Broetje Orchards, headquartered in Prescott, WA, is working with commodity suppliers to create a new cooperative marketing organization. Business Manager Jim Hazen said that a board of directors is expected to be seated and an administrative office will be opened by Aug. 17, just in time for the 2009-10 apple season.
Owner and operator Ralph Broetje said that the decision to pursue independent marketing fits in well with the company's philosophy of operation. "This new independent marketing company will be grower-owned and customer-focused, while providing an opportunity for those customers to connect with our socially responsible efforts," he said. The company has a values-driven approach to its business, and this includes global humanitarian programs through the Vista Hermosa Foundation, created by the Broetje family. The foundation funds both domestic and international projects in under-served communities assisting with food production, health care, education and housing.
Mr. Hazen expects the board of directors to range in size from five to seven members, who will be selected based upon supplier recommendation. Each board member, he said, will have an equal voice in the decision-making process. Administrative staff will be hired this month, and Mr. Hazen said that the staff's general manager will report directly to the board.
"The apple business is very competitive," Mr. Broetje said. "We are just as competitive, but we are a company with a different philosophy. We believe we have a good story to tell and one that will make retailers and consumers feel good about buying our apples."
Broetje Orchards is one of the larger family-owned-and-operated grower- shippers in Washington. The company farms one of the larger contiguous orchard operations in the United States, encompassing 5,000 acres along the Snake River. Broetje Orchards packs and ships over 5 million boxes of apples annually.
Additionally, the company has over 900 acres in production for certified organic apples and cherries. Fruit is marketed under the "FirstFruits of Washington" label.