First fruits

Broetje Orchards puts people before profits

When hail wiped out 70 percent of the apple crop at Broetje Orchards in 2006, owners Ralph and Cheryl Broetje and their management team had a decision to make. The insurance company would pay on the business’s policy only if no further harvesting was done—no picking of the orchard’s fruit. If they agreed, the Broetjes would recover some of their costs, but several hundred of their year-round workers would lose their jobs, and even more migrant workers would be unemployed.

“Somehow we had to keep people working because there are a lot of families depending on us being here every day,” recalls warehouse manager Ron Appleby. “So we came up with, ‘Let’s go ahead and pick the fruit and really forget about the insurance money and hope that God’s watching over us a little bit.’” The family kept everyone employed and managed to break even.


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