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US: Canadian pension fund buys large Mid-Columbia apple producer

Canadian pension fund ‘Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan’ bought Broetje Orchards from founders Ralph and Cheryl Broetje in a deal that closed in late December. Broetje Orchards is one of Washington’s leading apple producers and a major Mid-Columbia employer.

Broetje employs more than 2,800 at peak times across the state in growing and processing apples and cherries on 6,175 acres. It is reportedly one of the largest privately-owned orchards in the U.S., producing 7 million boxes of apples a year, including its proprietary Opal apple.

The Toronto-based fund will operate the company, including its marketing and housing arms, under the First Fruits brand.  The deal covers Broetje’s orchard properties, FirstFruits Marketing of Washington LLC and Snake River Housing Inc.

Jim Hazen, a former Broetje Orchards executive, was named president and chief executive of the new company. In January, Hazen told AgriInvestor it would continue to invest in producing quality apples and investing in its people.

According to¸ Hazen pledged to make the transition seamless for Broetje employees.

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