July 3--  It's not every day that a farm boy from Georgia is invited to the White House for a meeting with the President.

"I got a call Friday afternoon and it was a blocked number and I almost didn't answer it.  The caller said this is Julie Rodriguez from the White House and we'd like you to attend a roundtable with the President," recalls Jason Berry, a local organic farmer and operations manager for Dole Berries in Baxley.

{mosimage}Turns out Berry (left corner) was part of a diverse group of people with a common cause, i.e., support of comprensive immigration reform which passed the U.S. Senate a few days after Berry's June 24th White House visit.

"We all were in the Roosevelt Room in the West Wing and President Obama came in from the door in the rear of the room and went around.  Everybody introduced themselves and shook hands with him. 

"Then they let the press come in and it was like a bunch of rabid dogs coming in.  The President gave his five minute speech on why the White House is supporting comprehensive immigration reform and then they kicked the press out of the room and we had about 45 minutes to talk with the President.  He went around to each person and wanted to hear how we are affected and why we support this thing.

"I don't think he really understood how much we needed a reliable, skilled workforce, but I think he does now.  I was impressed with him.  He was very calm, cool and collected, as usual.  He was more down to earth than I expected him to be and I was impressed.

"It was a once in a lifetime experience and I'll be able to talk about it with the kids and the grandkids.  It was a special experience for sure," Berry said. 

{mosimage}Jason is a 1997 graduate of Robert Toombs Christian Academy and a 2002 UGA grad.  His wife, Stacy, accompanied him to the White House.

(Editor's Note:  Check back for future stories with Jason regarding immigration and farm labor issues in Southeast Georgia.)