NR 2002-39
September 9, 2002

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


Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy
Uses Money to Buy Agricultural Conservation Easement on Fanoe Farm

 GONZALES, Calif. – About a decade ago, Jon Fanoe started noticing something as he walked down the long driveway leading away from the Salinas Valley farm that bears his family’s name.

“The houses across the way were getting closer,” he said. “It was a weird feeling to look out where there had been nothing but fields of crops and see the town creeping closer.”

Fanoe and his family have taken steps to ensure that their 298-acre portion of the "Salad Bowl of the World" will remain in agriculture rather than become part of a subdivision. They have worked with the Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy, Inc., to create an agricultural conservation easement on their property. Using grants totaling about $1.5 million from the Department of Conservation’s California Farmland Conservancy Program and the Packard Foundation, the MCAHLC purchased the development rights to Fanoe Farm. The property owners retain control of the property, but the non-agricultural development potential has been permanently extinguished.

The Fanoe Farm is located about an eighth of a mile north of the Gonzales city limits, just a half-mile northeast of Highway 101. The property includes some of the world’s most highly productive farmland due to its prime soils and location in an area with a year-round growing season.

Agriculture represents 40 percent of Monterey County’s total economy and the area’s prime farmland produces 10 percent of California farm income on only 2.5 percent of California’s farmland. But there is significant development pressure in the Salinas Valley as workers from the Silicon Valley and Bay Area seek affordable housing.

"The Fanoe family obviously recognizes the importance of agriculture and has made a commitment to preserving some of the world’s finest farmland,” said Darryl Young, Director of the California Department of Conservation. “We salute them for not only making this decision, but also for setting an example that other agricultural landowners in the county and state can follow.”

The Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy, founded in 1984, has completed 23 projects that protect approximately 8,200 acres of agricultural properties in cooperation with state, county and federal programs, private foundations, and the American Farmland Trust.

“Our goal is to help direct the inevitable growth in the Salinas Valley away from the prime farmland as much as possible,” said MCAHLC spokesman Sherwood Darington. “Our job is made easier by the fact that there is such a high level of commitment to protecting the land both among local property owners and in state government.”

Jon Fanoe says he isn’t just protecting quality farmland, but also a way of life. In the late 1800s, three brothers from Denmark settled in the Salinas Valley. Fanoe family members worked the farm until Jon’s father, Henry E. Fanoe, died in 1969. None of Henry’s seven children, raised on the farm, opted to work the land, but none wanted to see it paved over, either.

“There’s a lot of legacy there – that’s why it was difficult to cut it loose,” Jon Fanoe said. “When we talked about it, a big part of our decision was that my father would have wanted to see the land stay in row crops. Our family was there a long time, and we didn’t want to see it become the `Fanoe Meadows’ housing development.”

California's agricultural production totaled more than $29 billion in 2000; Monterey County's total was $2.9 billion, surpassed in the state only by Fresno and Tulare counties. But California's population of about 35 million is expected to grow to nearly 50 million by 2025, and many acres of farmland are being developed to accommodate that growth. 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.

“It’s important to anticipate the needs of both a growing population and the traditional agricultural economy,” DOC Director Young said. “The California Farmland Conservancy Program offers a way to help balance the needs of both sides by creating a partnership between landowners, land trusts and government agencies."

The California Farmland Conservancy Program, administered by DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection, 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 trusts are encouraged to contact the Department of Conservation/Division of Land Resource Protection for information on the program and potential grant funding.

Through DOC’s Division of Land Resource Protection, the state also offers programs – the Williamson Act and Farmland Security Zones -- that provide financial incentives to keep land in agricultural use for periods of 10 and 20 years.

In addition to supporting land conservation, the Department of Conservation administers the state's beverage container recycling program; regulates oil, gas and geothermal wells in the state; studies and maps earthquakes, landslides and mineral resources; and ensures reclamation of mined lands.

LOCAL CONTACT: Sherwood Darington, 831-422-5868.