A five-finger discount happening lately at farm stands across Long Island Sound has found its way to East Hampton: the theft of corn.
When John Domanic, the hands-on half of the partnership that owns the Little Dog farm stand on Pantigo Road, came to work on Aug. 25, he knew immediately that hooligans had hit the stand — not only stealing but vandalizing as well.
“They took half the heirloom tomatoes and smashed the other half,” he said this week. Produce left in a cooler was stolen as well, along with two big sacks of corn. “They must have had a car,” the farmer said. “These things weigh 60 or 70 pounds each.”
The corn, the only thing sold at the stand not grown on the 10-acre site, which straddles the border between East Hampton Town and Village, is brought in daily from Polak Farms in Riverhead.
Worse yet was the damage done. The thieves knocked all the jams, pickles, and other jarred items to the floor, leaving it strewn with bits of preserves and glass shards. Mr. Domanic speculated that the sound of the jars smashing might have scared them away.
It was a big cleanup, on a day when he was at the stand by himself.
“They took stupid stuff. The white and red-checked towels, they stole all of them.” Mr. Domanic uses the towels to line baskets. He had cleaned them the day before at closing, and had hung them up to dry from a trellised roof above the stand.
“We work too hard,” he said. “Our margin is so slim.” He did not call the police, but plans to now that the season has ended.
He put up a sign that night, hoping the thieves would see it: “If your family is hungry, and you need food, come and speak to me. I will provide you all the food you need.”
With his partner, Marsha LaTessa, Mr. Domanic is in his second year of operation. Last season was a break-even year for Little Dog, he said, but this one was tougher. Besides two-legged thieves, the four-legged ones have been a problem. “The deer made a hole in the mesh fence,” he said. A doe and two fawns ate their way through his sunflowers before he discovered the gap, and he has had to bring in extra sunflowers from other local stands.
But, he said, the partners are in it for the long haul. Mr. Domanic takes great pride in the medicine wheel, an herb garden planted by Ms. LaTessa, as well as their many strains of tomato. In preparation for next year, he has already mapped out a larger growing area.
In Connecticut, where the theft of corn from farm stands has become a recurring problem, farmers are said to be planting feed corn, used for livestock, around the perimeter of their fields to confuse thieves. On Aug. 27, The New York Times reported on the theft of corn from farm stands in Bristol and Wethersfield.