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Biden, Whitmer, senators visit King Orchards

Mike Krebs
Traverse City Record Eagle

CENTRAL LAKE — When a reporter behind the King's Orchard farm store counter asked Pres. Joe Biden what brought him to Michigan, his answer was brief: for the pie.

He said as much after picking out several, from apple to cherry to raspberry crumble, with farm co-owner Betsy King explaining each one.

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, took them 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 stop, after landing in Traverse City that morning and returning by mid-afternoon, was part of the Biden administration's Fourth of July weekend plans that include a barbecue on the White House lawn with first responders, essential workers and military service members. He wasn't the only one traveling, either, with Vice President Kamala Harris and First Lady Jill Biden on the road as well as Biden touts a $973 billion infrastructure package just negotiated by a bipartisan group of lawmakers but not yet passed

It was also a chance for King McAvoy to let the president, governor and both U.S. senators about the hardships a family farm like theirs faces, she said. Increasingly common bad weather is partly to blame, with both a spring frost followed by a warm spell knocking cherry yields down to around 25 percent of its sweet cherries and 15 percent of its tarts.

And international trade disputes have battered prices on tart cherries for years with no end in sight.

"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.

The president spoke to the press briefly in the store and otherwise spoke to the Kings or the crowd while the press watched from a distance his staffers maintained.

Law enforcement, both Antrim County Sheriff's deputies and Michigan State Police troopers, were present alongside Secret Service members, with a few emergency medical technicians and a local ambulance on hand as well.

The president wasn't the first Biden to visit the farm, with wife Jill coming in September during the 2020 campaign, King McAvoy said.

She talked to brothers and co-owners John and Jim King about how climate change was impacting the farm, as previously reported.

This story was provided by the Traverse City Record Eagle.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.