Our family aims to produce the most clean and delicious foods in a way that protects and enhances the soil, air, water, and the environment in which we live. We work hard to use all resources carefully and wisely and to farm systematically while integrating all aspects of our farming operations. We employ a whole systems approach and are proud of our efforts to educate others in the methods and possibilities of organic farming.
Were committed to building relationships based on trust and to treating all partners and employees with respect. We are proud of our efforts to sustain family farming and to promote the preservation of quality farmland in California.
All of our sustainability practices support organic farming principles, and our certified organic foods are produced according to the USDA’s National Organic Program. In some recent studies, foods produced organically have been shown to be more nutrient-dense, and soil health on organic farms has been shown to be superior. Foods carrying the organic seal are produced without the use of these substances:
• petrochemical pesticides
• petrochemical nitrogen fertilizers
• genetically modified organisms
• artificial hormones (RBST or RGBH)
Our organic and transitioning farms rely on no synthetic inputs of any kind, and to a large extent maintain a closed loop of resources. The cattle receive approximately 80 percent of their annual nutrition from pasture and forage. We make all of our own compost per year to “feed” our soil, enhancing soil biology and ensuring the long-term viability of our farm. We also add dried onion and garlic skins into our compost to increase the levels of carbon into our soil.
At Burroughs Family Farms, we believe in creating and maintaining a high level of biodiversity on each of our farms and have planted hedgerows around our crops to do just that. Our hedgerows include rosemary, butterfly bush, deer grass, lavender and more. They provide many benefits include attracting beneficial insects, improving water quality, providing windbreaks, suppressing weeds, and stabilizing our soils. They also act as a barrier to keep out unwanted chemicals from the neighboring farms that surround us.
The Burroughs operation is energy and water efficient, cutting our costs and reducing our impact on air quality and greenhouse gases emissions. Eighty percent of the almond irrigation is supplied with solar energy. Considerable investment has been used to develop five solar tracking sites to supply solar energy to 860 almond acres. In 2013, 5 more sites have been added to the pivot irrigation systems to continue our energy efficiency efforts.
We have invested considerably in conservation efforts on both our owned and leased property, focusing on water quality and conservation, renewable energy and wildlife habitat creation.
We have installed French drains in the boggy areas of our pastures to channel excess water into holding ponds that we then recycle to irrigate our pastures during dry summer months. This extends the growing season of our grasses — the primary food source for our cattle — and also reduces our groundwater use and increases pasture productivity by preventing the formation of boggy, anaerobic areas. The system has the additional benefits of minimizing erosion and manure runoff from the pastures during the rainy season.
Management Intensive Grazing
One of the most important management strategies implemented by Burroughs Family Farms to lower management costs while enhancing long-term viability is the conversion to a management intensive grazing (MIG) system. Taking the cows off concrete and allowing them to do as nature intended, significantly reduces feed costs and the carbon footprint in the process. Intuitively, a pasture-based system also reduces costly inputs such as equipment use, fuel and labor. In this system, the cow is responsible for harvesting her own feed. What can be more sustainable than that?
The Burroughs own three grass-based dairies. Each farm manages their respective herd almost entirely on pasture, maximizing the symbiotic relationship between the soil, the grass and the animals. Cows graze year around under MIG, a method that employs rapid, intense grazing episodes, followed by three weeks of rest.
This management technique enhances the biological activity of the soil, improves forage quality, optimizes the health of the herd and also improves the nutrient content of the milk. Research shows that pasture-based cows produce milk higher in conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids, terpenes and bioflavonoid, all compounds that enhance human health.
At Burroughs Family Farms, we have worked hard to maintain a high level of biodiversity on our land, leaving a safe and sustainable environment for the native habitat. From installing owl boxes to preserving native grasses, we are committed to keeping that which is native to our land.
For the past eight years we have been working with Aaron Wentzel, a biologist who inventories our native grass and wildflower species, collects seed, and assists us with restoration plantings. Some of the most important species he has been focused on include blue wild rye, creeping wild rye, nodding needle grass, pine bluegrass, California melic grass, California saxifrage, purple owl’s clover, harvest brodiaea, California poppy, and more.
His observations have led him to conclude that our grazing practices have a beneficial effect on the native plant communities of our grazed lands. The native grounds are also grazed when available throughout the year and used for calving.
To maintain the health of our land, animals and family, we keep portions of our farms open for natural habitat. The open space and working lands that our farms provide are beneficial for food production and prevent the negative environmental effects of urban development.