Blueberry farm funds therapy

Published 12:03 am Thursday, June 28, 2012

Ginger Flick stands among the blueberry trees while holding a photo of herself and her children, Melanie and Aaron. | Stephanie Nelson/Star-News


One thing is for sure – Ginger Flick and her son, Aaron Teel, would be “berry, berry” pleased to see people with buckets and stained fingers leaving the family’s Ala. Hwy. 137 blueberry farm.

The site, known as Jerry’s Blueberries and named for its founder, Jerry Barnes, has been a community staple for nearly two decades, offering pick-your-own blueberries. Three years ago yesterday, Barnes died in an automobile accident. Flick, his sister, inherited the property and keeps the “U-Pick” tradition alive.

Now, despite being started by a beloved family member, the blueberry farm has a deeper meaning to the family – it serves to fund Teel’s spinal chord therapy and independent lifestyle after a 2008 hit and run accident left him as a quadriplegic.

Teel, 28, receives treatment at Project Walk Orlando in Longwood, Fla., a non-profit specializing in intense spinal chord therapy. There, Teel works to strengthen core muscles and stimulate his nervous system by performing rigorous exercises out of his wheelchair.

Flick said it’s that three-times-per-week therapy that has allowed her son to achieve a state of independence and even the ability to drive a car.

“Jerry started the place after he was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia,” Flick said. “He read that blueberries had good chemicals, which we now know are antioxidants. As you can see, he decided to do it in a big way.”

And Flick isn’t kidding about a “big way.” Trees stretch along a half-a-mile section of highway, three rows deep. This time of the year, limbs hang low with fat, ripe berries just waiting to be plucked – which is where local residents can help.

“This will be the second year that the money we raise is set aside for Aaron,” Flick said. “Medical insurance refuses to pay for this kind of therapy, and it is very expensive. What we raise here isn’t a lot, but every little bit helps.”

A year before Teel’s car accident, Barnes died in an auto accident, Flick said.

“I know that Jerry would be thrilled, just thrilled that the fruit of his farm is helping his nephew,” she said. “He was a wonderful, wonderful uncle.”

Flick said the farm opens each year as soon as the berries start turning, and the season is in full swing now.

“We’ll have berries for several more weeks,” she said. “And remember, we don’t charge anything for samples straight off the tree.”

The you-pick price is $5 per gallon or $10 per gallon for pre-picked berries.

Teel and his sister, Melanie, are also the children of Daniel “Dan” Teel, an Andalusia High School Class of 1973 graduate. The three reside in Orlando, Fla.