Arrow-right Camera
News >  Features >  Washington Voices

Vandals Plague Otis Orchard Farmer Who Just Wants To Grow Crops In Peace

There’s a sign on Wellesley Avenue in Otis Orchards warning would-be field roamers to stay off farmer David Kinyon’s land.

He’s offering a $100 reward for the arrest of the joyrider who in July caused $200 worth of damage to his irrigation pipes.

“People have no respect for what we do,” says the Kinyon, 48. “It’s not so much about the equipment, it’s about pride.”

On Thursday, a man came to Kinyon’s roadside stand, Farm Fresh Produce, and told him he knew who the vandal was and where he lived. Kinyon offered to pay the reward, but the man refused.

Kinyon said he’s not really interested in having the person arrested, he just wants to know who the person is.

“I don’t have a clue as to why these idiots do this,” he says. Usually at night, people - teenagers to grown men - drive their trucks, cars and motorcycles through Kinyon’s 40 acres, smashing corn, pumpkins or beans.

“Last year, one of ‘em got stuck on a pumpkin,” he says with a sly grin. “That’s how I caught ‘em. They needed help to get out.”

In that incident, Kinyon says, more than $150 worth of pumpkins was lost.

Another time, Kinyon saw a man picking corn and loading the ears into a truck. A determined Kinyon chased him out of the field, from Otis Orchards all the way to Post Falls.

After running red lights and driving through people’s yards in an unsuccessful effort to escape, the man finally stopped and Kinyon made him pay for the corn.

“You know, if people were to ask David for some corn or pumpkins for their family, I’m sure he’d just give it to them,” says his wife, Lisa, 44.

“When you work as hard as a farmer does, it doesn’t matter whether it’s one bean or a whole field, whether it’s a hundred dollars or one,” says Kinyon.

“You’ve nurtured it, fed it, watered it and watched it. It all hurts.”

Kinyon works long hours, rising at 4:30 a.m. to check the fields and start the day’s work. Right before he’s ready to hit the sack around 9 p.m., Kinyon sometimes drives his blue pick-up truck into his corn fields, sits with his lights off and waits to see what happens.

If Kinyon’s not watching, his neighbors are. He and his wife sometimes get calls in the middle of the night from friends who say they see headlights in the fields or people fooling around near the crops.

The Kinyons moved to Otis Orchards from Spokane in 1981. They farmed one acre of beans and sold the beans in their front yard. In 1986, they opened their stand at Wellesely and Harvard Road.

Now, 15 years later, they farm 40 acres and ship produce all the way to Hermiston, Ore.

So far this year, damage to the Kinyons’ fields and irrigation pipes hasn’t been as costly as in years past. In 1995, they had to replace $400 worth of pipes; in 1994, vandals did $300 worth of damage.

Kinyon says he loses between $100 and $200 in crops every year because of vandals. For someone who makes $10,000 from a year’s harvest, losses from crop and equipment damage - and the hours of labor put into replacing the pipes - eat up a big chunk of his farming income.

“He cherishes his crops,” says Lisa. “When someone hurts them, it hurts him too.

“You work so hard between the weather or the squirrels and moles - your crops are always a gamble,” she says. “Then some idiot comes along and in an instant, it’s gone.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo