The children of the Fort George Explorer's program and other summertime kids groups at Exploration Place had their thriving vegetable plot raided by an overnight thief or thieves late last week.
Every last kernel was clipped, but the plants were unharmed and although a spot in the barbed wire has been pinpointed as the likely passageway, there was no damage done to the compound outside the museum.
The children, though, had their canning and pickling plans dashed - until Tuesday.
According to program co-ordinator Amanda Tisseur, local gardeners called to offer the 5- to 12-year olds their produce to harvest so they still learn those skills, and the Prince George Farmers' Market came through with produce they can keep.
It is the kids' faith in humanity that has been most preserved, though, said Tisseur.
"I feel pretty proud to be part of Prince George right now," she said. "It's great that they still get to learn about growing and processing their own food, but it's an amazing experience for them to see the community rally around them."
The kids were visited Tuesday afternoon by representatives of Integris Credit Union delivering a surprise cache of watering cans and garden tools for the program's permanent collection. On Saturday the kids will go with Tisseur downtown to meet some agri-food entrepreneurs who are willing to donate replacement veggies.
"I think it's important for the kids to meet these professional food growers, learn more about that, and meet the people who are being so kind," she said.
One of them is Red Rooster Bakery proprietor Roman Muntener who helped rally the farmers of the market.
"We wanted the kids to continue their education and do those things with food. We didn't want a thief to steal that, too," Muntener said. "It's a bad indication of where were at as a society, if people have to go to the lengths of going through barbed wire, stealing food. Not just Prince George, it's Canada-wide, but soup kitchens and food charities are swamped. People need to eat. It's getting worse."
Muntener said "it leaves you with an odd feeling" to be angry at the thief but also feel a sad sympathy for whomever needed the food that badly.
Tisseur said it actually touched on the educational part of the program the kids were learning.
"We tried to bring social responsibility into it," she said. "Part of the crop we grew was going to be donated to food charities in the community, so they could pass on some of their produce to people not as fortunate. We've talked about food security and what that means - a community being able to feed itself - and although this was not how I would have chosen for it to happen, it sure drove that message home."
The hungry perpetrator made off with about 30 ears of corn, more than 30 peppers (some hot, some bell), a couple dozen cucumbers, a couple dozen carrots, plus quantities of peas and beans.
The pea and bean stalks were carefully cut so they would continue to produce more, and the kids' lettuce was untouched.
"They were quite polite, but highly motivated," Tisseur said. "I hope, by hunger."
One of the items Integris donated to the program was a protective garden gnome, so Tisseur said she is sure a theft from the children's veggie patch will likely never happen again.