt that tobacco helped this state, as well as our neighbors, develop. But it is time to find another "cash crop". Tobacco is deadly. Period. Sure, I used to smoke, but I feel pretty confident that I am not going to die of a smoking related illness. And that drives up the cost of health-care for all of us.

    All that being said, however, most of you are in the right that this type of behavior cannot be tolerated. No one has the right to destroy someone else's property, basically to take money from his pocket. Oh, and since we're talking about chain reaction monetary events, because his insurance has to pay a claim on this, insurance rates in general will increase.

    People don't think about these things before they act upon their brilliant ideas...

  • Joe Blow Apr 24, 2008

    What a terrible way to come home from a vacation. Hope they get to the bottom of it!

  • rumbleehockey04 Apr 24, 2008

    i feel bad for this guy!! him and his are very nice people. they have a really cool corn maze and haunted trail at halloween.

  • Weetie Apr 24, 2008

    "It's a legal crop, and tobacco (and alcohol spirits) built this country"

    THANK YOU! My family grew tobacco when I was growing up. Most of them still do today and farming IS hard work. You are right! TOBACCO built this country and ...if you don't like NC - go home!

  • Scubagirl Apr 24, 2008

    "Where did Mr. Gross go on vacation? How long did he stay?"
    what difference does that make? His property was still destroyed. One should be able to go on vacation without stuff like this happening, regardless of where or how long

  • exfire Apr 24, 2008

    I love farmers and they have a tougher job, but I bet this was an overspray from another source and all by accident. Whether one of those big rigs that have the booms out 20 feet or more or a tractor with a smaller boom putting out weed killer and the wind drifted the product. This farmer had to have someone opening the curtains daily or he may have keep them open already constantly so the plants could toughen up for the transplant and to prevent them from burning up during the day hours under all that plastic. I hate this for him. This is a hard loss to take. And before someone gets on the band wagon about putting out weed killers on fields, this is a no till situation that helps save our topsoil. Someday you go talk to a farmer, you that have never been exposed, and see if you could stand the exposure of their job.

    Thank you all farmers for what you do for us. Food, clothes, etc. exfire

  • superman Apr 24, 2008

    A competitor is not a very good assumption. Whether this guy has a crop or not will not affect anyone else. It is not like he is going to sell his crop in front of his house. That might be true if he were selling fruit or vegetables -- but tobacco-- I dont think so.

  • doodad Apr 24, 2008

    Not suggesting that this wasn't vandalism, but it is possible that these spots could have died as a result of a fungus or if 2-4D was sprayed nearby, if the sides were already open, the ventilation could have pulled it inside and it settled in these spots. 2-4D will volitize and move during an air inversion.

    Just a thought.

  • oldschooltarheel Apr 24, 2008

    Now we may lose another non-agribusiness farmer thanks to the sneaking poisoner. Likely the vandal will never be caught & if by some miracle he/she is there'll be all kinds of obfuscation about how "tobacco is bad" that'll actually get public airing. He poor guy out his major cash crop will get just what he has now - no crop & a contaminated greenhouse. People shouldn't have to stand guard on their property to defend against sneak poisoners. What a sorry low Abner Snopes kind of move.