Succession isn’t really about giving for Rosie and Ward Burroughs. It’s about helping their children succeed in agriculture and ensuring the continued stewardship of the Denair, California, land in their care.

“If you want to keep the farm going, you can’t just pass it equally to all of your children,” Ward says. It’s one of many lessons he and Rosie picked up while navigating their farming career and are using to make transition as smooth as possible for their four children.

How Ward’s parents transferred their farm to the next generation provided both good and bad examples. The diversified operation—a dairy, orchards, and beef cattle—was split among five siblings including Ward and his brother. Three of the siblings were limited “silent” partners who eventually spoke up and forced the sale of some family land.

While Ward doesn’t begrudge his siblings their inheritance, there will be no silent partners for his children. “Each partner should be contributing to the business,” Ward says. Or businesses, in the Burroughs’ case.

Instead of chopping up the farm for an inheritance, the Burroughs partnered with each of their children at varying levels to form individual businesses. Though separate entities, the businesses collaborate. The system looks a lot like a spoked wheel.

Rosie and Ward (center) along with their daughters, Benina (far left) and Christina (far right), and 7 of their 13 grandchildren.

Rosie and Ward partner with their daughter Christina’s family on Full Circle Dairy, a grass-fed, seasonal Jersey operation; with their daughter, Benina, on Burroughs Family Orchards growing organic almonds and olives; with their son Zeb and his family on California Cloverleaf Farms, another grass-fed organic Jersey dairy; and provided support to their son, Joe, for another orchard.

Benina and her husband, Heriberto, formed their own business, Burroughs Family Farms that includes pasture-raised poultry and serves as the marketing front for a slew of specialty products produced by the family businesses including various flavors of organic almonds, olive oil, milk, cheese, meats and eggs.

“We have helped our kids develop their talents,” Rosie says. And the farm as a whole has thrived. “Benina pivotally moved the whole farm to organic and has led the way with value-added products and direct marketing.”

With the formation of each business and partnership, feasibility studies were conducted and legal agreements drawn up. Everyone knows exactly where they stand.

Both business partnerships and land trusts were formed, allowing Rosie and Ward to gift land to the trusts for succession. They’ve taken advantage of gift allowance hikes to do so strategically, always watching for such advantages and keeping advisors close at hand.

“It’s been beautiful to see our children grow into leadership roles in their community and businesses,” Rosie says.

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