Hughson Ag Truck and Trailer
Mysterious case of stolen ag truck and trailer turns into another example of community support

July 10, 2024

What began as a maddening, frustrating and sad situation for the Hughson High FFA organization quickly morphed into another reminder of the generosity and unwavering support of the ag community.

It began before dawn on July 6 when Hughson ag teacher Kelly Larson and her husband arrived at the high school ag building. On their agenda that morning was transporting 21 pigs raised by FFA members to Turlock for the Stanislaus County Fair.

There was just one problem, however. The 2007 Ford 350 pickup and 24-foot livestock trailer they expected to use were missing.

Normally, the truck was kept in the ag building on campus and the trailer at the school’s 10-acre farm nearby on Whitmore Avenue. To make things easier, ag teacher Brett Baker had hooked up the trailer the night before Larson was to use it. Because they were too long together to fit in the ag building, he parked them on Seventh Street next to campus.

Larson said her first thought was that Baker had moved the tandem to the school farm. But a quick check there and calls to Baker and the other ag instructors confirmed that the truck and trailer had indeed been left on Seventh Street.

Someone had stolen them.

“I was in utter shock,” Larson said. “My husband said I handled it well. I was in shock for about 30 seconds, then I went into survival mode.”

She notified the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department – which provides police services in Hughson – and then began to evaluate options to get the 21 pigs to the fairgrounds by their 8:10 a.m. weigh-in deadline.

It didn’t take long for word to spread – via phone and social media posts – about what happened. Just as quickly, the community responded.

“Within five minutes, we had offers to help,” Larson said.

The Burroughs family came through in a big way, providing a trailer large enough to get all the pigs to Turlock. They also returned the next morning with the same trailer to haul sheep and goats to the fairgrounds.

Meanwhile, the mystery about who had taken the truck and trailer had just begun.

Natalie Moring, the high school’s assistant principal, looked at security video footage that showed the truck and trailer parked on Seventh Street. Coincidentally, Moring’s daughter was one of the FFA students whose pig needed to be transported to the fairgrounds.

The video shows the vehicle used by the suspects, Larson said. It was about 5 a.m. when the thieves popped the door lock, used something to jam into ignition and then drove away.

“The detectives told us truck and trailer theft are on the rise,” Larson said. “They’re stolen and resold outside the area.”

Fortunately, in this case, the truck and trailer didn’t get too far. They were discovered later the same day in a neighborhood in Ceres. Larson said detectives told her there is camera footage from that location showing the same suspect vehicle from the morning returning to Ceres in the afternoon to unhitch the trailer and take the truck again. The truck later was recovered in a different part of Ceres.

No arrests have been made yet.

The truck can be repaired and the trailer is back where it belongs, so there is a happy ending to the stressful saga. But it was the reaction of the local community and others that Larson is most gratified by.

“After we posted it on social media, people were sharing literally as far as the East Coast,” she said. “The community response was just amazing. It’s definitely one for the history books. We won’t forget. It brought tears to our eyes that the response was so quick. It’s been that way all week. Not just the community, but other people at the fair, saying, ‘Anything you need, just ask.’

“We are very fortunate at Hughson to have our community.”