Prize leeks, rhubarb and beetroots have been stolen from a village team's vegetable plot days before they were due to be shown at a competition.
A man in his 30s was challenged while breaking into a garden store at St Mary's Church in Church Lane, Yapton, West Sussex, at around 8pm on September 20.
The man said he had lost his dog. But it transpired that the prize fruit and vegetables had been stolen from the churchyard team's vegetable plot on the same night.
Sussex Police said the incident happened ahead of a competition this weekend.
Richard Hayes, the rector at St Mary's, Yapton, said: "We are sure that there are folk around the Sussex coast who will be putting that on their table rather than putting it on show for a competition.
"We think they needed the money and so tried to break into the store where equipment, like a lawn mower, is kept. But when they couldn't do that they decided to go for the fruit and veg.
"They didn't trash the plot in some kind of teenage rebellion. They just harvested the food that was ready to go."
Appealing for witnesses, Pc Jackie Shears, of Sussex Police, said: "Did you see anyone walking down the road with a large quantity of vegetables or anyone hanging around the church during this period?"
Anyone with information is asked to call Sussex Police on 101.