Garlic farmer Leah McLeod heard her dogs barking during the night a few weeks ago but thought nothing of it. The next day, the entire crop at her farm in Cockatoo, 70 kilometres east of Melbourne, was gone. Between 300 and 400 kilograms of organic Australian and Italian garlic, valued at anywhere between $10,000 and $15,000, had been stolen from the field right under her nose. And neither Leah nor the local police seem to have any idea who might be behind the heist.
"The previous evening [the owner] heard her dogs barking and looked out and didn't see anything,” said Senior Sergeant Carolyn Hill, as reported by the ABC. "When she went to go through her property the next day she noticed the garlic crop had been harvested overnight. It probably took a few hours to harvest it and could have been one or two people who have actually committed the crime."
Senior Sergeant Hill also confirmed that yes, several hundred kilos of garlic going missing during the night is a bit unusual. Local police haven’t heard any reports of similar crimes in the area, and they’re reaching out to the public to help them track down the thieves, who struck some time on either the 25th or 26th of November. Anyone going around trying to sell off large amounts of garlic, they say, ought to be treated with suspicion.
"The likely avenues that they might try to on-sell it will be through farmers markets, greengrocers or wholesalers,” Senior Sergeant Hill said. "The other thing is the garlic could be replanted… so it could be to start a whole new crop."
The local garlic-growing community have come together to throw their support behind Leah, who described the loss of her crop as “devastating and disheartening.” Several fellow producers have offered to donate seed stock so that she can replant, regrow, and gradually rebuild her supply.
One such grower, Kirsten Jones, claims she’d “never heard of anyone stealing a crop, particularly a garlic crop.” But she suspects that whoever’s responsible for pulling off the heist probably knew what they were doing.
"You have to know to harvest your garlic at exactly the right time, it can be even a matter of days, and it sounds like the thieves actually knew when to harvest the garlic," she said. "That really surprises and dismays me. I think they must have been going past the crop and checking it out, perhaps driving past daily."
Police have suggested that without the public's help it would be impossible to track down the garlic thieves.
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.