Vandals hit urban farm again at Lincoln Middle in Palmetto

rdymond@bradenton.comJune 17, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Vandals over the weekend again invaded Lincoln Middle School's urban farm in Palmetto to kill tilapia, overturn nursery pots and picnic tables, trample sunflowers and destroy costly foam hydroponic strawberry growers.

Kimberly Lough, Lincoln's agriscience teacher and urban farm program director. discovered Monday the second attack in 12 days.

The most recent vandalism on the urban farm about a half-acre between the basketball courts and portable classrooms on Lincoln's campus at 305 17th Street E., Palmetto, was not as severe as the June 5 damage.

But the attack will still take Lough and volunteers about 60 hours to clean up, Lough said.

The Manatee school district took immediate action after the second incident by installing two security cameras at the site Monday, Lough said.

"When I called and told the district it happened again, they were out here within minutes, it seems," Lough said. "We've also requested lighting."

The Palmetto Police Department said Lincoln is not necessarily being targeted.

"I think it's probably local kids being malicious," Palmetto Po

lice Deputy Chief Scott Tyler said Monday. "But what they need to know is that vandalism of this dollar amount is a felony."

The damage estimate is $3,735, Lough said.

No arrest has been made. Tyler said police do have a trail to follow.

"There was evidence left behind," he said.

Lough and others find the attacks cruel as tilapia were taken out of tanks in nets the first time and dropped on the pavement. This time, vandals disconnected the air pump and dumped it into the tank.

Sunflowers trampled violently also seem the work of someone angry rather than a prankster.

"I am heartbroken," Lough said. "My eyes are sore from crying."

The attack left 13 foam hydroponic stacks still standing but not functional after being hit with what appears to be a shovel or axe.

"It's $190 to replace one and all 13 are in disrepair," Lough said. "I have no money to replace them. Come October, our students are going to want to plant strawberries in them. We grew 400 strawberry plants in them this year."

Although school is out, parents and teachers of Lough's popular FFA-related program are e-mailing condolences and encouragement.

Others such as Bud Bates, a do-it-all handyman at Lincoln, are angry.

"This place is not somewhere you can see from the road," Bates said. "They knew where to go to get someone's goat. I think it's someone taking a shot at Miss Lough, which is a shameful thing."

Lough was realistic about the damage cause.

"I am a glass-is-half-full person but I don't turn a blind eye," Lough said. "I deal very directly and honestly with students and parents. I have had a couple parents not take it well.

"But it is so vile to kill animals. This wasn't an incident of, 'Let's just knock over some plants.' It's been twice."

Anyone with information about the vandalism can call the Palmetto Police Department at 941-723-4587 and ask for the supervisor or Crime Stoppers at 1-866-634-8477.

Because the crime has occurred in Palmetto's Redevelopment District the CrimeStoppers reward will be matched, Tyler said.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.

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