President of Burchell Nursery Inc Receives Honor of Young Nursery Professional of the Year
Burchell Nursery, Oakdale California
June 30, 2008

Tom Burchell, President/CEO of Burchell Nursery Inc., was presented the Young Nursery Professional of the Year Award by the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers during the recent Grower Summit Conference held at the Double Tree Hotel in Santa Ana, California.

This award honors those under 40 years of age who have demonstrated pronounced business success within the nursery industry along with a strong sense of civic duty and participation in local and international contributions. His contributions have been both significant and profoundly felt from 'Ground Zero' to the war in Iraq.

Burchell took over the reins from his father, William 'Bill' Burchell, in 2004.  He oversees all aspects of running the family business, its 120 full time and 50 part time employees, growing over two million plants annually and operating with a budget of over $11 million.  The main crop is deciduous fruit and nut trees. The Burchell Nursery was started in 1942 by Irvin Burchell, Tom Burchell's grandfather.  With a degree in pomology from the University of California at Berkeley and many years of experience in the California fruit industry, Irvin Burchell possessed both the training and the expertise to succeed in the nursery business.

The successful business was passed on to Bill Burchell, also a graduate in pomology but from U.C. Davis, in the 1970's.  Tom broke the U.C. tradition and attended Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo earning a Bachelor of Science in Ornamental Horticulture and a minor in Ag. Business.  While in school, he interned one summer in Gambia West Africa. 

Burchell Nursery is part of the history of the California Association of Nurseries and Garden Centers as they have been a member for over 50 years.  Bill Burchell served as its President in 1987 after many years of involvement on committees and in other local and state officer positions.  Tom Burchell is no different as he has also participated on committees and as an officer of the local chapter.  Currently Tom serves on the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) working with the California Department of Agriculture to allocate research funds and support the deciduous nursery certification program. 

Some of the highlights of Tom's career include:

  • Working with youth, conducting teaching tours of the nursery and classroom teaching.
  • Initiated and developed the Product Development division of Burchell Nursery and because of this, his nursery is involved with nurseries in Chile, Australia, South Africa and Europe.
  • Their in-house plant breeding program has developed over 45 patented varieties of peaches and nectarines and they have coordinated their marketing resources with Texas A&M University to become the exclusive marketer of their patented peach and nectarine program.
  • Began new propagation work through the use of a tissue culture lab and greenhouse facilities to propagate difficult plant species such as walnuts, peach hybrid rootstocks and pistachios.

Tom organized a successful relief effort in 2001 after September 11 so that in October, one Saturday, volunteers picked and packed over 10 tons of applies that were shipped to a church in New York and provided nutritious snacks for the relief workers at Ground Zero.  Tom says, "Being aware of the world around us and how much agriculture plays a part in the global economy and way of life, I have a passion to use the talents and skills I have been taught to improve the lives of others." 

Ground Zero benefited but more recently in December 2006 in coordination with Master Sergeant Patricia Marsano of the 164th Corps Support Group at Camp Anaconda, Iraq, Tom packaged and shipped 200 olive plants from Burchell Nursery to be planted along the road in Iraq leading to the base as a symbol of peace for the people of Iraq.  There was a tree planting ceremony on December 23rd, 2006 at the base that was covered by CNN. 

This busy and dedicated young man has also had time to publish several papers specific to the deciduous tree industry and belong and participate in many national and international societies, organizations and associations.  Locally, Tom's civic activities have included coaching trade at Johansen High School, serving as the high school group leader at Modesto Covenant Church an in both Future Farmers of America and the 4-H Program.

Tom and his wife Julie reside in Oakdale, California with their two children Leah and Jake.