The Founding Dream
Broetje Orchards began as a daydream in the mind of Ralph Broetje. At the age of 15, he remembers hearing a missionary from India speak about the suffering of children and thinking….wouldn’t it be great to have an orchard and help kids some day?!
Several years later, he and Cheryl met; and in 1967 they married. They borrowed enough money to make a down payment on a cherry orchard. It took four years to get their first crop off the trees, and several more to pay past debts. Life was good until 1979, when their labor force changed almost overnight, due in part to the Iran oil embargo which drove up gasoline prices so high that U.S. migrant families, who had typically followed crops around the country, decided to stay home.
In their place, young Latino men started showing up for work in our orchard. Soon, U.S citizens became concerned about this newest group of immigrants coming to the U.S in increasing numbers. Our family decided to travel to Mexico to try to gain understanding of their context and resulting exodus to the U.S. What we found over the next few years caused us to believe that here was a group of economic refugees who had been forced off their lands due to various issues ranging from lack of water table, good roads or assessable markets for those who had owned land, to oppression and political violence against indigenous people groups within Mexico and Latin America.
The Dream Realized
We came to believe that the daydream Ralph had at age 15 was now asking to become real in our lives through our apple farming business. Only the people group we were to serve first was our own employees! Although we were aware that public sentiment was largely against Latino immigrants, we felt God calling us to live out biblical principles found in such scriptures as the following:
“Treat aliens living among you as native born” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
“God shows no partiality…he defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” (Deut. 10:18-19)
Pope Paul VI in his 1967 pastoral on the care of migrants said this: “the right to work and feed the family precedes the right of a nation to establish borders and control exit and entrance to and from that nation.”
During the past 30 years our employees have become our community. Together we tend a large fruit garden that then takes care of our needs. As we have learned how to care for one another over the years, we as a community are increasingly able to extend resources and solidarity to other communities both in the U.S and internationally.
Ralph's daydream has come true; today we are not only serving children and their families in India; together we are building better societies at home and around the world. We thank God for our Latino partners. We couldn't have lived the dream without them. We cannot abandon them now.