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--the California "Mega-Park" Project

Tracking measurable success on efforts across California to preserve and connect our Parks & Wildlife Corridors

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Friday, November 14, 2008

A Year-End Message from the Marin County Agricultural Land Trust

MALT permanently protected another 2,094 acres in 2008

Over the past year, Marin Agricultural Land Trust completed the acquisition of conservation easements on four farms and ranches, permanently protecting another 2,094 acres from subdivision and non-agricultural development.

These easements demonstrate how critical MALT is to the future of agriculture in Marin. In this era of low farm income, high land prices, and the largest generational shift in decades, many farming families are being forced to regard their property as a financial asset they may need to divide among various heirs. Loss of forage due to drought plus the skyrocketing cost of feed all add to the economic stresses of today’s family farmer.

The Crayne and Poncia projects each involved longtime owners. To continue their agricultural operations, they needed to buy out co-owners demanding to be paid their share of the market value of the property. Our purchase of a conservation easement provided the cash to make it happen. Without MALT, both properties would almost certainly have been sold out of the family and their agricultural futures jeopardized.

The Tomales Farm and Dairy project promises an exciting addition to Marin’s agricultural vitality. This 243-acre farm bordering Tomales is part of a larger plan by owners John Williams and Ted Hall to re-establish dairy operations on an adjacent property. They hope to develop a facility that will make artisan cheese from milk produced by seasonally grass-fed cows. Hall and Williams generously donated one-half of the appraised value of the easement, which also extinguished six development rights.

MALT’s purchase of a conservation easement from the Panfiglio family will enable them to make infrastructure improvements and build up the beef herd on their 810-acre property overlooking Tomales Bay. If MALT had not been able to purchase the easement, the ranch, with its appeal as a site for a country estate, might have been targeted for development.

Though we work closely with farming families to help them resolve ownership issues and create diversification plans, MALT is not preserving agricultural land just for the sake of the landowners. We’re also protecting farmland because we know it is an essential part of our community: for the sustainable production of high quality food; as habitat for an extraordinary diversity of animals and plants; as the undeveloped and unspoiled gateway to Point Reyes National Seashore; and as a fundamental part of what makes Marin so special. The population of the Bay Area is growing rapidly. The time to save our farmland will run out, and there will be no second chances. If we don’t act now, there won’t be a future for agriculture in Marin. If we are going to save this farmland, we must invest in it today—even during these difficult economic times. We need your help. Your annual membership enables us to work with farming families like the Craynes, the Poncias, and the Panfiglios, and with agricultural visionaries and entrepreneurs like Williams and Hall. Your generous contributions to MALT’s conservation easement program allow us to leverage state, federal, and foundation funding to preserve these farms and ranches for the future. And your vote provides our public partners with vital funds like those of California’s 2006 Proposition 84 which helped us preserve each of these four properties. Preserving Marin County farmland is both complicated and expensive. Yet we feel confident that with your continued support we can protect this working landscape that means so much to us. The staff and board of Marin Agricultural Land Trust look forward to continuing to strive together with you and with Marin’s farming families in the days ahead to preserve both the tradition and the future of Marin County agriculture.

Thank you, Bob Berner, executive director
Loren A. Poncia, Board Chair

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