From LeaderAdvertiser.com, The Lake Country Leader, excerpt from “Cherry growers learn of new threat,” 3 Apr 2011.
[Yellow Bay, MT] — Members of the department of homeland security could be auditing growers in Lake County as part of an initiative to better enforce seasonal-worker laws. Present at Saturday’s meeting was Steve Stowe, an immigration and customs enforcement agent, based in the federal government’s Kalispell office.
Stowe spoke about the importance of correctly completing I-9 forms for employees. During his presentation, several audience members questioned Stowe about the viability of the forms and the government’s treatment of seasonal workers.
Audience member and owner of the Yellow Bay-based, Cherry Red Orchard, Dan Getman, said that many growers are frustrated with government visits that they find intrusive.
“You’d be hard pressed to find anyone in here who doesn’t think it’s total harassment,” he said.
According to Getman, seasonal workers are treated more like family than employees. He said that each year he looks forward to seeing the workers, who perform a job few locals are willing to take.
“Our kids aren’t interested in picking cherries,” Getman said. “The workers go out of their way to come here, and they’re just the nicest, sweetest people. When we see them it’s all hugs and smiles, when we say goodbye it’s all tears.”
Attendees at the day-long meeting, presented by the Flathead Lake Cherry Grower’s Association, enjoyed a variety of other presentations on topics including grafting, new cherry varieties and new marketing strategies.