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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Is Dr. Blueberry/The Blueberry Basket Farms in LaRue, TX Exploiting the HOMELESS, Disabled, Handicapped, Women, the Mentally Unstable, Migrant Farm Workers & MORE…An INDEPTH and INSIDE Look at the Trade Practices of The Blueberry Basket Farm.

Is Dr. Blueberry/The Blueberry Basket Farms in LaRue, TX Exploiting the HOMELESS, Disabled, Handicapped, Women, the Mentally Unstable, Migrant Farm Workers & MORE…An INDEPTH and INSIDE Look at the Trade Practices of The Blueberry Basket Farm.

Reporting “LIVE” from

Baylor University Medical

Center, Dallas, TX,

July 11, 2012

My name is Daniel Getz and for the last 132 days I have been strategically placed in a unique position and assignment where I have dwelt with and lived with the homeless, mentally unstable, the disabled and handicapped, and most recently women and migrant workers within the Greater Dallas, TX area.  I will not go into all the details of the hows and whys of this position here.  Perhaps some day I will, but not today.  Suffice to say I have seen many injustices, prejudice, and discrimination at many levels of society towards this genre of PEOPLE and on more than one occasion have felt compelled to speak up for these that seem to have no voice of their own (Proverbs 31:8), and have done so to the capacity that I as one, am able to do.

When my assignment recently took me to the Blueberry Basket Farm in Larue, TX recently I was appalled at not only the manner in which I was treated, as a perceived homeless man scrounging at the bottom of the barrel of society to pick as many $3 per basketful of blueberries as I could (at first I could only and barely gather ONE basket per hour, but quickly got up to the pace of the fastest pickers which was TWO baskets in about 50 minutes or roughly $6 per hour), but the manner in which the homeless, mentally unstable, alcoholics and drug addicts, disabled, handicapped, women and the predominantly Hispanic migrant farm workers that we worked along side of, were continually and constantly mis-treated and yelled at and demeaned by one of the owners (Cary Ware, cell phone # 214-952-5323) and management of the Blueberry Basket Farm in Larue, TX (near Athens, TX and about 90 minutes east of downtown Dallas, TX).

To start my “journey” I was picked up outside of the Austin Street Centre Shelter at 2929 Hickory, Dallas, TX along with an alcoholic and obviously inebriated man probably in his 40’s named “Paul” by Cary Ware around 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.  I had met Cary approximately a week earlier, gotten his cell phone # and had called to find out when he would be coming by the Austin Street Centre Shelter to pick up workers, a practice he regularly did according to the shelter I had been living at for the past three or so weeks.  Cary seemed to be in a extra-ordinary hurry that day, and although the cab of his white pick-up truck was full of what seemed to be a lot of garbage and junk, I through my few things in the back of his pick up truck and squeezed into the middle of the seat, between Cary and Paul.  My initial perception of Cary was a man who, although a bit gruff and indifferent, seemed to have a soft heart for the down and out as during the 90 or so minute drive he “coached” Paul in telling him that he was a very capable individual, who if he would put his mind to it, and abandon the alcohol, could do ANYTHING he wanted to.  Of course Paul was in the depressed, sentimental, apologetic and sappy stage of his latest binge, but nevertheless seemed to be consoled by Cary.  Also of noteworthy status was the fact that Paul had worked for Cary previously, decided to walk off the farm, and Cary had seen him today and chose to give him a “second chance” which Paul continually thanked him for during our trip to the Blueberry Basket Farm in Larue, TX.

The first day I decided to go ahead and pick my first two baskets of blueberries.  Although untrained and somewhat aimlessly choosing the patches to pick from, I quickly discovered how grueling of work this really was, and was a bit discouraged of the effort required to make my goal of about $150 during the several days I planned on staying there.  Since we did not arrive at the farm until about 4:00 p.m., most workers were not planning on starting until the next day, but I decided I was here to work (and get a story) so chose to set my mind on picking blueberries, no matter how hard or hot it was.  So I did.

That night about 20 of us stayed in converted school buses that each slept about 16 in bunk beds and had electrical window unit air conditioning installed in the front window of each bus.  One of the workers who was heading back to Dallas, TX that night graciously gave me his blanket which I was very grateful for by about the middle of the night since the air conditioning was run full blast and tended to be quite cool by early morning.  I was also able to shower in one of the buses that had a fully functional toilet, sink and shower through what I would term as an elaborate irrigation and pump system that connected a sizeable  underground“network” of facilities throughout the “camp” through a centralized pump house that I learned pumped water up to the surface from an underground spring.  After a small but hearty meal was served, I turned in for the night.

