More than 30 years ago, dairywoman Ellen Straus of today’s Straus Family Creamery and I were dismayed to see the row of “For sale” signs along Tomales Bay from Point Reyes Station to Marshall. At that time, the Point Reyes Seashore had been created and large-scale development plans for Marin were underway. Farmers saw the future of their farmland as subdivisions rather than as dairy ranches as it had been for over a hundred years. Out of desperation Ellen and I came up with an idea of a land trust to help make the land more secure for farming. This coincided with a planning effort required by the new Coastal Commission for ag preservation for each county. This moment in time happily resulted in the formation of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, the first agricultural land trust in the nation, founded in 1980 to help save our family farms.
That was then. Today, thirty-two years later and beyond Ellen’s and my wildest dreams, farming is a growing enterprise. Young men and women are returning in increasing numbers to work on the family farm. New farm-based businesses are developing and established businesses are growing. The rural economy is once again thriving. And the increasingly abundant local food, the beautiful landscape and natural resources that we cherish continue to provide physical and spiritual nourishment to our community.
But we are at a crossroads. With state and federal funding sources in steep decline, these public sources to protect our family farms and ranches and open space lands are not there as in the past, so we will increasingly rely on private donations. Farming families that are in danger of losing their farms from inheritance and other issues could be gone forever. Open space lands will suffer from neglect.
The legacy of family farms, open space and parkland has taken decades for my generation to build. It’s a legacy Ellen, who passed away several years ago, and I care deeply about. Marin County is made special by its beautiful open space lands in East Marin and its productive farmlands in West Marin. Measure A provides an opportunity for each of us to do our share in taking care of the land. Measure A is your opportunity to express your appreciation and to ensure the land is cared for into the future. Please join me in voting YES on MEASURE A on November 6th.
- Phyllis Faber, biologist and co-founder of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT)