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Founding Story

In the early 1960s, Marin County’s plan for coastal development envisioned a dramatic change for West Marin, including plans for a city with a population of 125,000 on the shores of Tomales Bay. If implemented the planned development would have ended a 150-year-old tradition of family farming. Change seemed inevitable, and many farmers "read the writing on the wall" and agreed to put their farms up for sale. As “For Sale” signs started to line rural roadways farmers, environmentalists and other Marin citizens joined forces to do something about it.

The coalition worked to change Marin County planning and zoning plans for large-scale development of farmland. Phyllis Faber, a biologist, and Ellen Straus, a rancher, founded MALT in 1980 to give permanent protection to family farms. The farmland trust became the first of its kind in the nation.

Since then MALT has worked with more than 70 farming families to preserve more than 45,000 acres. But the threat to unprotected family farms persists. Join the effort to save our local farms by coming to an event or becoming a member today.

Phyllis Faber tells the story of MALT’s founding: