More than 170 acres of land along the San Mateo County coast will forever be dedicated to agriculture after two land deals were recently orchestrated by the nonprofit Peninsula Open Space Trust.
Since 1990, San Mateo County has lost 46% of its farmland in part because those properties have been sold and converted to private estates with big homes and plenty of space for horses, said Ben Wright, a program manager for POST.
In 2015, the nonprofit launched the Farmland Futures Initiative to reverse that trend and the aforementioned land deals are part of that effort. These land agreements often include conservation easements that not only eliminate the potential for development but also require farming to continue on the land.
The first deal involves a conservation easement on 102 acres of land on the western portion of Double Dog Ranch, located about two miles outside Pescadero near Butano State Park. The easement, valued at about $2 million, was donated by longtime landowners Gene and Donna Richeson and it guarantees the land will be used only for agricultural purposes in perpetuity, regardless of ownership changes, according to a press release.
“Thriving local farms have long been the backbone of Pescadero’s economy, creating jobs for local workers and providing the greater community with fresh, healthy local produce,” Walter T. Moore, president of POST, said in the release. “I applaud the Richesons for their commitment to ensuring the viability of the San Mateo coast’s farming legacy into the future — a vision they share with POST.”
As part of the agreement, POST will invest $2 million — the equivalent value of the easement — into farm infrastructure projects, including constructing reservoirs and farmworker housing and repairing buildings.
Fifth Crow Farm, a certified organic farming business, has been cultivating a mix of row crops, orchard fruit and pastured eggs on Double Dog West since 2008, according to the release. The farm supplies seven Bay Area farmers’ markets and more than a dozen restaurants and also operates a community supported agriculture program that delivers produce to several locations on the Peninsula.
The other agreement that POST announced this week helped Half Moon Bay’s Andreotti Family Farm expand ownership to encompass 69 acres of farmland, which will also be protected in perpetuity.
The Andreotti family trust split the property into multiple parcels and put it up for sale on the open market in 2016. POST jumped at the opportunity and was able to purchase all but one of the parcels. That parcel was sold to another buyer, but soon after came back on the market and was also purchased by POST. The nonprofit was ultimately able to reassemble and preserve the farm parcels with an agricultural conservation easement and it worked with Aptos-based FarmLink to procure the necessary financing.
“This farm is a Half Moon Bay institution that was narrowly saved from the auction block,” Wright said in the release. “Instead, we have an outcome that illustrates the power of creative partnerships: two local nonprofit organizations and longtime dedicated farmers coming together to preserve the agricultural heritage and economic viability of farming on the Coast. This is exactly what POST’s Farmland Futures Initiative was created to do.”
The property has been farmed by the Andreotti family since 1926 and is located in the heart of the city, between downtown and Francis Beach. The farm primarily produced artichokes, beans and broccoli when it began over 90 years ago and now just about every winter vegetable imaginable is harvested there.
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