What entailed over the next several days was almost like an unfolding nightmare…constant confusion, bickering and yelling over basket counts, quality of berries picked, times to pick, etc., etc…However, that first evening I was “tapped on the shoulder” to meet one of the lead workers in “Processing”.  I quickly learned and ascertained that for some reason this individual had picked ME to fill in for another regularly scheduled worker who had taken a few days leave and that this position paid the top labor rate of $8.00 per hour for fairly mindless and easy work that required an alert and responsible individual to “sort” the berries, throwing out small berries, red and green berries, smashed berries and then quickly separate berries that were still connected together by a small stem, and discard any “foreign material” into several side bins while the berries moved down a conveyer into their final “resting place”, a pint-size plastic container that had already had two stickers placed on them with one sticker being a “Dr. Blueberry” identification sticker and the other being a map and advertisement promoting the fact that they allowed individuals to come out and pick their own blueberries in a designated area we as pickers were not allowed to pick from (the sticker placement was a task we performed each morning in order to cover our $10/night “room and board”).  I felt very blessed to have this assignment, although this worker’s goodwill in choosing me did not go unchallenged by other jealous workers, but in the end the worker’s choice held for two days, or about 7 or 8 hours of $8/hour work.  In that time, I also was able to “secure” another two job that paid $6 per hour where I helped one of the managers of the farm take in and account for the baskets of blueberries each worker brought to Processing and a one-time job that included cleaning up the Outside Processing Area and throw away trash.  Although not a great wage, these jobs were MUCH EASIER than hunting for blueberries and gathering two baskets per hour to achieve the maximum possible of $6 per hour, and THAT wage was only sustainable for the most enthusiastic and energetic workers who found it within themselves to maintain a pace that SOME were able to achieve an outstanding amount of 20+ baskets per day, something I was never able to muster up within me.  However, each day that I got some hours working at either $8 or $6 per hour, I always chose to still pick around 5 to 7 basketfuls of blueberries each day until around Sunday, July 1, 2012 when my complete earnings had reached $128, not a large amount for 3 to 4 days of 10 to 15 hour days of work (at 3 fifteen hour days, or 45 total hours, that only comes to an average of $2.84/hour).

Since I had an upcoming heart surgery scheduled for 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday, July 3, 2012 (and had clearly informed the management, owners and others about throughout my time there) I had originally planned to leave on Sunday, although I knew I would have to settle up later on wages since payday was always on Mondays.  On Sunday things turned what I can only label as “insane”.  The day started out with a light rain and we were told to sleep in since berries could not be picked while wet.  The morning was pleasant and the rain quickly stopped for the most part, but there was even occasional light rain while we were taking care of our rent charges by placing stickers on the plastic pint-size blueberry containers mentioned previously in this article.  At a certain point I decided to take my laptop and write a letter, and chose a place close to the Processing Area that was actually outside a small RV that was occupied by a very sweet elderly African American lady that I had befriended earlier in the week and had practiced Buddhism for about 30 years.  After about 45 minutes, one of the apparent managers wanted to know what I was doing and gently informed me that ALL WORKERS had to begin picking blueberries immediately.  I was in the midst of telling her that I was preparing to leave today, but if needed, would be glad to begin picking blueberries, particularly since the temperature had dropped somewhat and began packing up my things in my backpack when another lady named Marilyn, I believe, began yelling obscenities at me (and who had yelled at me for no apparent reason the day before telling me to go away since I did not live or belong here, which was right outside the Processing Area and I was in-between work assignments at the time with about an hour “dead” time) which consisted of “asking” me why I was not picking blueberries and “DEMANDING” that I comply immediately or I would be fired.  I tried to explain that I was trying to do just that and needed only a few more moments to pack my bag, and then finally in desperation informed her I really was sick as I had been hacking and coughing up flem the entire time I was there.  At that point the elderly lady came out of her small RV and seemed to be in shock and “Marilyn’s” tone softened just a little as she then told me I could not work because of being sick, although her demeanor and tone was still extremely harsh…

The next several hours and entire next day were what I can only describe as “hell”.  Marylyn continually told me SHE would drive me back to Dallas, TX but in the end told me she had to haul a trailer and refused to go downtown with that trailer (I believe due to the fact her driver had no license and that the trailer tags may have been non-existent or expired), but that Cary was returning to Dallas, TX at an undisclosed time that ended up being around 9:30 p.m. that night (I later ascertained that the “normal” trips to Dallas, TX took place anywhere from 11:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. and NOBODY could ever tell you when, precisely they were leaving.  I ended up, exhausted, sitting on a chase lounge chair about 9:00 p.m. and accidentally fell asleep.  At 11:30 I woke up and was informed that they had already left for Dallas around 9:30 p.m. and that for some reason they made absolutely no announcement as they usually did, and simply, and quietly had boarded the open bed pick up truck and departed for Dallas, TX without bothering to REALLY look for me (they claimed they did, but being only about 100 feet from where the truck departed from, finding this very difficult to believe).  I reluctantly but dejectedly accepted the fact I was not going back tonight and climbed into my bunk on the bus…

