Documentary shows farm crime is no joke

The series profiles victims of crime in rural Canada, including stolen cattle, blueberries, bees, pigeons and oysters

Herds of rustled cattle, millions of stolen bees and a flock of pinched pigeons are only a handful of farm crimes that film producer Geoff Morrison displays in his new documentary series.

The series, titled Farm Crime, tells the stories of farmers across the country who have been victims of crime. The documentary sets a serious tone, underscoring how crime negatively affects a farmer’s well-being and their livelihood.

“I think when I started reading up on these stories, the first thing that surprised me was that there is a large market value for these products,” said Morrison of Big Cedar Films.

“When I think of that one theft involving maple syrup in Quebec, it was enormous in scale, something like $18 million. People were laughing at it, but it was actually serious. It’s incredible someone could pull that off.”

Morrison partnered with CBC to air the series online, releasing a set of six 15-minute episodes each week. They include cases of stolen cattle, blueberries, bees, pigeons and oysters. As well, he profiles a farm that saw a thief butcher stolen animals on site.

Like the maple syrup theft, he said these cases were hardly taken seriously. Mainstream news organizations weren’t reporting on them and, if they did, they were treated like a joke.

“It was clear to me that coverage from big or national publications was light,” he said. “It was somehow hilarious that all these bees were stolen. The local papers did take it a lot more seriously.”

When selecting farmers to profile, he said he wanted people who were comfortable sharing their stories. As well, out of the six provinces he visited, he profiled one farmer per province to showcase agriculture’s diversity.

“At the end of the day, they are good human stories of people willing to share what they’ve gone through,” he said.

The case involving oyster thefts in Prince Edward Island sticks with him the most. Morrison said the oysterman was robbed while tending to his sick wife in hospital. With the help of others, they managed to catch the thief, who was later prosecuted.

“That’s a standout case,” he said. “They handled it well, even with the terrible circumstances they were facing.”

For many of the farmers he profiled, he said crime has had long-lasting effects on them. Some change the way they do business and they feel less secure.

In the case involving stolen pigeons, Morrison said the farmer has lost his sense of security and isn’t entirely comfortable with people on his property.

“That moment of having his pigeons stolen still comes back to him,” he said. “It’s not unique for any victim of crime to feel that way.”

Morrison said he hopes the series makes people, especially those living in cities, more aware of farming and how crime can severely affect farmers.

“I hope they get a greater appreciation for the hard work that goes into growing food and agriculture products,” he said. “These crimes need to be taken seriously and we need to respect those victims, like any victim of crime.”

Farm Crime can be watched online at cbc.ca/farmcrime.

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