Burroughs Family Orchards

By Sandra Yerges, University of Minnesota Crookston


For Burroughs Family Orchards, the Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) journey began with the combined efforts of two lifelong friends and business partners: Benina Montes and Jana Nairn. However, their work together stems from a few years ago when Benina, the general manager of Burroughs Family Orchards, approached Jana to move their value-added nut packing processes to Ag Link Specialty Foods (ALSF), a new partnership they formed. With available capacity at Nairns’ Food Hub facility, the team acquired equipment from a prior processor who was ready to retire.


Benina is a fifth generation farmer for Burroughs Family Orchards dating back to 1906 when her great grandfather purchased the first California farm. After her father and uncle split the business between their dairy and almond operations, she partnered with her parents and decided to work with the almond side of the business. With 1,200 acres of land growing organic almonds, Benina and her family have been planting and harvesting products with regenerative practices.

In 2006, the company began switching some of their almond products to organic, which was a change overseen by Benina. Nine years later in 2015, the farm became fully organic, establishing a competitive advantage for the company ever since. California is known for its almond growing, so having these organic options allow users with specialty food preferences to find a snack they enjoy.

2022 was also a big year for Burroughs Family Orchards (brand name Burroughs Family Farms) as they earned the regenerative organic certification from the Regenerative Organic Alliance. This was a substantial milestone for the business as they are the first almond business to have this certification.

As a regenerative farm, there are many practices that go into maintaining this title. Everything from sheep grazing for half of the year to no-till farming and an emphasis on cover crops to enhance soil health contribute to this company’s holistic operation. Adding to the fields on the Burroughs Family Orchards acreage, there are also hedgerows of plants to attract beneficial animals and insects in a safe manner while protecting the crops before harvest in the fall. Milkweed is another plant grown for the same purpose, and it has been enjoyable for those at the farm to keep up with the monarch butterflies growing from the caterpillar stage.

These practices produce delicious, healthy almonds to use for the wide range of Burroughs Family Orchards products. With almond butters and roasted almonds in a variety of clean flavors, this company has been developing products to ensure the customers are not being exposed to preservatives or other harmful products. “We are committed to only using super clean ingredients, those you can pronounce,” Benina mentioned.

In addition to their almonds, the company also grows olives to make their certified organic olive oil from the California Olive Oil Council. Outside of using it for culinary purposes, Burroughs Family Orchards customers have found medicinal benefits from the product to alleviate inflammation. Moreover, Benina and her husband, Heriberto, also raise organic pasture chickens for eggs sold through a number of natural grocery store chains in California.

Unlike with eggs, much of their value-added nut business is direct-to-consumer from their online offerings. Their website provides their customers from around the United States a quick way to browse and shop for their favorite Burroughs Family Farms products with products shipped daily from the ALSF fulfillment center, another result of the Burroughs VAPG project.

Back at the family farm, they host a Regenerative Almond Field Day that was established in February 2022 after Burroughs Family Orchards participated in two research efforts surrounding this farming practice. To spread the word about regenerative agriculture while showcasing the value of plant diversity, cover crops, and other practices, the company hosted ECDYSIS to speak on these matters. The farm was pleasantly surprised to record over 300 individuals in attendance at the first event consisting of agriculture enthusiasts and growers alike.

Because last year’s event was such a success, the company is making this an annual event with the second year occurring in early 2023. This year they will emphasize their specific farm practices encouraging other farmers to realize the benefits directly and to the environment as a whole. Her hope is to “get people together who are interested so that we can get more people incorporating this kind of farming on their farms.”

Another way this company has attempted to get the word out about their products and farming operations is through their work with the VAPG. Jana first approached Benina about the grant as she has a keen eye for these financial opportunities. With her broad background with grant writing as well as experience working with another producer on a value-added grant, Jana helped Benina apply for the VAPG in spring of 2020.

From updating their labels and packaging more than once based on market feedback to the research and development of new flavors and products, the business has found many ways to utilize the grant funds. The farm originally hoped to use the grant to finance their visits to food shows, but the pandemic hindered that plan and forced the farm to readjust their budget. The grant was also used to learn and navigate the rapidly changing world of online marketing with the assistance of a number of industry experts, challenged by new Instagram and Facebook advertising restrictions. Although these changed the initial go to market plan for the company, they were able to expand their product flavors as well as participate in online marketing campaigns to increase their sales through product awareness.

“The result of the grant is that we’ve learned a lot about what not to do, and we feel we are on a good path to optimize market growth going forward,” Jana stated. Collectively, Benina and Jana plan to continue producing these products in an efficient manner in the next few years while also looking toward the expansion of Burroughs Family Farms’ branded products. By looking to become a well-known company throughout the United States within the next four years, this farm hopes to grow while keeping their regenerative practices as the main message of their brand.