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October 6, 2003

CHERYL BROETJE OF "FIRST FRUITS" —BROETJE ORCHARDS OFFERS REAL-LIFE MODEL OF SERVANT LEADERSHIP NOV. 6

LA CROSSE, Wis.—Members of the Wisconsin Farmers Union, business leaders and students, and community members will get a taste of servant leadership in action when Cheryl Broetje comes to Viterbo University and La Crosse on Thursday, Nov. 6, to talk about the humanity of business.

Together with her husband, Ralph, Broetje owns Broetje Orchards near Prescott, Wash. The business was established in 1980 and markets apples under the "First Fruits of Washington" label to stores throughout the world. They employ 900 people year-round and an additional 900 seasonal workers on their 4,000-acre orchard. What’s unique about their endeavor is the commitment they have to their employees. Broetje Orchard has created a community and family environment for its workforce—one that thrives in the midst of its industry.

In an article written for the Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, Broetje states, "As the owners of business, we have always known that we must empower our people to help us reach our business goals…What society does not expect from the business sector, or hold it accountable for, is its commitment to gauge its behavior by its effects on the least privileged in society, both in the U.S. and for the 94 percent of our neighbors who live outside of the U.S., three billion of whom exist on five percent of the total resources available while the top one percent uses up 85 percent."

With a mostly Hispanic workforce, the Broetjes employed many first- and second-generation immigrants who had little formal education but did have a desire to grow and prosper. As their business grew, the Broetjes put much of their profits into their workforce. In the early 1990s, they built 121 single-family homes and a number of apartments to house their year-round employees. In addition, they provided child-care facilities that would prepare their employees’ children for kindergarten in the U.S.
The Broetjes also invested in continuing education opportunities for employees and nurtured them to grow and become pre-school staff, housing managers, social service workers, and world-class agribusiness managers. They did this by forming several other for-profit and not-for-profit business in the 1980s and 1990s. Among them, the Jubilee Youth Ranch, a haven for troubled youth; the Broetje Foundation; and the Center for Sharing. A non-profit organization and faith community, the Center for Sharing helps people explore and realize their gifts. Classes at the Center’s Servant Leadership School train people in the art of leadership and help them develop their ideas in the form of a service program among a specific, underserved group of people. As a result of its success, Broetje Orchards has an unusually high retention rate among employees, many of whom have been with them since the beginning.
Broetje will share the story of Broetje Orchards and her thoughts on servant leadership at a variety of speaking engagements on Nov. 6. These talks are free and open to the public. No reservation is required. Her schedule includes:

  • 9:30-11 a.m., "Bearing Fruit That Will Last," First Presbyterian Church, 233 West Avenue South, La Crosse. This talk is co-sponsored by the Wisconsin Farmers Union.
  • 2-3:15 p.m., Q & A with university and college business students, Distance-Education Lecture Hall, Reinhart Center room 127.
  • 7-8:30 p.m., "An Evening Conversation with Cheryl Broetje," President’s Board/Dining Room, Reinhart Center 107. Moderators for this discussion will be David Banner, director of Viterbo’s Master of Business Administration; Carl Koch, director of Viterbo’s Master of Arts in Servant Leadership; and Joan Mueller, business development administrator, Franciscan Skemp Healthcare.

For more information, contact Richard Kyte, director of the Ethics Institute, at 608-796-3704, email ethics@viterbo.edu.

For additional information on Broetje Orchards, click:

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