On Sunday, it seemed like things were in the process of changing for the better and that order was being instituted amongst the ranks.  Bad Workers and Managers were fired, assurances of better accounting and procedures were promised and Marylyn promised that instead of waiting for wages until about midnight as was the standing practice on Mondays, that we would be paid by 6:00 p.m.  At about 11:00 p.m. we FINALLY were handed our envelopes.  At first I was relieved to FINALLY have my $128, but when I looked at the calculation of only $77, I quickly realized that although signed for, I was missing an entire day of pay, worth $51.  Furthermore, when I opened up the envelope, I quickly realized that although the figure $77 was written on the outside of the envelope, there was only $62 cash inside, and they did NOT deduct for taxes as NONE of our Social Security or Identification documents were EVER REQUESTED.  I was a bit unsettled, but in the end they promised to take those whose wages were incorrect, and one by one go over the “books” to determine the reason for the shortage.  Although Marylyn was very aggressive, cocky and repeatedly told us if we were wrong, we owed her $5 for her trouble, time after time, the workers were right and she counted out the additional cash to rectify the situation.  The fact that these issues were ultimately corrected made me somewhat confident that my mis-calculation would be remedied to my satisfaction, UNTIL Marylyn IMMEDIATELY stated that my $51 was not anywhere in the books and that she could only split the difference.  At this point she had not even looked at the books, and when she did, ultimately discovered she had confused “Dan” (me) with a Danny adding my wages to his (which he never disputed of course) and found my $51 entry on the books.  She also quickly made up the difference between the $77 stated, and $62 cash making me “whole” at the $128 I had earned while at the Blueberry Basket Farm in Larue, TX ( .

The “final straw” for me was when we all got back to where we were SUPPOSED to load up and go to Dallas, TX (with the number of people who had stated they were going back to Dallas, TX I incorrectly assumed there would be several vehicles returning to Dallas, maybe even one of the school buses Cary Ware had previously took all of us to Walmart in Athens, TX to purchase incidentals and groceries at, but found out quickly that I was terribly mistaken as there was only one small open bed pick up truck returning to the Austin Centre Shelter in Dallas, TX that night and the bed was already jam-packed with men desperately “holding their positions” and would not budge or move for me, despite my continued pleas that I “HAD” to return to Dallas for a pre-scheduled heart surgery that very next morning at 7:00 a.m.  After about four very firm “NO’s” I went to speak to the driver which turned out to be Cary.  The first thing I did, believing it would soften his demeanor somewhat, was hand him the $20 he had graciously loaned me the night he had taken us to Wal-mart.  I then re-told him of my heart surgery scheduling and he immediately BARKED, “Weren’t you supposed to go back yesterday? WHERE WERE YOU?”  When I admitted I had mistakenly fallen asleep, he YELLED, “THAT IS NOT MY PROBLEM.  YOU SCREWED UP!”  When I was somewhat taken aback by this response, he simply said, “See if you can squeeze in”.  When I returned to the back of the pickup truck, I noticed that SOME men had apparently gotten off, resolving to go back to Dallas, TX the next evening, but CONTINUED to get the same non-compassionate “NO’s” until several of my African American Brothers began to “plead my case” saying, “Look, Man, this MAN is sick and MUST get to his heart surgery TOMORROW.  Now scoot over and let this man ride back TONIGHT!”  I quickly found a VERY SMALL opening that if I sat half-way on my backpack and half-way on the tailgate and bent over at a 90 degree angle could “safely” ride back to the shelter in this manner.  That night it was threatening to rain, but never did, thankfully.  At some point on that 90 minute plus ride between Larue, TX and the Austin Centre Shelter, regularly having to stand up at fairly frequent intervals to stretch while not infringing on, or stepping on my brother’s toes (there were 12 of us that night crammed into the bed of this mid-size pick up truck, 10 African Americans, 1 Hispanic and ME, Caucasian) I decided I would NEVER go back to this HELL on EARTH, and began to think about the details of this story, and how wrong the Blueberry Basket Farm was in treating VERY diligent men and woman with such little respect and dignity.  Cary and Marylyn, you truly should be ashamed of your behavior, and although you are sitting on a largely unknown and untapped “gold mine” have squandered your resources (Cary, I know you have an addiction to alcohol and buying things that largely go unused, but YOU CAN get help for this), I sincerely home the State Agriculture Department, the IRS and the Dallas Observer respond to my DEMANDS for a COMPLETE INQUIRY and INVESTIGATION of the operations at the Blueberry Basket Farm/Dr. Blueberry in Larue, TX (

This story was compiled and written by Daniel Getz,, YouTube 12131966dan, FACEBOOK (Dan Getz & Dance4One), Twitter @Dance4One and LinkedIn (Dan Getz).


  1. A guy sitting right next to me is telling me that he averaged 4-5 buckets an hour. One of you is giving inaccurate information.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.