A general shortage of employees and increasing demand for housing has prompted the construction of a seasonal housing development at Broetje Orchards at Prescott, Washington.
Broetje Orchards, which is one of the larger apple growers and packers in the state, has had a housing complex for year-round workers for many years. The Vista Hermosa neighborhood development is operated by a nonprofit group called Snake River Housing, Inc., which is affiliated with Broetje Orchards.
Three new townhouses, which should be completed by this fall, will provide another 108 beds for seasonal workers, said Roger Bairstow, who is executive director of Mano à Mano, another nonprofit association affiliated with Broetje. The Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development has provided a $1.5 million recoverable loan for the project to Mano à Mano, which will own and operate the new housing. Broetje is also contributing to the project.
Broetje Orchards needs around 1,000 seasonal employees at harvest, Bairstow said. Last year, it had enough labor but in the past has been short anywhere from 200 to 400 employees. The company is considering the federal H-2A Guest Worker Program as a possible source of labor, and employers using the program must provide housing.
Janet Abbett at The Washington State Department of Community, Trade and Economic Development said this is the first time that public funds have been requested to help finance housing projects at Broetje Orchards. She said the state is unable to provide funding to private companies, but can assist nonprofit organizations, such as Mano à Mano. The housing will not be exclusively for employees of Broetje Orchards. Another grower in the area will lease beds, and, under the agreement with the state, 10 percent of the beds must be available to any farmworker in need of housing.