The term “workforce housing” is defined in many ways. Today, it is often referred to housing for a workforce that makes above the income levels set for affordable housing.
In her introduction, I refer to workforce housing as housing built for a company’s workers. I peeks into historical models of company towns and contrast that with the work of Ralph and Cheryl Broetje who have not only provided 150 single-family affordable rental homes for their migrant workers, but a village, including a store, school, day care and a chapel and for-sale affordable homes. They have broken the cycle of poverty for their workers creating culture of God’s shalom.
In his chapter, Roger Bairstow tells of his first encounters with Ralph and Cheryl Broetje. This down-to-earth couple has dedicated their lives and their business to God and the needs of their migrant employees. Roger recounts their amazing journey of Ralph’s dream to help children in India and when he met Cheryl, her dream to create community, and how both dreams are more than realized. Using the business as ministry model, they have today developed largest privately owned apple orchard business in the US. In their commitment to address the needs of their 900 + employees, with God’s love and leading they first established a packing line, to provide year-round stable work, then responding to what they heard from the women on the packing line, a state of the art child care center. Soon, they found themselves building housing at affordable rates, which created even more stability and community. As a result, families are able to save for homeownership.
Roger ends this almost too-good-to-be-true journey of Ralph and Cheryl with a delightful story of their trip to an overflowing Mexican orphanage to visit the families of some of their employees. They told the children they help them expand their orphanage if their 100 acres of cherry trees produce. They asked the children to pray to this end. Ralph was about to cut them down for their lack of production, but he was reminded of Jesus’s story to wait another year and give a fig tree a chance to produce (Luke 13:9-6). In response to the children’s prayers, that year the trees produced $100,000 worth of cherries. The orphanage was expanded. Since then, the money from subsequent cherries crops is managed in a foundation by their workers. They are given the authority to decide the recipients of these grant monies. As a result, ministries and villages are helped in India and throughout the world.
Today this kind of empowerment has led them to conduct business with the quadruple bottom line, where they balance profit, planet, people and purpose.
Today Broetje Farms and many other orchards have been affected due to the tough immigration laws throughout the US.
In 2012, my husband Antony and I toured the vast synergy of Christ honoring ministries incubated by Broetje Orchards. God has honored their work, because they have honored God. We strongly suggest you join a tour to this place of peace on earth and watch the Gospel of Christ at work!
Broetje Orchards: http://www.firstfruits.com/