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California Cheese Trail


Marin Voice: Measure A tax needed to protect Marin ranches

By Kitty Dolcini

Guest op-ed column

Marin Independent Journal

Posted: 08/19/2012 05:41:00 AM PDT

IF YOU'VE TRAVELED the Petaluma-Point Reyes Road or Hicks Valley Road, you've passed our ranch.

It's the one with the white Victorian house on the knoll, red barns next to fields of produce, surrounded by hills where our cattle graze.

We have a farm stand where we sell our produce, eggs and beef. You'll find our eggs at some of the best restaurants in San Francisco and Marin.

Elsewhere in the Bay Area, our ranch would stand out, but here in Marin we have plenty of company.

In some ways our ranch looks like others you've seen along our local roads. The spacious open landscape and rolling hills dotted with cows and barns is an important part of the character of Marin. And it remains that way because of the work of Marin County and Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

We, like many of the ranchers and farmers here in Marin, faced difficult decisions concerning the future of our family home. (Our roots run deep as my generation is the fifth one making a living in Marin in agriculture. In 2018, God willing, my family will have been on this particular ranch for 100 years.)

With seven siblings, each owning an equal share of the ranch, we turned to MALT for help. MALT purchased an agricultural conservation easement on the farm, which gave my brother Doug and I a way to buy out our siblings.

The easement is an agreement that ensures our land will remain in agriculture in perpetuity.

Its provisions also ensure continued good stewardship of the land. When MALT protected our ranch, it protected many benefits it provides to the community — local jobs, rural landscape, local food and a link in an active wildlife area.

Our place is also open to the public through MALT's Hikes, Tours & Tastings program.

The Strawberry Family Day at Dolcini's Red Hill Ranch has offered grandparents, parents and kids a way to learn where their food comes from.

I support the Marin Board of Supervisors in its decision to put a quarter-cent sales tax measure — Measure A — on the Nov. 6 ballot so that the county will be able to provide funds that will in part support MALT's work to save other farms that need help.

More than half of the local farms in Marin are still in need of protection. State and federal funds for farm and ranch land protection in steep decline, it is now up to all of us who live, work and visit here to protect the farms and ranches in our backyard.

If we don't help protect these places, we risk losing forever an important part of what makes the quality of life here in Marin so special.

Please join me in supporting Marin County's sales tax measure to support parks, open space and farmland.

Kitty Dolcini's family has a ranch in Hicks Valley.