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Pitt County farmer fed up over stolen peanuts

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GREENVILLE, N.C. -

A Pitt County farmer's had enough.  He says someone's been stealing peanuts off his land for years but with the latest heist- his wife got fed up and called 9 on your side for help.  The farming family wants the thieves to know how much it hurts their family business.

Timmy and Misty Simmons' peanuts are still weeks away from harvest, but pull them up now and they're just right for boiling.

"Everybody in eastern North Carolina almost loves boiled peanuts," said Misty.  "And we will sell them for that."

But someone didn't want to pay.  When Simmons checked on his crop off Old Pactolus Rd., "I knew somebody got 'em," Timmy said.

Rows of peanuts had been uprooted from the middle of his field.  It's easy to do.  "All you got to do is do this right here," Timmy said as he grabbed a handful and lifted them out of the dirt.

Simmons says the little peanut makes up the bulk of his income but with this plot right next to a busy highway, it makes his family business vulnerable to unwanted visitors.

Misty Simmons called 9 On Your Side for help.  "Just got fed up," she explained. "When you have a good crop and people come and take it from you, I mean, that's taking money away from my children.

The Simmons say it costs them $500 dollars an acre to raise peanuts.  Pitt County Sheriff Neil Elks says stealing them is a crime: a Class-H felony.

"You know some people may hear this story and say well that's such a minor thing," said Elks.  "But this is their livelihood.  A small amount of peanuts adds up real quickly."

Sheriff Elks told Simmons to post signs on the property.  Deputies are stepping up patrol in the area- spreading the word to neighbors to keep an eye out.  For now, Simmons says it's just aggravating.  "It's the same thing if you're going into a Trade Mart somewhere and taking something out of the store you ain't supposed to be taking," he said.  "It ain't no different."

Simmons says he'll harvest his peanut crops at the end of September and after that- people are free to come and glean what's left.  All you have to do is ask him for permission.

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