Theft forces closure of unusual Whidbey Island produce stand

COUPEVILLE, Wash. -- A local farmer who runs a produce stand on the "honor system" says theft has become such a problem that she's been forced to close the popular business.

Dorothy Mueller, owner of Bell's Farm, has been running her business as a labor of love.

"The farm has been here since 1946," she said. "It's family owned."

And the family is good at what they do, winning kudos from around the region for their strawberries.

But Mueller said someone has been spoiling her family's hard work.

"It's an honesty stand," she said. "I like to trust people."

Mueller trusts her customers so much she leaves it up to them to leave the right amount of money for the products they're taking.

"Our whole family believes that way, that most people are honest," she said. "It's only those few out there that cause the problem."

The few bad apples have been causing big problems lately, and Mueller says the stand is the worst it's been in 15 years.

"Right before I shut down, I can tell you I got hit on Sunday and then I got hit right on Tuesday again," she said.

She said thieves were taking as much as $40 worth of produce at a time, and it was enough to force her to close the stand.

And Mueller isn't the only one feeling the loss, either. Plenty of loyal -- and honest -- customers are losing out as well.

Despite the sour taste she has right now, Mueller said at some point she plans to reopen the stand.