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Farms struggle with perils of honor system

  • Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm in Temple is one of many local farms to have an honor system when it comes to buying goods, meaning that a customer puts money for purchased items in a box without any interaction with an employee. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm in Temple is one of many local farms to have an honor system when it comes to buying goods, meaning that a customer puts money for purchased items in a box without any interaction with an employee. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm in Temple is one of many local farms to have an honor system when it comes to buying goods, meaning that a customer puts money for purchased items in a box without any interaction with an employee. (Nicholas Handy / Monadnock Ledger-Transcript) Staff photo by Nicholas Handy—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Above: Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm in Temple is one of many local farms to utilize the honor system when it comes to buying goods, meaning that a customer purchases goods from an unmanned farm stand or store by placing the appropriate amount of money in a box or other receptacle. Left: Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm is constructing a new building to house retail operations. The expansion could allow the farm to hire an employee to monitor the farm’s goods.  Staff photos by Nicholas Handy



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Friday, November 17, 2017 10:38AM

Connolly Brothers Dairy Farm has been robbed twice in the past four months, an unfortunate byproduct of utilizing an honor system for the purchasing of goods. 

Chris Connolly, one of the owners, said Wednesday that his Temple-based farm has taken to installing security cameras and a stronger lock box to lower theft attempts, but they still do happen on occasion.  

Having an unmanned farm stand or store is a common practice for many Monadnock region farms, as the cost of hiring an employee to man the stand is oftentimes more expensive than the lost funds from thefts and mistakes.

Connolly said his farm, which has used the honor system for 17 years, installed security cameras and a sturdy metal payment box to cut down on thefts. Most shortages in money can be attributed to honest mistakes, according to Connolly.

Tom Mitchell, owner of Ledge Top Farm in Wilton, said he has had to scale back his farm stand operations in Wilton and Amherst due to the number of thefts that have occurred over the past two decades. 

“When I started 20 years ago, I would put everything out there, but I’ve backed away from it over the past few years,” said Mitchell. “It’s too iffy with people being honest.”

Mitchell said many of his losses from the farm stand occurred over the past five to seven years, losses that were not helped by the installation of a locked box and a scale. 

Mitchell still places a few items at his farm stands, but they are usually more plentiful, less expensive items. Much of Mitchell’s business is now done online. 

“I don’t get a lot of walk-in business anymore,” said Mitchell, of people visiting his Wilton farm. “I know its hard to come out to the farm, so I offer a discount if they come here.”

Farmer John’s Plot has been practicing the honor system at their Dublin-based farm stand since 2012, according to Executive Director Jasen Woodworth. 

Woodworth admits that there is a theft every now and then – typically someone taking more than their fair share or unintentionally miscalculating the cost of the item.

“Ninety-eight-percent of the time, I believe its an honest mistake,” said Woodworth, who said the farm stand is the plot’s second largest source of income. “People want to support local business. This isn’t a model you could do in Boston or Burlington.”

Since 2012, Woodworth said the farm stand has only been robbed twice, with the same person breaking into the cash box. Woodworth said he was alerted almost immediately by passersby. 

“It’s a busy road, so we always have people driving by,” said Woodworth. “We had five people call the night of one of the thefts.”

Ruth Holmes of Four Winds Farm said there have been some thefts of money or goods at her farm stand in the past, but her believe in the honor system has not wavered. 

“I want to be able to continue to believe in the basic goodness of people,” said Holmes. “Farming is not an easy venture, and it’s a vital part of our lives.”

Nicholas Handy can be reached at 924-71 72 ext. 235 or nhandy@ledgertranscript.com. He is also on Twitter @nhandyMLT.