Posts Tagged “Broetje Orchards”

Consolidation Trend Continues with the Sale of Washington State Apple Orchards

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Consolidation of two recent purchases of Washington state apple growers and packers and other tree fruit highlights a trend that will continue, in the opinion of industry and financial experts.

One of the state’s biggest family-owned and operated apple companies, Broetje Orchards has been sold. Broetje Orchards LLC, FirstFruits Marketing of Washington LLC, and Snake River Housing Inc. were involved in the purchase. 

The Tri-City Herald estimated the value of the real estate alone — more than 6,000 acres of fruit orchards — at nearly $300 million, although no purchase details were disclosed.

The business will be operated by three new entities: FirstFruits Farms LLC, FirstFruits Marketing LLC; and FirstFruits Community LLC, according to a news release.

Ralph and Cheryl Broetje founded Broetje Orchards more than 35 years ago, and it now grows, packs and ships close to 7 million boxes of apples a year, according to the release. 

The new owner, the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan, plans a seamless transition to avoid disruptions for employees and customers. 

Jim Hazen, former business manager at Broetje Orchards, is CEO and president of the new company, FirstFruits Farms LLC, and Chuck Zeutenhorst is general manager.

Another large-scale purchase involving Washington apple companies happened about the same time as the Broetje Orchards deal.

International Farming Corp. of North Carolina acquired Legacy Fruit Packers, Valley Fruit, and Larson Fruit, all of Yakima Valley. The combined companies are known as Columbia River Orchards.

The acquisition includes 4,000 acres of orchards and two packing facilities that handle about 4 million boxes of fruit annually.  The purchase includes interests in Sage Fruit, Yakima; and Pacific Coast Cherry Packers, Wapato.

The Land Report earlier reported Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates paid $171 million last fall to acquire approximately 14,500 acres of farmland in southern Washington.

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FirstFruits to Have Fan Singing Contest under SuperCrispiOpalicious Contest

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by FirstFruits Marketing of Washington

OpalYAKIMA, Wash. — Opal®, the highly-acclaimed apple creating a frenzy in the category, is sporting a new look for the 2017-2018 season along with a brand new consumer campaign that will have fans singing. Literally.

This season’s consumer campaign, entitled SupercrispiOpalicious, centers around a challenge issued to Opal fans to create and perform their own original song about why they love Opals. Launching late this fall, the public will be asked to vote on the top five performers selected by a panel of judges. The grand prize winner will be selected by both popular vote and FirstFruits judges and receive a prize package and featured spot on the Opal apple website.

The consumer favorite Opal apple boasts a bright yellow exterior, incredibly sweet flavor and distinctive crisp texture. Best of all, the apple is naturally non-browning, making it perfect for snacks, salads and lunchboxes. As of the 2016-2017 apple season, the Opal is among the ranks of the Top 20 varieties in the country.

Opal fans are some of the most passionate and vocal apple lovers I’ve ever seen,”  said Chuck Zeutenhorst, general manager of FirstFruits.  “The SupercrispiOpalicious campaign will give them an opportunity to engage with us in a very unique and interactive promotion.”

The familiar Opal logo received a facelift and a redesigned website will launch this fall to coincide with the release of the apples to the market.

FirstFruits represents Broetje Orchards, a leader in Washington organic apple production and an innovator in new varieties to the market, as well as Congdon Orchards. As the exclusive marketer of the Opal®, FirstFruits offers the variety in both organic and conventional options beginning in late October and expects supplies to last through June 2018.

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About FirstFruits Marketing of Washington

FirstFruits Marketing is a collaborative apple marketing company owned by Ralph and Cheryl Broetje. Their growers share a commitment to producing high quality fruit while balancing the demands of purpose, people, planet and profit so that a portion of profits can be donated to non-profit missions supporting the underserved. For more Information, visit

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New Variety is a Cross Between Gala and Braeburn

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Yakima, Wash. – With the start of fall, apples are showing up in the produce aisle in a big way. Sweetie™, an intensely sweet and crunchy new apple variety from FirstFruits of Washington, will be making an appearance at retail this September.

First planted in New Zealand, Sweetie™ is now grown in Wash. State by Broetje Orchards and is sold by FirstFruits Marketing. Sweetie™ combines the best attributes of two parents–Gala’s excellent sugars alongside the firm-crisp texture of Braeburn, but with a unique flavor of its own. Characteristic with its name, Sweetie™ leads the pack of varieties when it comes to sweetness.

True to the Broetje growing philosophy, Sweetie™ stands next to Opal® as an example of new variety innovation and top standards for flavor. It was first planted as a 30-acre test block in Prescott, Wash. Over the past two years, additional blocks have been planted as trees have been determined to yield good quality fruit and consumer response for the variety has been positive.

Similar to Opal®, Sweetie™ was released in limited markets where consumer response could be measured. Initial response has been very favorable, especially amongst consumers of Gala or Fuji, whose palate tends to like a sweeter apple.

“We are always looking for new varieties that will resonate with consumers to bring to our customers. After our huge success with Opal® we knew we would have to follow with something great, and I think we have found it in Sweetie™,” remarked Andy Tudor, marketing manager at FirstFruits of Washington.

“Launching a new variety is a very complex process,” continued Tudor. “The fruit needs to be grower friendly, have a good shelf life and appearance, and have some kind of unique quality to get people to try it. Sweetie™ has all of those characteristics and I believe we have a winner once again.”

These apples are full of flavor, highlighted by an intense sweet taste and crunchy texture. It’s not just their great taste, but Sweeties’ beautiful red blush on a golden-green skin, which makes them stand out from other varieties.

Sweetie™ was granted its own PLU #3628, and will be featured in the new product showcase at the PMA Fresh Summit Convention and Expo in October in Anaheim, CA. 

FirstFruits Marketing of Washington is a collaborative apple marketing company owned by growers. These growers share a commitment to producing high quality fruit while balancing the demands of purpose, people, planet and profit so that a portion of profits can be donated to non-profit missions supporting the underserved. For more information, visit

Source: FirstFruits Marketing of Washington

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