The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dena Martin
The Times 

Broetje Orchards sells to Ontario Teachers' Fund

 

February 14, 2019

The Times

Ralph and Cheryl Broetje pose in the playground of the on-site New Horizon Early Childhood Education Center that they established in 1988.

PRESCOTT – According to a Feb. 9 story in the Tri-City Herald, Ralph and Cheryl Broetje sold Broetje orchards to the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan in late December. The fund will operate the company under the First Fruits brand.

The article states that the sale did not include the Tierra Vida housing development in Pasco or the Center for Sharing in Franklin County. It did include Broetje's Orchard properties, FirstFruits Marketing of Washington, LLC and Snake River Housing, LLC.

In August of 2017, The Times toured Broetje Orchards as part of a Blue Mountain Land Trust 'Learning on the Land' event to learn about the impressive operation.

Ralph and Cheryl Broetje purchased their first cherry orchard in Benton City, Wash in the late 60's. They nearly threw in the towel before making a profit in their fourth year in operations.

The Times

The warehouse and packing facilities add to Broetje's 11 million square feet of controlled atmosphere and cold storage space for a total of 12 million square feet of storage and packing. Broetje Orchards was purchased by the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan in December, 2018.

They expanded into apples and purchased land along the Snake River, but the business hit a roadblock in the 80s when the farm crisis hit, and banks recalled outstanding loans and denied new ones. The only property the bank couldn't find a buyer for was the site near Prescott. Ralph was able to serve as manager with a buy-back option over five years.

A massive storm that wiped out nearly all the Red Delicious apple crops in Washington State, spared the orchard and helped the Broetje's get back on their feet. For 26 years, Broetje Orchards has been on of the largest privately-owned apple orchards in the United States.

The Broetje's are well-known for their philanthropy and community activism. They established New Horizon Early Education Center so that employees could leave their children on site and older children weren't pulled from school to watch younger children. In 1990, they built Vista Hermosa, a residential development of 120 single-family low rent homes and apartments on site, that they rented to year-round employees.

The Broetje's were also catalysts in the creation of the Center for Sharing and Jubilee Leadership Academy.

 

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