Need a break from the beach? King Orchards offers great family fun for all ages. Starting with strawberries in June and ending with apples in October, there is almost always something to pick yourself. In between strawberries and apples are sweet cherries, tart cherries, raspberries, and occasionally stone fruit (apricots, peaches, and nectarines) depending on the crop size.
Over the 40 years of business, King Orchards has always kept u-pick a priority when making decisions about where and what to plant, as well as expanding offerings to increase u-pick season. “Sweet and tart cherries have always been the King of summertime in Northern Michigan, but customers kept asking if we had anything else to pick or they would be disappointed if they missed the short cherry season,” says Betsy King, owner of King Orchards. “Our raspberry and new strawberry patches are quickly gaining popularity and every one wants to come get cider, donuts and apples in the fall.”
Betsy has noticed other changes in recent years. Today, more customers are coming to pick for the experience (and to grab a selfie) in the orchard, instead of picking large volumes like they used to.
But don’t be misled by the “self-serve” business model, the King Orchards u-pick business is anything but hands off. “We spend so much time and energy making sure that every customer is going to have a great experience. That means we must pay attention to all the details. We are closely monitoring where customers can pick, changing daily or even throughout the day. Most customers aren’t experienced, so we need to make sure we show them the good fruit and are happy with what they take home.” King Orchards is one of the only farms where you can get your cherries pitted right after picking. The fruit is washed, pitted and then ready for your pie or the freezer.
If you don’t feel like picking yourself, the retail stores offer King Orchards’ quality fruit along with vegetables, fresh bakery items, and a wide selection of non-fresh products like their cherry salsa, jam and soda. A sign in the store boasts “U-Pick Donuts Everyday.”
King Orchards has two locations, one in Kewadin on US-31 and one in Central Lake on M-88. There are differences in what fruit is offered and the pitters are only at the Central Lake location, so make sure to call or look on the website for more information. They are open 7 days a week in the summer and fall.
Juliette King is the owner of King Orchards. Find out more about the farm at kingorchards.com