Last Saturday was a celebration at City Roots. For the eighth consecutive year, South Carolina’s first urban farm was the site of the Mardi Gras Columbia festival.
What was discovered early Sunday morning at City Roots was a far cry from a celebration. The urban farm had been robbed, and not for the first time.
Columbia Police Department officers responded to City Roots, located in the 1000 block of Airport Boulevard, Sunday for a larceny incident, according to public information officer Jennifer Timmons.
City Roots owner Eric McClam reported several items were taken from outside the business without permission.
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Among the items that were reported missing was:
- a double-axle utility trailer
- musical instruments
- power tools
- a front loading washer and dryer
“It was pretty brazen,” said McClam, adding that the items weren’t visible from the street as they were hidden, so the suspect or suspects had to walk on to the farm at night. “They literally used our trailer to steal our washer and dryer.”
McClam estimates the items were taken sometime from 10 p.m. Saturday, at the end of the daylong Mardi Gras festival, and 6:30 a.m. Sunday. He said the items are valued at approximately $5,000.
Timmons said the Columbia Police Department continues to investigate the incident. Over the past three years, McClam said City Roots has had “around $20,000,” worth of items taken.
While this isn’t the first time City Roots has been targeted by thieves, McClam hopes it will be the last.
In an effort to stop the stealing, he’s making a difficult decision. It’s one he’s resisted, but now feels forced to make.
“I’m going to put up gates and fences. We’ll also be installing security cameras and a security system,” said McClam, adding he’s always been proud that City Roots was an open farm – until now. “It’s not something I want to do.”
It is something McClam says he has to do to protect the business side of the farm. While City Roots is in no danger of going out of business, the loss of the stolen items has had an impact.
McClam said insurance will cover some of the losses, but he has to pay to replace everything else, and that it causes his insurance premiums to rise.
He said the added expense of installing the security measures will have an impact on City Roots’ profitability at the end of the year. In the short run, these unplanned expenses prevent him from buying more equipment for the farm, or hiring another employee.
“It’s going to affect our bottom line,” McClam said. “I’m a farmer. I want to be farming.”
In spite of the security changes, McClam is optimistic that public perception of City Roots won’t change, and the community will still feel welcomed.
He said news of the incident has reached the community and he’s been pleased by the reaction. A friend is letting him borrow a trailer for the time being and another person is donating a washer and dryer for the farm.
“I’m happy to be located where we are,” said McClam, adding that business will proceed as normal and that City Roots will host the Smoke and Beer Festival on Sunday. “It’s unfortunate and disheartening that people steal. I don’t understand it.
“But we’re going to keep holding events and have people at the farm.”