reducing theft on my u-pick farm

i've got a fruit stand in Oregon that offers u-pick fruits and vegetables to my customers. its a large farm (150 acres) and we offer u-pick cherries, blueberries, apples, peaches, and pears. sometimes people drive to the fields to do the u-pick. if they drive, they check in at the stand first to pay a $20 u-pick deposit, drive to u-pick, and drive back to the stand with their fruit to pay. they pick into our own buckets or into their own buckets. i am looking for ways to reduce theft and reduce the amount of fruit i lose due to eating in the field (some families treat my farm like an all you can eat buffet).

i am looking for ideas from the r/smallbusiness community on dealing with theft in your retail businesses.

a new rule that i am considering implementing: i require that people pre-purchase empty baskets at the fruit stand, which i sell that at a fixed price. for example, i would sell a basket that would hold 10-12 lbs of cherries to them for $20. they go an u-pick as much fruit as they want into that basket, whether or not they fill it up, i keep the $20. if they want to pick more, they can buy another basket. to discourage large families grazing like cattle in my fields, I would have minimum purchase requirements for baskets for each group. i.e. 2 adults would be required to purchase a $20 basket, a family of four would be required to buy a $30 basket, a family of 6 would have to buy two $20 baskets, etc.

the worst u-pick offenders in my field are people that pick into their own buckets, leave them in their cars, and do not pay for them when they check out. then there are the large families (6 people) that go out and only pick five lbs in their bucket (but ate 10 lbs when they were out there). what to do….


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