Harvest time – Blueberry picking underway

Published 6:46 am Monday, June 13, 2005

By By LYDIA GRIMES Features writer
Larry Allen knows his blueberries. He has worked with the succulent little berries for the past 26 years and if anyone knows the ins and outs of growing blueberries, it would be Allen.
Allen works for Tom McMillan, who is the president of the Escambia Blueberry Growers Inc. That means Allen is very involved with not only the McMillan farm but the other growers in the area as well.
One of the problems that face the blueberry growers each year is the lack of pickers. Picking blueberries is a temporary job that lasts a few weeks each year. It is hot and sometimes wet in the field of bushes, and it takes special people to do the job.
Allen says that most of his workers have been around almost as long as he has.
One of the more recent ways to deal with the problem is to hire migrant workers. Most of them are used to seasonal jobs. They might pick blueberries here and then move on to other places as the season progresses.
As of Wednesday, June 8, the workers were on their fifth day of picking and reportedly had already picked 1,000 flats of berries. There were clouds in the sky which made it a little bit more comfortable for the pickers.
The Escambia Blueberry Growers Inc. is made up of David Stokes, Mrs. Leamon Dyall, Tom McMillan, Sharon Ashton and Jack Hines, all of Brewton, a Huckabaa family in Red Level, Rodney Bolton of Baker, Fla., Joe and Leon Robinson of Bay Minette and Mr. Barlow of Castleberry. They may not be the biggest group to ship berries, but being in the south makes them some of the first of the season. No one would argue that the berries grown around here are some of the best to grace a cobbler or pie.
The community will celebrate blueberries next weekend when the Greater Brewton Area Chamber of Commerce hosts the Alabama Blueberry Festival on the campus of Jefferson Davis Community College.

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