Watermelon stealing used to be a right of passage in the South, where the fruit was cheap and plentiful. But California is a far cry from the Southern states, and the price of watermelons has increased over the years.
After $3,500 worth of watermelons was stolen from a farm in Gridley, California, earlier this month, the Butte County Sheriff says that the thief (or thieves) is still at large. The investigation is actively ongoing.
On Sept. 8, a farmer reported that about half an acre of watermelons were stolen from his property. These weren’t any ordinary watermelons — law enforcement says that the hybrid seed watermelons stolen have a unique light-yellow color and are grown solely for the seeds they produce.
Reports indicate that that same day, the watermelon grower found a homemade fruit stand along Highway 99 where his stolen watermelons were being sold. The farmer recognized his melons due to their unique coloring.
Unfortunately, only a lockbox was attached to the stand with no people present. Pretty trusting for a thief — but if you’re selling stolen fruit, there’s not much to lose.
So, why would anyone steal seed watermelons for a fruit stand? A little digging into hybrid seed watermelons indicates they’re marked similarly on the outside. And all sources seem to suggest that yellow melons are known for having a sweeter, apricot-like flavor. Or, perhaps the seed melons were a case of mistaken identity to an untrained eye.
The Sheriff’s Office and the Butte County Agricultural Commissioner recovered the stolen melons and are still looking for suspects. Anyone with information is urged to call (530) 538-7321.