2021 : President Visits Central Lake, Traverse City

July 3, 2021 all-day

When a reporter behind the King’s Orchard farm store counter asked President Joe Biden what brought him to Michigan, his answer was brief: cherry pie.

He said as much after picking out several pies, from apple to cherry to raspberry crumble, with farm co-owner Betsy King explaining each one and the other farm-grown products there.

Biden visited the store Saturday afternoon moments after Juliette King McAvoy, the farm’s vice president of sales and co-owner John King’s daughter, toured the president and his group through the cherry trees. Michigan’s Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and U.S. Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, also Democrats, flanked him in the orchard. The four spoke with a crowd gathered on the farm’s strawberry field, pausing here and there for selfies and shaking plenty of hands.

The visit also was a chance for King McAvoy to let the president, governor and both U.S. senators know about the hardships a family farm like King Orchards faces, she said. Increasingly common bad weather shares the blame, with both a spring frost followed by a warm spell knocking cherry the farm’s yields down to about 25 percent of its sweet cherries and 15 percent of its tart cherries.

It’s the second such crop failure in as many years, and the fourth in 20, King McAvoy said.

And international trade disputes, particularly with Turkey over cherry exports, have battered prices on tart cherries for years.

“It’s becoming increasingly hard to make a living as a family farm, so I wanted to convey that … I believe Americans want to buy American-grown food and support family farms, and that we need to protect our food security,” King McAvoy said afterward.

That came as no surprise to Biden, she added — he related to her a story about a wine grower in California struggling with drought.

President Biden speaking with fruit pickers at King Orchards on July 3, 2021.President Biden speaks with fruit pickers at King Orchards on July 3, 2021.

She introduced Biden, Peters, Stabenow and Whitmer to two couples, Pedro Francisco and Juana Miguel, and Jesus Sebastien and Maria Pascual. All four came from Guatemala and have been working at the farm for 35 years. Now, their children have gone to college and they have grandchildren.

King McAvoy stressed to the president the importance of a pathway to citizenship as a way for immigrants to thrive, something he told her he supported for agricultural workers.

She said the farm’s operations are labor-intensive, and John King said 14 seasonal workers from Mexico are helping this year.

“Everywhere there’s an influx of immigrants, the labor creates wealth,” John King said afterward.

The President also made a stop at Moomers Homemade Ice Cream in Traverse City.

President Biden eating ice cream during the trip to Michigan on July 3, 2021.
President Biden eats ice cream during his trip to Michigan on July 3, 2021.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The trip was billed as part of a campaign to drum up support for Biden’s infrastructure package and other proposed policies, but the president opted to talk to voters one-on-one instead of delivering public remarks on the holiday weekend.

Source: Jordan Travis, “Biden visits King Orchards with governor, senators”, Traverse City Record-Eagle, July 3, 2021.