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NR 2005-19
October 3, 2005

Contact: Ed Wilson
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
(916) 323-1886

DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION GRANT
HELPS PRESERVE MONTEREY COUNTY FARMLAND

SACRAMENTO – The Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy has purchased an agricultural conservation easement on the 234-acre Swenson Farm near King City with a grant from the California Department of Conservation. The transaction permanently shields the high-yield agricultural land from development.

“The Swenson Farm is all prime farmland with remarkable soil and climate conditions for growing, so we’re very pleased to help make sure that the property will always remain in agricultural use,” said Secretary for Resources Mike Chrisman, who is a rancher.

The rectangular property is located approximately one mile southeast of King City’s city limits, with Highway 101 at one end and the Salinas River at the other. It is adjacent to an existing easement on the Petit Ranch.

“This will help bolster our efforts to protect farmland in this vicinity,” said Sherwood Darington, president of the Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy. “Here in the `Salad Bowl of the World,’ we’re blessed with some of the best farmland anywhere. We’re working to direct growth, which is inevitable, toward lesser farmland as much as possible. This particular parcel of land should never be anything but farmland.”

The land trust, founded in 1984, has completed 45 projects that protect more than 15,000 acres of agricultural properties in cooperation with state, county and federal programs, private foundations, and the American Farmland Trust.

Swenson Farm – once known as the Crinklaw Ranch – produces typical Salinas Valley crops, including several lettuce varieties. The soil and morning fog make the area one of the few locations in the country suitable for lettuce and other crops in the spring through fall months.

Through the California Farmland Conservancy Program – administered by the Department of Conservation’s Division of Land Resource Protection – the state awarded a $687,050 grant to the land trust to purchase the easement.

“As the population grows, farmland preservation becomes ever more critical,” Department of Conservation Director Bridgett Luther Thompson said. “The California Farmland Conservancy Program offers a way to help balance the needs of the traditional agricultural economy with those of a growing population.”

The California Farmland Conservancy Program, administered by DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection, is designed to ensure that the state's most valuable farmland will not be developed. Through the program, local governments and non-profit organizations can receive grants to purchase development rights from willing landowners, thus creating permanent conservation easements.

California's agricultural production totaled nearly $33 billion in 2003, and Monterey County ranked No. 3 in production -- behind Fresno and Tulare counties -- at nearly $3.3 billion. However, California farmland is being converted rapidly to other uses: Nearly 54,000 acres of irrigated farmland were taken out of production between 2000-02, according to a recent DOC report. Monterey County is an exception to the rule, actually having gained farmland during that period of time.

“Farmland is a vital and irreplaceable natural resource,” said Dennis O’Bryant, head of DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection. “We hope this project encourages more efforts to protect the county’s farmland.”

CFCP funds remain for new grant proposals. Landowners and trusts are encouraged to contact the Department of Conservation/Division of Land Resource Protection for information on the program and potential grant funding.

DOC also offers programs -- the Williamson Act and Farmland Security Zones -- that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use for periods of 10 and 20 years.

LOCAL CONTACT: Sherwood Darington, Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy, 831-449-2743.

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