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Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program
1984 to 2008 TIME SERIES
Gilroy, Santa Clara County

Land use change in the Gilroy area, 1984-2008 

In this Image

Changes in this area are predominantly conversions from irrigated farmland and grazing land (green & beige) to urban and low-density residential (red & gray).  Examples of new urban included the Eagle Ridge Golf Course Community west of the City and additions to the regional wastewater facility to its southeast.   Also notable is a change in the detail of agricultural mapping when digital soil survey data became available (2002 image).  During this period, agricultural categories decreased by more than 6,400 acres in the image, which totals just under 31,500 acres.  Information on these changes was gathered from air photos, local comments, and field reconnaissance.  

Santa Clara County ranked among the 'Top Ten Urbanizing Counties' as mapped by FMMP during the 1990's. Growth in Urban land has averaged 1,365 acres per biennial map update since 1984.  Larger still was the conversion of farm and grazing land to nonagricultural uses such as low-density residential development, averaging 1,850 acres per update. 

A brief history of Gilroy

Gilroy is located about 30 miles south of San Jose and the Silicon Valley in Santa Clara County.  The area was originally inhabited by the Ohlone Indians, then became one of the grain growing capitols of California by the mid 1800's.  The town of Gilroy was established in 1867 and two years later, the railroad arrived. 

The agricultural products coming from the Gilroy area evolved with new immigrants. In the 1870's, tobacco became established and the world’s largest cigar factory was built, and in the 1880's dairy and cheese became the dominant industry. The seed industry was established in 1911 and is still a major contributor to the area's economy. The 1920's brought the prune industry, row crops and vineyards. Japanese farmers arriving after World War I brought garlic, Gilroy’s signature crop. The Gilroy Garlic Festival was started in 1979 and annual attendance exceeds 130,000.

Gilroy's population increased by 95% between 1984 and 2008 (26,050 to 50,947), exceeding the 33% growth rate of Santa Clara County as a whole.