Illegal marijuana gardens are putting local farmers in jeopardy.
On Friday, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims held a forum to educate farmers about what they can do.
Sheriff Mims spoke to the farmers about the growing epidemic of pot gardens on private lands.
Pictures were shown to illustrate how criminals are planting on plots which span dozens of acres.
Dennis Simonian of Simonian Farms, farms at Clovis and Jensen Avenues, where his family has been more than a hundred years.
Simonian says marijuana grows have brought in people who vandalize his equipment and steal his crops. "Not just one box, two box... boxfuls at a time... 10-20 boxes," said Simonian.
Madeleine Melo was also at the forum. Two years ago, her husband, Jere, was murdered while he was investigating a pot garden on private timberlands in Mendocino County.
A foundation has since been created in Jere Melo's name, to help shine the light on what she calls an environmental disaster. "They're putting poisons out there. They're killing and threatening people and they're killing and threatening the animals that live out there," said Melo.
On Wednesday, two groups fighting over marijuana exchanged gunfire between cars on a road in Fresno County, wounding one.
After investigating the shooting, deputies found freshly cut marijuana in the victims vehicle, which led investigators to 25,000 plants.
Agents cleared the field at Chestnut and Adams, which was rigged with motion sensors and alarms.
Sheriff Mims says the pot was worth about $160 million if it was sold on the East Coast. "We need to stop that and we're going to continue to conduct investigations to keep the public safe in Fresno County," said Mims.
Click the related link to hear more from Dennis Simonian of Simonian Farms.
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