Greater public awareness of the cost of trespassing on farmland is one positive result of a December 28 joyride in a Saanich hayfield.
Two trucks ran amok in the 10-acre field farmed by Longview Farms, said general manager Ryan Vantreight. The 17-year-old drivers were caught when the trucks became stuck in the mud.
“The police were called, the individuals were caught and tow trucks had to come pull them out,” he wrote in a Facebook post the following day.
The post has racked up more than 40,000 shares to date and reached 5 million people. There have been close to 7,300 comments on the post, including people who expressed remorse for similar incidents in their own youth.
“It went viral, which in my world is fantastic,” Vantreight said. “The positive is that the broader community gets educated.”
An estimate of the damages from the incident is still being determined but will easily be thousands of dollars between lost sales revenue and the cost of remediating the field, which is part of 150 acres the farm has certified for organic production. Vantreight said it was reserved for expansion of the farm’s organic production.
Longview farms 400 acres in total, of which about 100 acres are in hay.
But the expense is still very real, and the attention the incident has garnered has prompted the perpetrators to step forward and pledge to make things right.
“They’re very remorseful,” Vantreight said. “They’ve owned it. … They’ve offered to help in any way to make it right.”
Based on the evidence to date, police have recommended a charge of criminal mischief over $5,000. Whether the farm pursues criminals charges, initiates a civil matter or accepts damages has yet to be determined, however.
“It’s still too early to know what direction this is going to go,” said Vantreight, noting that the final decision will be up to the farm owner.
Longview is owned by Westerkirk Capital Corp., which also owns seaplane manufacturer Viking Air.
Recent months have seen moves across the country designed to send a tough message regarding trespass on farm properties. BC passed amendments to trespass legislation in November that broadened the definition of premises protected from trespass and stiffened penalties. Other provinces have taken similar moves, or are considering them.