Leadership

“TEAMWORK divides the task & multiplies the SUCCESS.”

Harry Stepanian, Partner

The Stepanian Family have been farming in Fresno County since 1945, when their father Harvey bought their first parcel of land in Laton, California. They officially formed Stepanian Farms Inc. in 1981 while growing grapes, raisins, almonds, alfalfa and cotton among other crops. Though the family has diversified thru the years, including owning a raisin packing company in Caruthers along with commercial & residential real estate; their primary farming focus continues to be conventional and organic almonds. Since 2014, they have brought their experience and funding to become partners in Benton Enterprises. It is important to note that Harry (who has over 35 years of farming experience) has been growing organic almonds for 18 years, provides us with secured access to quality organic almonds.

Jeff Stepanian, Partner

The Stepanian Family have been farming in Fresno County since 1945, when their father Harvey bought their first parcel of land in Laton, California. They officially formed Stepanian Farms Inc. in 1981 while growing grapes, raisins, almonds, alfalfa and cotton among other crops. Though the family has diversified thru the years, including owning a raisin packing company in Caruthers along with commercial & residential real estate; their primary farming focus continues to be conventional and organic almonds. Since 2014, they have brought their experience and funding to become partners in Benton Enterprises. It is important to note that Harry (who has over 35 years of farming experience) has been growing organic almonds for 18 years, provides us with secured access to quality organic almonds.

William B. Pitman

Bill Pitman was born in Madera County in 1947, graduating from Madera High School in 1965. Bill attended Fresno City College and Fresno State University with a focus on Business Administration. Bill’s introduction to food processing came at an early age by his father Willard Pitman, who was himself a progressive and innovative force in the food processing business.

By 1978, Bill was Executive Vice President of the company as well as becoming involved in almond farming. Under Bill’s supervision, Valley Grain Products expanded operations by building a plant in Muleshoe, Texas to handle the company’s growth. Bill became President and CEO of the company in 1985 and further expanded the company building a plant in Kentucky.

Valley Grain Products was second only to Frito Lay processing more than 167,000 tons of corn per year making the company an attractive acquisition target. In 1989 the company had multiple bidders and was eventually acquired by Arthur Daniels Midland (ADM).
Bill became active with the Snack Food Association working to grow the association as well as visiting congress for educational sessions to congressional members.

In 2001, Surface and ground water concerns in the Central Valley gained Bill’s attention where he helped to create a more regional and inclusive approach to the fragmented water challenges in California. Using the Fresno County’s water export ordinance, which by law stops the export of water from one region to another, he helped a similar ordinance get adopted in Madera County preventing the Enron Corporation from its attempt to export valley water.

By early 2000, Bill was investigating the opportunity to become an almond grower/processor/packer which led to the creation of Elk Ridge Almonds in 2002.
In 2005, with multiple outbreaks of salmonella in almonds, Bill was asked to participate as a member of the Almond Board’s Food Quality and Safety Committee which he did from 2005-2007.

From this work, Bill made a determination of the technology he would use with Elk Ridge to conform to new food safety requirements requiring domestic almonds be free of harmful pathogens. The technology chosen by Bill was revolutionary and challenging as well as attractive based on the values of natural, green, sustainable, renewable, and safe to use.
Bill’s technology, moist heat, came with many scientific and engineering challenges.

The success is evidenced by third party validations of the process and eight years of continuous operations pasteurizing and roasting almonds and pistachios in the Madera processing plant. This technology exists nowhere else in the world today except for Heart Ridge Farms.

He continues to focus on quality food utilizing green and natural processes that meet the highest organic standards with satisfied and positive customer experiences.

Tom Caddell

From his career in the Grocery, he provides industry experience, market knowledge across numerous retailer channels, from his career path with a National Grocery retailer, Albertson’s Inc, a Tier 1 independent Food Broker, based in Denver, Co., an independent retail services firm, as well as numerous engagements in representing some of the largest brands in Grocery and Natural. Roles served – Sales and Sales Mgt executive, Retail services executive, all of which provide a keen eye/ear across the challenging landscape of Retail and Non-Retail applications. From HQ’s to Retail store front, in a B2B, and B2C, with a professional and friendly personality in providing successful end results.

Tom has also proudly served the industry in various capacities for NARMS, a Non-Profit Retail Trade association. From membership, MSO chair, Board Member/Treasurer, and Conference Chairman, and ultimately as Executive Director for the Association.

Specialties:
Competitive Analysis, Strategic Alliances, Brand Development, Consultative Sales, Broker Management, Key Account Relationships, Market Expansion, P&L, Forecasting, Channel Management, Negotiations, Business Development, Change Leadership, Process Improvement, Marketing, Team Leadership, Branding, Channel Marketing, CRM, Trade Shows, Capital Management, Growth.

Jeffrey Capra, General/Operations Manager

Almond Processor – General/ Operations Manager, 4 years
Casino/Entertainment – GM Manager – 15 years
Grocery /Retail Sector – 17 years
Born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley, CA – 54 years
I’m a very simple family man, which enjoys the fruit of life.

Edgar Rodriguez, Food Safety Manager

Almond Processor- Food Safety Manager/ QA, 4 years
Dairy Exports- Export Manager, 3 years
Grain Sales- Sales Representative, 4 years
Cal Poly- Bachelor of Science Degree

Mantra- “Follow-through, Timing and Attitude is everything”