Ontario Teachers’ acquires one of the largest private apple orchard operations in the US in $288m deal
The Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan has acquired Broetje Orchards, one of the largest privately-owned apple orchard operations in the U.S. Although the purchase price has not been disclosed, public records with the Washington Department of Revenue indicate that the real estate portion of the sale was valued at $288 million.
Founded 35 years ago by Ralph and Cheryl Broetje, Broetje Orchards has grown into one of the largest vertically integrated apple companies in the country, growing more than 15 varieties of apples (including its proprietary Opal apple) and cherries. Located near Prescott, Broetje spans more than 6,000 acres, and employs more than 2,800 employees at peak season to pack and ship nearly 7 million boxes of apples per year.
“Broetje Orchards is a strong strategic fit for our natural resources portfolio, providing a large-scale asset with direct exposure to a staple component of the food basket,” said Pav Jordan, senior manager, OTPP.
Based out of Toronto, and managing pensions for approximately 323,000 active and retired teachers in Ontario, Canada, OTTP has C$194 billion under management, which includes investments in farmland and food production.
Agricultural investments previously made by the pension fund include:
Almond assets totaling more than 2,800 hectares, acquired from Macquarie in 2015;
Prince Edward Island-based Atlantic Aqua Farms, which was acquired from San Francisco-based Encore Consumer Capital in November 2017. Although financial details for the acquisition were not released, this deal, which was reportedly valued in excess of C$100 million, represents the first foray into aquaculture for the pension fund, which stated that the acquisition falls under its “…natural resources mandate to invest in the global food basket, with an eye on sustainable sources of food production,” according to a statement released at the time.
And Jasper Farms, the second largest avocado producer in Australia, with 82,000 trees planted across 220 hectares, which was acquired in December 2017 in a deal reported to be valued at $180 million. Commenting on the deal, Andrew Claerhout, senior managing director, infrastructure and natural resources for Ontario Teachers noted, “Avocados are difficult to substitute and their unique flavor and nutrient profile have helped them benefit from the growing demand for health foods in Australia and internationally.”
- In addition to these assets, the pension fund has also made investments in AustinOn Corp., an Australian agricultural asset manager, and REIT Goldcrest Farm, an owner and manager of U.S. row crop farmland.
As the newest addition to the Ontario Teachers’ portfolio, former Broetje Orchards executive Jim Hazen has been appointed president and chief executive moving forward.
“The success of the company over the years has been due in large part to the dedication of our employees,” he said. “Our future success also depends on them. We are working to avoid disrupting any services or programs for our employees or our customers.”