The suspects — 38-year-old Donald Andrew New and 23-year-old Scottie Phil Randall Ledford — were staying at the Oconee Point Campground, which borders the university’s orchards.
According to reports, farmhands found the locks on gates at Clemson’s Musser Fruit Research Farm cut, and they began calling around to vendors who regularly buy peaches. One business told them that a man had come in the week before with a sample of peaches, telling the buyer that they’d have a truckload the following week.
The “Big Red” breed the university grows is easily identifiable.
Law enforcement was called to the theft at the farm on South Friendship Road in Seneca, South Carolina, on Aug. 22.
Beyond the financial implications of such a theft, it’s also significant because this is a research site and the university keeps records on each tree in the orchard and the fruit that they bear. The farm’s manager reported that the market value of the stolen fruit was around $3,000 to $5,000.
The theft is expected to cost the farm a year of research.
New and Ledford are charged with grand larceny, trespassing, and damage or destruction of a research facility. They have been released from the Oconee County Detention Center on bond.
Musser Fruit Research Center is one of the premier fruit research facilities worldwide and is part of a large acreage operation consisting of almost a dozen research farms. Research conducted at the Musser center develops novel information and practical applications that enhance fruit production in South Carolina, the United States, and the world.
Research activities at the center include horticulture, breeding and genetics, pomology, entomology, virology, and soil science research programs. The 240-acre center has orchards of peaches, nectarines, apples, blackberries, blueberries, figs, and grapes.
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