October 8, 2012

Off the Trail: A view from the orchard: We're in trouble

In rural York County, there’s little enthusiasm for the presidential race, but plenty of concerns.

By Bob Keyes bkeyes@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

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Jeff Walker picks up dropped apples at Pine View Orchard in Berwick on Thursday. He’s most concerned about the economy and the shrinking middle class.

Photos by Gabe Souza/Staff Photographer

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Mike Libby stands at the top of his orchard in Limerick on Thursday. Libby says he’s not too keen on either presidential candidate because they aren’t talking about change.

For him, the orchard is part-time work. In retirement, he lives part of the year in Florida.

As is the case with most folks he converses with, the issues of greatest importance to him are the economy and the shrinking middle class. He blames the Republicans "for standing in the way of any kind of progress." The Republican Party seems intent on sabotaging Obama, no matter the cost. The economy and the welfare of the people are collateral damage to the Republican agenda, he said.

"Something's not right," he said. "Without a good strong middle class, without good jobs and good incomes, the country's not going anywhere."

Walker considers himself an independent Democrat. He has voted for Republicans in the past, including George H.W. Bush for president.

But not this year.

He predicted York County will go for Obama, just as it did in 2008. Obama won here by more than 20,000 votes -- 64,799 to 42,389 -- four years ago. This race will be much closer, Walker guessed. There is a lot of discontent here and a lot of struggling people.

He lived in Massachusetts when Romney was governor. He credited the former governor for shepherding the "Romneycare" health-insurance law through the Massachusetts legislature, and thinks Romney would fare better nationally if he reshaped his image as a consensus builder.

"I liked the fact that he worked with the Democrats (in Massachusetts). If Romney was running as the moderate that he is, he'd have a much better chance in the election. He'd probably be ahead of Obama," Walker said.

Walker said the boost that Romney received from his performance in last week's debate will drive him further to the center, which should improve his poll numbers and increase his chances of unseating Obama. "I think it's going to be very, very close," he said.

Staffing the register at Pine View Orchard was 58-year-old Bill Perkins. In addition to helping Walker run the orchard, he works as an itinerant pharmacist, traveling across Maine and New Hampshire, mostly, to work at pharmacies that need assistance. He's licensed in four states.

For him, health care is the No. 1 issue. He just purchased a health-insurance policy for himself after shopping around. He declined to say how much he paid, but said that if not for his ability to juggle work and go where his services are needed, he might not have afforded it.

He's too young to gamble on good health until he qualifies for Medicare.

In his job, he encounters people all the time who can't afford their medications and other health-care costs.

"I see people every day that are losing their health care or can't afford it. I see people go bankrupt because they cannot afford the care that they need to keep alive," Perkins said.

He's voting for Obama.

Ron Turner plans to vote for Obama, as well, but he's worried about the president's chances. He was not impressed with Obama during last week's debate.

"The way I heard him talking, I thought he didn't want the job, really," said Turner, a retired roofing contractor from York.

He stopped in to the Early Bird Cafe in South Berwick for a muffin and cup of coffee the morning after the debate.

He voted Republican much of his adult life, but switched loyalties with President Clinton. The economy was good during the Clinton years, and it was good for his business. As far as he's concerned, Romney spells trouble.

"He's so arrogant. He knows it all. But I guess you've got to be a little like that to get ahead," he said.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or:


Twitter: pphbkeyes


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