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NR 2002-03
January 30, 2002

Contact: Carol Dahmen
Mark Oldfield
Don Drysdale
Ed Wilson
(916) 323-1886

DEPARTMENT OF CONSERVATION TEAMS WITH
SOLANO LAND TRUST TO CREATE PERMANENT EASEMENT
ON LUM PROPERTY IN VACAVILLE

SACRAMENTO -- In the late 1970s, Ton and Margaret Lum gave their sons Paul and Thomas the kind of gift that keeps on giving: 66 acres of high-quality farmland near Vacaville.

Paul Lum has taken steps to ensure that the fertile soil will continue to provide yearly gifts of wine grapes and row crops, working with the Solano Land Trust to create a permanent agricultural easement on the property. While the Dixon native still owns and controls the property, he has retired the possibility of ever developing the parcel beyond its agricultural uses.

The Solano Land Trust obtained funding for the project from the California Farmland Conservancy Program, which is administered by the California Department of Conservation's Division of Land Resource Protection.

"My dad was able to identify the richest soil in that area," Lum said. "A lot of the soil is Class 1. It's a gem in an area where a lot of the soil is Class 2 or Class 3. It's extremely productive soil, very deep, and I've invested a lot of time and money in putting in permanent crops. We're very near town, certainly in the path of development, and it's very meaningful to me to have this land protected for agriculture. It's hard to know what the future will look like, but one constant will be this 66-acre farm."

The Lum property is one mile east of the City of Vacaville, just outside the city's sphere of influence. While agriculture takes place on 65 percent of the land in Solano County, 20,000 acres of farmland were converted to other uses in the county from 1986-96. The Association of Bay Area Governments projects that the county's population will increase by 36 percent, to nearly half a million, by 2040, and Vacaville's population is expected to grow by 30,000.

This is the first agricultural easement in the vicinity of Vacaville, other than the Vacaville-Dixon Greenbelt, nearly 10 miles away. The Lum property will help provide a buffer area between urban Vacaville and the farms and ranches of eastern Solano County.

"Paul Lum and his family are recognized as excellent stewards of the land, and it's a privilege to work with them," said Pam Muick, executive director of the Fairfield-based Solano Land Trust. "Our organization's goal is to preserve and protect farmland throughout Solano County, and we're very excited to have our first parcel in the north-central portion of the county."

The Solano Land Trust owns five properties totaling 4,800 acres and holds conservation easements on five properties totaling 292 acres. This spring, the land trust will release a countywide agricultural conservation easement plan identifying its long-term goals. The trust’s Web address is www.solanolandtrust.org.

California Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young commended the Lum family for taking steps to keep their land in agricultural production.

"We hope other landowners around the county and the state will follow their lead," he said, adding: "We congratulate the Solano Land Trust on its efforts to protect irreplaceable agricultural land."

Paul Lum's parents moved their farming operation from Davis to Vacaville in 1962. Ton Lum and his partner, Del Young, farmed several locations in Solano County until 1985, when Young retired.

Once Paul graduated from UC Davis in 1981, he joined his late father in farming. In 1986, he started his own operation and today farms about 300 acres. He is president of the Solano County Farm Bureau and a director of the Ulatis Resource Conservation District.

Lum and his wife Shawn have three children -- Neil (15), Russell (12) and Lauren (9) -- so it's entirely possible that another generation of the family will continue to farm in Solano County.

"They're completely undecided about what they want to do right now, but they've all worked on the farm, driven equipment, pruned the grapes and done chores," Lum said. "They all enjoy being outdoors and helping out. I'm not sure whether they want to be farmers, but it's nice to know they'll have the option of doing that if they want to."

California's agricultural production totaled nearly $29.3 billion in 2000; Solano County's total was more than $185 million. But farmland is a limited resource that is slowly becoming scarcer. According to DOC's Farmland Mapping and Monitoring Program, nearly 43,000 acres of agricultural land -- an area about the size of the city of Modesto -- was urbanized between 1996 and 1998 in the state.

"The needs of a growing population and the needs of agriculture don't always dovetail," DOC Director Young said. "But the California Farmland Conservancy Program offers a partnership between landowners, land trusts and government agencies that helps to balance the needs of both sides."

The CFCP is designed to ensure that the state's most valuable farmland will not be developed. Through the program, local governments and non-profit organizations can receive grants to purchase development rights from willing landowners, thus creating permanent conservation. CFCP funds remain for new grant proposals. Landowners and land trusts are encouraged to contact the Department of Conservation/Division of Land Resource Protection for information on the program and potential grant funding. The division's Web address is www.conservation.ca.gov/dlrp.

In addition to administering agricultural and open-space land conservation programs, the Department of Conservation ensures the reclamation of land used for mining; promotes beverage container recycling; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells; and studies and maps earthquakes and other geologic phenomena.

LOCAL CONTACT: Pam Muick, Solano Land Trust, (707) 432-0150.

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