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California Cheese Trail

 

Marin Agricultural Land Trust Protects Paradise Valley Ranch in Bolinas

Family-owned ranch supports pioneering organic farm and endangered fish habitat; Owners donate half the value of conservation easement

For Immediate Release: November 24, 2014

Media Contact: Julia Busiek, (415) 663-1158 ext. 321, jbusiek@malt.org
High-resolution images available upon request

Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. – Marin Agricultural Land Trust announced today the protection of Paradise Valley Ranch in Bolinas, placing one of California’s oldest certified organic farms under permanent protection from subdivision and development. The protection of this 239-acre ranch ensures a more secure future for Bolinas’s organic farming community, the endangered fish and wildlife that call this place home, and the Martinelli family, which has owned the ranch since the 1940s.

Seeded in the fertile soil of Paradise Valley Ranch in 1983 by organic farming pioneer Warren Weber, today Fresh Run Farm is operated by third-generation owner Peter Martinelli. Fresh Run Farm grows more than 40 varieties of organic produce for some of the Bay Area’s most acclaimed restaurants, including Quince and Chez Panisse. Another family member, Susan Martinelli, grows organic fruit and makes jams and preserves, which she sells under the Creekside Gardens label in local markets.

The farm is irrigated with water drawn from Pine Gulch Creek, which flows year-round through Paradise Valley Ranch on its way to Bolinas Lagoon. This stream is one of the few in Marin that still support coho salmon and steelhead trout. The Martinellis and the operators of two neighboring organic farms are collaborating with the Marin Resource Conservation District, the National Park Service and other agencies to engineer a water storage project that will allow enough water for fish and vegetables alike.

“It is a pleasure to work with farmers like Peter who are genuinely connected to agriculture and the protection of natural resources,” said Nancy Scolari, Executive Director of the Marin Resource Conservation District. “The Martinelli family and MALT played critical roles in finalizing the Pine Gulch Creek Watershed Enhancement Project by providing the necessary easement to ensure the development of the project and, ultimately, the protection of endangered coho salmon in Pine Gulch Creek.”

The water storage project is just one way in which the Martinelli family cares for the long-term health of their land. More than half of the property remains as pristine riparian and woodland habitats, supporting a remarkable diversity of rare and native plants and animals, like the northern spotted owl and the California red-legged frog.

Bolinas’s organic farmers and delicate habitats are under threat.  Fields and forests around the town are being converted to residential estates. Just an hour north of San Francisco, property values in Bolinas are sky high, and each year pressure mounts to sell land to developers. Peter’s grandfather purchased seven parcels here in the 1940s. Today, only two remain in the family’s hands.

To ensure that Paradise Valley Ranch will never be developed, Peter and his family approached MALT in 2010 about selling an agricultural conservation easement on his family’s land. MALT members and Bolinas residents donated over $1 million to help their neighbors stay on their farm. The California Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) pitched in with a $1.5 million grant, the first grant from WCB in support of a MALT easement. The Martinellis are so committed to preserving this land’s agricultural and ecological values that they donated more than half of the cost of the easement to MALT.

"Paradise Valley Ranch has some of Marin's best soil and an amazing array of biodiversity,” said Peter Martinelli. “For years I have dreamed of preserving the property. Now that this dream has come true, my family and I would like to thank the private donors, the California Wildlife Conservation Board, and MALT staff who joined us in a four-year effort to permanently protect the property. In donating half of the easement value to MALT, we hereby dedicate our contribution in the name of our grandparents, the Honorable Jordan L. Martinelli and Genevieve C. Martinelli."

“The Wildlife Conservation Board was proud to assist MALT in the acquisition of the Paradise Valley Ranch easement and happy to play a part in protecting a working landscape that integrates environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the wildlife, landowners and the local community,” said WCB Executive Director John Donnelly.

“Paradise Valley Ranch highlights how agriculture and nature can co-exist in harmony,” said MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts.  “We couldn’t be more pleased to work with WCB, the Bolinas community and MALT members to help the Martinelli family realize the dream of protecting this special place forever.”

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About MALT: Marin Agricultural Land Trust is a member-supported nonprofit organization created in 1980 to permanently protect Marin County farmland. Some of the Bay Area’s most highly acclaimed dairy and meat products and organic crops are produced on farmland protected by MALT conservation easements, which total more than 47,000 acres on 75 family farms and ranches. To learn more about MALT, visit www.malt.org.

About the California Wildlife Conservation Board: The Wildlife Conservation Board is an independent state board that selects and allocates funds for the purchase of land and waters for the preservation, protection and restoration of wildlife habitat and recreation.

About the Marin Resource Conservation District: The Marin Resource Conservation District is a non-regulatory Special District of the State of California that secures grant money to assist the agricultural community with soil and water conservation. Its primary focus is facilitating construction of conservation projects.