A family-run strawberry farm in Levin has been left out of pocket after thieves broke in and stripped 7000 plants of their berries on Monday night.
Swanson's Gardens on Kimberley Rd estimates upwards of $6000 worth of strawberries were stolen in the raid, which left many plants damaged or pulled out of the ground.
Owner Alan Swanson said it was the first time in 38 years they had been targeted by thieves.
"They've totally just ruined [the block]," he said.
"They even took all the stuff that wasn't ripe. The pickers go through each day and take the red berries and leave the pink and orange, but they took all those as well".
Swanson said it was obvious from the way the berries were picked that whoever stole them was trying to take as much as they could as quickly as possible.
He believed they must have been wearing head torches as it was such a dark night, and that there would have been more than one person involved.
A gate alarm from the farm's other strawberry block woke him around 2am Tuesday morning, but he didn't see anything amiss.
A police report had been filed but as there was very little evidence left behind, Swanson believed there would not be much they could do.
The thieves targeted a particular variety of strawberry grown locally only by Swanson's, known as the Pajero.
Pajero strawberries are sweeter and softer than crunchier supermarket varieties and are red all the way through, Swanson said.
Swanson's pickers were also affected by the theft.
He has employed just one family to pick for him for the past 35 years who were already waiting for the crop to be ready as they were on just their third pick of the season due to a cold, damp spring delaying ripening by around six weeks.
Now they have been put even further behind.
However, Swanson said the business was putting on a brave face and would carry on trading.
'They haven't shut us down," he said.
He was unsure where the berries may be able to be sold, but asked people to keep an eye out for anyone selling strawberries who didn't usually, or for someone who may have suddenly acquired a large number of them.
Despite the cost and inconvenience of the theft, Swanson still had an empathetic reaction, saying if someone had been in need they could have just approached him.
"They must like our berries if they came and flogged them," he said.
"But they didn't need to flog them - if they had come and seen me I would give them to them".
If you have any information about the theft please contact the police non-emergency line by phoning 105.