FAMILY-RUN pick-your-own farm Goodall’s Strawberries was forced to close its Halloween sales two days short of the big day after raiders snatched thousands of pounds of pumpkins.
The site in Walhampton, Lymington, was entered sometime early on Sunday morning, and between 250 and 330 of the squashes were removed from the bottom field.
The theft was a further blow to the business after recent heavy rain had already resulted in the loss of 150-200 pumpkins when they rotted.
Pauline Goodall, who runs the farm with her husband Brian, daughter Cathy Smith and Cathy’s son Sam, told the A&T they had been left extremely short of stock for the spooky season.
This resulted in the sales ending yesterday (Tuesday) instead of Thursday, after some customers had already had to be turned away as the site could no longer fulfil demand.
Mr Goodall discovered the theft when he arrived at the farm around 9am on Sunday, but Mrs Goodall pointed out there seemed to be no sign of forced entry.
“It’s odd because we locked the gate at the bottom of the field, but when my husband came in it was unlocked,” she said.
“The lock wasn’t damaged because he was able to put it back on again.
“We have informed the police, but they won’t do anything. That was just to get the crime reference number to claim on the insurance.”
She continued: “Some of the pumpkins are really big and the biggest ones sell for about £16 each. Up to 300 pumpkins stolen, costing an average of £10 each, could be about £3,000 worth. That is quite a hit to take.
“We’re really disappointed. We only get this one chance and that’s it. You grow your crop and you sell it – that’s it. If you don’t have it, you don’t make a profit until the next year.”
Although running a pick-your-own strawberry field sometimes sees people eating the fruit while picking it, Mrs Goodall said the weekend’s incident was the first significant theft to hit the business.
She surmised that the offenders were “well organised” and would have used a truck onto which the pumpkins would have been loaded.
As well as cutting short the Halloween sales season, Mrs Smith lamented that the incident had also affected an activity day for children with special needs. Organised in collaboration with the SCARF New Forest charity, this took place at the site on Wednesday.
“We were going to take them to the field to pick their own pumpkins to carve, but we won’t have any pumpkins for them to do that now,” Mrs Smith said.
“We’re still doing other activities with them, but it’s still really sad as they were very excited. It’s really disappointing.”
She added: “It’s annoying and frustrating. We’ve worked hard and somebody has come along and stolen them.”
Mrs Goodall announced the site had run out of pumpkins in a post on her Facebook page on Tuesday evening.
“We are so sorry to let you down if you haven’t already bought yours,” she wrote.
“Next year we will plant more so, hopefully, no one is disappointed. Happy Halloween from all at Goodalls.”
Mrs Goodall added to the A&T that the family was hoping for “happier times” with a bumper crop when it reopens the fields for strawberry picking in May next year.
Police investigating the raid are urging people to come forward if they may have witnessed any suspicious activity in the area around the time it took place.
Anyone with information should contact Hampshire police on 101, quoting crime reference number 44190386112, or call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.