Jim and Rose King, at left, and John and Betsy King, right, pose with their award and the National Cherry Queen Maria LaCross, who hails from a tart cherry farm close to King Orchards.
Very Cherry Promotion Award
The National Cherry Festival Committee has awarded the Very Cherry Promotion Award to John and Betsy King and Jim and Rose King, who grow fruit, operate two farm markets, and run a successful Internet business in which innovative tart cherry products play a big part. King Orchards, Central Lake, Michigan, sells such products as dried cherries, cherry juice concentrate, and Balaton cherry salsa, as well as more conventional products such as pie fillings, and avidly promotes the health benefits of tart cherries.
Lifetime Achievement Award
The National Cherry Festival Committee gave its Lifetime Achievement Award to Clinton Smeltzer of Bear Lake, Michigan. Clinton and his brother Percy operated Smeltzer Orchard Company, Frankfort, Michigan, and Per Clin Orchards, at Bear Lake. The Smeltzer brothers, besides growing and processing tart cherries, were innovative—one of the first farms to convert to mechanical harvesting in the early 1960s, and put in Michigan’s first controlled atmosphere storage in 1961.
“I truly enjoyed the opportunity to live the way I have,” he said. “I never did anything else but farm.” The family enterprise dates back to 1872, and Clinton and Percy bought their farm in 1944. They started processing their own fruit, and that of other area growers, in 1946.
Clinton, now 87, remains on the board of the Smeltzer Orchard Company, which produces frozen fruits, apple juice, dried fruits, and chocolate- and yogurt-covered dried cherries.
Award of Merit
Adrian Huisman, the long-serving general manager of the Ontario Tender Fruit Board and the Fresh Grape Growers Marketing Board, has received the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association’s Award of Merit.
Huisman began his career with what was then the Ontario Fresh Tender Fruit Marketing Board in 1966. During his tenure, he faced many challenges, including substantial surpluses of sour cherries and processing grapes, the devastation brought about by invasive diseases such as the plum pox virus, and retail market changes.
In 1979, Huisman helped shepherd growers through the amalgamation of the fresh and processing tender fruit boards and oversaw the construction of the current head office of the tree fruit and vine industries. In 2004, he played a key role in the creation of the new Ontario Apple Growers organization, serving as its first general manager.
“For 45 years, Adrian has been a strong advocate for fruit producers in Ontario and a valuable resource for all of agriculture,” said Brian Gilroy, chair of the Ontario Fruit and Vegetable Growers’ Association.