May 16, 2007
Authorities said they busted up a meth making operation on a farm in orange county Wednesday.
Armed with a search warrant, deputies arrived at the Hampstead Farm around 6:30 Wednesday morning. A search of the many buildings and barns found anhydrous ammonia, pseudoephedrine and modified propane tanks. Those chemicals are used to make meth.
“We collected evidence consistent with operating a methamphetamine lab,” said Chief Deputy Mark Amos of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
There was no evidence the drug had been manufactured.
“We stopped this prior to the actual cook going on,” said Amos.
The farm owner was shocked at what was found.
“Four pickle jars (were found), and evidently, they were going to set those jars up. I know nothing about making drugs, but they were going to set those jars up for using ammonia and some ingredients to make meth and I never even seen them,” said Hampstead Farm owner Dusty Rhodes.
The farm owner said investigators questioned a farm hand who had arrived on a Greyhound bus from New York a couple months ago.
“We gave him work here on the farm cleaning stalls, taking care of the calves and was never under any suspicion of illegal activity and arrived here this morning to find law enforcement here was a total surprise,” said Rhodes.
What wasn't a surprise is that investigators discovered anhydrous ammonia on the farm. It’s common and legal for dairy farmers to use this in cow feed. It is, however, illegal to use it to make drugs and possibly the reason someone chose this farm to construct the lab.
Deputies said this is an ongoing investigation. They won't say if they believe this farm hand or anyone else on the farm was involved, just that no arrests have been made yet.
Investigators said this is the first meth lab they have ever discovered in Orange County.