In Land We Trust
In the early 20th century, the land now known as Silicon Valley was referred to as “Valley of the Heart’s Delight.” Frequently described as “bucolic” and “pastoral,” the farm-focused valley boasted the largest fruit production and packing industry in the world with a whopping 39 canneries in the region.
Now, as the leading technology center of the world, the region faces skyrocketing land costs and dwindling agricultural acreage. To stem the tide of diminishing open spaces and farmland in our once “bucolic” valley, land trusts work tirelessly with the public sector and private land owners to preserve and protect the beautiful vistas, public parkland, hiking trails and farmland that still exist for our enjoyment and, for some of us, our livelihood.
The sole purpose of a land trust is to conserve California’s natural resources. According to the California Council of Land Trusts (CaLandTrusts.org), California has over 150 land trusts that have protected over 2.5 million acres of California land. Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), the land trust that works for the Silicon Valley region and beyond—including San Mateo, Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties—has been implementing its land preservation vision for nearly 40 years. The organization’s mission is to preserve vital public and private land, made up of coastal regions, redwood forests, wildlife habitat, vital water resources and farm and ranch land. Since its inception in 1977, POST has preserved over 75,000 acres including 14,000 acres of farm and ranch land.
“California is a spectacularly diverse place, both in its people and its landscapes. Land trusts in California play a critical role in connecting regional populations to these important and biologically rich landscapes,” said Walter T. Moore, president of Peninsula Open Space Trust and chairman of the California Council of Land Trusts.
When you enjoy a meditative hike on the California Coastal Trail that passes through Pillar Point, you’ll be walking on land that POST spent at least 10 years preserving in conjunction with San Mateo County and the Wildlife Conservation Board.
If you eat Brussels sprouts as a side dish, they might be from Muzzi Farms in Pescadero, where they grow over 1.6 million tons of them on POST-preserved land.
If you buy local-pastured meat at the farmers market, it might be from the 3,000-acre Markegard Family Grass Fed ranch, 1,000 acres of which is POST-owned land.
If you serve your family fresh local salmon, realize that POST’s efforts to preserve and conserve land often allow existing spawning locations for fresh fish to continue to thrive.
Exactly how does POST save local farm and ranch land?
POST steps in and buys agricultural land at risk of development and then works with farmers and ranchers to make the cost of using that land affordable to them, either by leasing it to them or selling it with a conservation easement—a legally binding voluntary agreement between the land trust and the land owner to restrict the land to certain types of uses, ensuring its continued use for open space or agriculture.
The fall season of harvest is an ideal time to take note of the richness of the land that still surrounds us and to ponder how we can each contribute to savoring, preserving and conserving it.
Beth Lee is a San Jose–based food writer, marketing consultant, co-founder of the virtual cooking community Tasting Jerusalem and writes the food blog OMG! Yummy (OMGYummy.com).