MARIJUANA FARM SURPRISES TOWN
CANADA - The folks who live near the northern Ontario farm where police found 21,000 neatly planted marijuana stalks this month said there was something funny about the operation from the start.
For one thing, most of the hardy people who choose to live near this paper-mill town north of Toronto know each other.
But the new owners who moved in this year were outsiders from Toronto who kept to themselves. They were Chinese, didn't speak English, and, as far as any of the neighbors could tell, they became invisible once they took possession of the land. There was not even a tractor on the farm.
Some, such as Kim Frank and Joey Larose who grow grain on the farm next door, said they had no idea that they were living beside the largest outdoor marijuana-growing operation ever discovered in Ontario.
But others had their suspicions.
"My mom," Frank said, "she was the one who figured out there was something going on."
When she voiced her concerns at a family gathering this month, she was told she had an overactive imagination. The next day, the police cruisers were tearing down the dirt road outside their home and helicopters were flying overhead.
"Big apologies to Kim's mom," Larose said.
Another neighbor who did not want his name printed said he knew there was something going on in the fields behind the baby-blue two-story farmhouse.
"You get ... (people) moving up here, can't speak a word of English ." he said. "A couple of years ago it was the same thing in Matheson. There was one in Moonbeam two months ago and another in Terrace Shores two weeks after that."
But the arrests - and the size of the seizure - were still shocking.
Around town, the news was on everyone's lips. And some tried to get out to the field before it was torn up just to get a glimpse of the operation. They were stopped in their tracks by the police.
It was one more irritant for officers on the scene who had their hands full, ripping up thousands of the short, bushy marijuana plants and arresting the man they believe to have planted them - 40-year-old Zhi Ji Chu of Toronto.
Police detective Bill O'Shea said the growers had gone to some effort to plant the marijuana in mounds to make them look like potatoes, and that the crop was meticulously cared for. "There wasn't a weed in the field."
Investigators said marijuana growers are looking to isolated regions of the north with increasing frequency. The summer days are warm and the nights are cool. The clay soil can be enriched to create an ideal medium for the hardy plants. And the producers have been testing new strains to determine which ones grow best in the northern climate.
It's a multimillion-dollar business, O'Shea said - one that has become a favorite enterprise of criminal gangs.
"We have Asian organized crime, we have motorcycle gangs, we have traditional Mafioso-type gangs," he said. "We're not immune and I think that's the thing that's a wake-up call for the northerners."
Pubdate: Tue, 30 Aug 2005
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2005 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Website: http://www.knoxnews.com/Edited by: Alfa