FirstFruits Farms | Our Story
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Our Story

Bearing Fruit That Will Last

“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit–fruit that will last. Then the father will give you whatever you ask in my name. This is my command: Love each other.”  John 15:16-17 NIV.

The Founding Dream

FirstFruits Farms has its roots in the birth and development of Broetje Orchards, a family-owned business that began as a daydream in the mind of Ralph Broetje. At the age of 15, Ralph remembers hearing a missionary from India speak about the suffering of children and then thinking….wouldn’t it be great to have an orchard and help kids some day?!   After marrying his wife, Cheryl, in 1967, the two built an organization with an ecumenical approach to both their work and living out their faith.

From their vision, Broetje Orchards became a recognized leader in the apple industry and for over 25 years as one of the largest privately owned apple orchards in the United States. Their business-as-ministry focus drew from the bible verse in John 15, which became the source of the company’s official mission statement “to be a quality fruit company committed to bearing fruit that will last.”

For more information on the Broetje family and their continued work, please visit Vista Hermosa Foundation.

A Timeline of Progress

1980 | First Acreage Planted

1980 | First Acreage Planted

First acreage planted in Prescott, Washington.  Ralph took a risk and planted one of the biggest blocks of Granny Smith apples during that time.  

1983 | The Dream Remembered

After a family mission trip to the Mexico border, Ralph and Cheryl clarified their call.  “It wasn’t so we could keep building things for ourselves. It was so we could try to give back to the families working with us.”

FirstFruits Brand Born

FirstFruits Brand Born

The farm became vertically integrated as grower, packer, and shipper all on one site. New jobs were created and new varieties of apples were planted, including Fujis.

1988 | On-Site Childcare

1988 | On-Site Childcare

As relationships developed with new employees, awareness grew about children being left at home alone during work hours.  Ralph and Cheryl realized they were being called to serve alongside these families as part of their original vision.

1990 | Housing On-Site

1990 | Housing On-Site

In response to employees’ stories of inadequate and unsafe housing, $5 million was invested to build single family homes and apartments for low rent.  The residents named the community “Vista Hermosa,” meaning “Beautiful View.”

2001 | Organic Production

2001 | Organic Production

Recognizing both the environmental benefits and the business opportunities presented in an expanding market, the company purchased 400 acres in Wallula, along the Columbia River.

2003 | Second Packing Line Built

2003 | Second Packing Line Built

This increased company capacity to meet consumer demand as well as the more mission oriented purpose of limiting night shifts, allowing families to be home together in the evening.

2009 | FirstFruits Marketing

2009 | FirstFruits Marketing

Established as the company’s exclusive sales and marketing desk, with the same mission and philanthropic values to invest in people and community building.

2010 | Opal® apples.

2010 | Opal® apples.

Continuing in innovation, the company obtained exclusive rights to the Opal, a naturally non-browning apple with independent non-GMO verification that has taken the country by storm. See more at Opal®.

2015 | Health Clinic

Recognizing that simply providing health insurance was not enough, the company opened a clinic on-site for employees and their dependents to access consistent health care services with a doctor.

First Fruits — The Next Chapter

Starting in 2019, ownership transferred to a new company, but the founding vision continues to shape the unique culture of our business.

While new goals and priorities will be set to grow the business into the future, we remain committed to developing relationships, serving people, and building community in the workplace.

Our belief is that business does not have to thrive at the expense of the planet or its people, but can chart a course that provides employees, families, owners and communities an opportunity to grow and thrive.

We will continue to sustain this holistic work in three integrated ways:

FirstFruits Farms

The company’s acreage includes about 5,000 contiguous acres near Prescott, 625 in Benton City and another 550 devoted to certified organic productions in Wallula, WA. Once the fruit is picked from the field, it is quickly transported to our 12 million square foot storage and packing facility on site, ensuring the best quality product.

FirstFruits Community

In 1990, the Broetjes invested $5 million from their business to build on-site housing. The first residents named the community “Vista Hermosa,” which means “beautiful view.” Today the community is home to over 800 employees and their families, offering a variety of educational, health and recreation activities. 

FirstFruits Marketing

FirstFruits Marketing was started in 2009 as a collaborative apple marketing company with Congdon Orchards. Sharing in the larger mission of ‘bearing fruit that will last’, this organization was tasked with communicating the philanthropic spirit connected to the fruit sold under our label.

Core Values