Benina Montes’s family has been farming in California for more than 100 years. It all began in 1906, in the East Bay near San Francisco with Benina’s great grandparents. Today, the family farms 1,000 acres of organic almonds in the Central Valley of California, as well as organic olives and raising 3,000 layer hens that produce organic pastured eggs.
Benina has known she wanted to return to her family’s farm since she was in sixth grade. She remembers telling her dad, “I’m going to go to Cal Poly University, work on the beef unit, graduate and come home to take over what you’re doing.” Years later, she is in the exact position that she had hoped to be: working on the farm alongside her parents, her husband and her four young children.
A childhood on the farm was impactful for Benina, and she and her husband want the same experience for their own children. While math, reading, science and social studies are valuable subjects, they recognize the value of the education a child gains from gathering eggs and milking cows, among the multitude of other activities that define farm life.
The Montes children have the freedom to go on self-directed adventures while also gaining important skills and contributing to the farm. Ward, Benina’s father, said, “Growing up on the farm is the best thing for kids… They have these tremendous opportunities to explore; they have chores and they have responsibilities.” The family believes this combination of work and play creates an ideal childhood.
In addition to learning responsibility and humility, Benina wants her children to understand their place in the food system and where their food comes from. With much of the population growing up in urban areas, the Montes children have been immersed, first-hand, in the agriculture system since birth. Benina said, “We sell a variety of products and the kids get to see how they are produced, how they are processed and how we can use them in our own kitchen.” Benina’s oldest child, Mariana, age seven, said that one of her favorite parts of living on the farm was making almond butter cookies with almonds from her very own farm.
Farm Credit has supported this multi-generational family farm for decades. From working with her grandparents, parents and now Benina, Farm Credit understands the needs of Burroughs Family Farms and Burroughs Family Orchards. In the early 2000s, Yosemite Farm Credit financed solar sites that enabled the farm to produce 80 percent of its electricity, offsetting irrigation costs. As loan officer Cortney Lawler put it, “It’s exciting for me, having been at Yosemite for 14 years, to see it grow and the younger generation come into the farming operation.”