Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Beyond the rows of soy beans, the cornfields, and the barbed wire, investigators spent Wednesday destroying a major marijuana growing operation.
"We're out here in the middle of nowhere," said KBI Special Agent Rod Page.
For security reasons, authorities asked KAKE News not to disclose the location of the pot patch, except to say it is in rural Northwestern Sedgwick County. The area was being closely guarded by armed agents.
KAKE News was allowed into the now-abandoned rural camp, where it's believed at least four suspects had spent their days and nights tending to thousands of plants. By the end of the day, authorities had destroyed an estimated 3,800 of them, though they said the original operation could have been larger.
Valued at about $1,000 a piece, the entire area - about the size of a football field - was believed to be worth nearly $4 million, according to officials' end-of-the-day estimates.
"They brought in potting soil, plastic cups, everything," Page said.
Hunters first stumbled upon the site last year. Authorities were alerted, and began monitoring the location for activity. After June rains flooded the campsite, authorities moved in to begin destroying the plants. By that time, whoever was tending the farm had moved on.
Authorities say the squatters could have posed a serious danger to anybody who might have found them. There have been instances of violence elsewhere, with many marijuana growers armed in the event they're discovered.
KBI agents, along with members of the Sedgwick County Sheriff's Office, spent hours Wednesday morning destroying the plants. They used chainsaws and other equipment to cut down stalks as high as 15 feet in places. The roots were then sprayed with a herbicide.
The camp was so isolated, an agent leading KAKE News to the site was briefly lost in the thick underbrush.
The campers had set up a make-shift tent, along with a small area for cooking. They also had a site set up for drying the leaves ahead of transport.
Other growing operations have recently been discovered in Southwest Sedgwick County, Kingman County, and Butler County, authorities said.