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Luiz Ranch, Lucas Valley

Land Trust to Secure Prime-location Nicasio Ranch for Farming

After near loss in 2015, family that has farmed this land since 1881 turns to MALT for permanent protection

For Immediate Release: March 13, 2018
Contact: Jeff Stump, (415) 663-1158 ext. 303, jstump@malt.org
High-resolution photos available upon request.

Pt. Reyes Station, Calif.

Marin Agricultural Land Trust will permanently protect a 527-acre ranch along Nicasio Reservoir for farming, saving the recently at-risk land from subdivision and development. Today the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved allocation of $1,730,850 from the Marin County Farmland Preservation Program for MALT’s purchase of an agricultural conservation easement on the property. The easement is expected to be finalized in April.

Current owner Jim McIsaac’s great-grandfather, a dairyman from Nova Scotia, leased the ranch in 1881 and the family has raised dairy cows here ever since. Jim McIsaac had the land certified organic and relies on it to provide enough pasture time to his herd to meet organic requirements. High demand and limited availability mean that organic pasture is in short supply locally.

When the longtime owners put the property on the market in 2015, they had no interest in selling to a farmer, jeopardizing the McIsaacs’ generations-long lease and the land’s agricultural future. Jim and his wife, Sue, knew they had to buy it or risk their livelihood.

“My family has been renting here for four generations,” said Jim McIsaac. “I always thought if we had the chance to buy it we would try. I was afraid if we didn’t try we’d always be sorry.”

“The big ‘for sale’ sign right across the road from Nicasio Reservoir was jolting because we knew how easily this ranch could have been lost to development, given its views, easy access to San Francisco, and zoning that deems it more suitable for residential use,” said Jamison Watts, MALT Executive Director. “The McIsaac family jumped in with an offer at that critical moment to keep the land in production and MALT is proud to secure it for farming forever.”

The property is located above the shores of Nicasio Reservoir, adjacent to the MALT-protected Evans-Nicasio and Moore ranches. Once the easement is finalized McIsaac Ranch will become part of a 26,507-acre block of protected agricultural lands that lie in an important wildlife corridor, which stretches from the Point Reyes Peninsula to protected lands in Napa County and on the Sonoma Coast.

Half of the funding for the ranch’s protection will come from private contributions to MALT. That amount will be matched by the sales-tax funded Marin County Farmland Preservation Program, created when Marin voters passed Measure A in 2012. This program has been central to MALT’s ability to pick up the pace of farmland protection since 2014, and will continue to be important as long as the program exists. It is currently set to expire in 2022 but will go before voters for renewal before then.

“The preservation of this working ranch and the expansion of a protected wildlife corridor would not be possible without the support of Marin voters and Measure A. Marin County Parks is proud to steward the Farmland Preservation Program and continue the protection of local working farms and ranches and their natural resources,” said Marin County Senior Open Space Planner Craig Richardson.

About MALT: Marin Agricultural Land Trust is a member-supported nonprofit organization created in 1980 to permanently preserve 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, which totals more than 51,000 acres on 83 family farms and ranches. To learn more about MALT, visit www.malt.org.

About the Marin County Measure A (Ordinance 3586) Farmland Preservation Program: Marin County voters widely approved Measure A, a quarter-cent sales tax, in 2012. Roughly $2 million per year is set aside through Measure A to support the Marin County Farmland Preservation Program, a grant program to preserve agricultural land in Marin. Thus far, program funds have supported the purchase of MALT conservation easements on eight ranches, totaling 4,167 acres of farmland. For more information, visit https://www.marincountyparks.org/depts/pk/about-us/main/measure-a.