2017-09-07 / Front Page

Farmstand thief caught; farmer undeterred

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

Visitors to Leelanau often comment on the quaint practice of selling home-grown fruits and vegetables from road side stands.

The stands work on the honor system: you take a quart of cherries or a few cucumbers and put the right amount of money in a cash box.

Those boxes may be locked and anchored down, but stand proprietors often leave bowls of quarters out so folks can make change.

Usually when the money occasionally disappears, they take it in stride. But when it occurs too often, they grow weary.

Like John and Carol Coldwell of Leland Township who have been selling asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, cherries and lettuce at their East Alpers Road stand for about eight years.

The Coldwells were recently robbed twice — on Aug. 30 and 31. The male suspect was captured on video and can be seen entering the stand and forcibly removing cash from the lock box, according to reports from the Leelanau County Sheriff’s Office.

The video also captured the man’s vehicle, a late model silver Chevrolet with black mirrors and grill.

The man was turned into the Sheriff’s Office by his parents after they saw a picture and a description that was posted on Facebook.

The man later confessed to the crimes and will be prosecuted, said Sheriff Mike Borkovich, but he has not yet been arraigned in court. The Enterprise will publish his name after he’s arraigned.

The Coldwells say they’ve been getting robbed regularly — three times this year, a couple of times last year and about once a year before that, said Carol Coldwell.

She estimates that each time about $10 to $30 is taken.

“It’s too much of a temptation to kids,” Coldwell said.

She said the thief — who she did not recognize — was able to pull the box open and grab the cash.

So will the Coldwells continue to sell produce at their roadside stand?

Yes, after her son-in-law puts another bar across the top of the cash box or installs a more secure box.

Return to top