NR 2003-25
September 12, 2003

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


SALINAS – Christian M. Hansen came to California from Denmark in 1865 and established a farm in Alameda County. Frequent flooding prompted him in 1868 to relocate to the Salinas Valley, where he found a climate and soil conditions that combine to create some of the world’s most productive farmland.

Today, much of that farmland is being developed to house a growing population. Part of the farm that Hansen established, now known as the Dayton Ranch, still grows lettuce, strawberries and broccoli. But the view has changed. Once there was agriculture as far as the eye could see. Now, the Salinas city limits are just an eighth of a mile away.

However, Tina Hansen McEnroe has ensured that her great-grandfather’s land will never become a subdivision. She sold a permanent agricultural conservation easement on the property to the Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy. While McEnroe’s family will continue to own the land, the development rights are permanently extinguished. McEnroe couldn’t be happier.

“I value this land tremendously, which is why I wanted an easement on it,” McEnroe said. “I wanted to be a good steward, to promote and safeguard the long-term viability of this farm, because it’s excellent soil, very fertile.”

The Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy obtained grant money from the Department of Conservation’s California Farmland Conservancy Program and USDA/Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program to complete the transaction.

“This is some of the most productive farmland in the world, and the pressure to develop it was evident,” said Governor Davis. “I am pleased we are ensuring this land will remain in agricultural use and protect and preserve our environment.”

There is one 400-acre parcel between the Dayton Ranch and Salinas, and houses are being built on 200 acres of that property. Due to the local weather patterns, Dayton Ranch is located in one of the few areas of the country that is suitable for lettuce and other vegetable production during the summer months.

“As California’s population grows by nearly 15 million over the next 20 years, preserving farmland will become a major challenge,” said Governor Davis. “The California Farmland Conservancy Program helps keep California farm and ranchland in agriculture for future generations of families.”

NRCS State Conservationist Chuck Bell noted: “Programs like the Farm and Ranchlands Protection Program find equilibrium between preserving agricultural lands and the demands of population growth. FRPP keeps California farm and ranchland in agriculture for future generations of families like the McEnroes.”

The Monterey County Agricultural and Historical Land Conservancy, founded in 1984, has completed 35 projects that protect nearly 12,000 acres of agricultural properties in cooperation with state, county and federal programs, private foundations, and the American Farmland Trust.

The Conservancy’s 35th project, also completed with a grant from the Department of Conservation as well as funding from the Packard Foundation, permanently protects the 620-acre Tan Oak Canyon Ranch. Located about 10 miles away from the Dayton Ranch near the unincorporated community of Chualar, the Tan Oak Canyon Ranch grows lettuce, celery, broccoli and cauliflower.

“We’re fortunate that the landowners wanted to see these properties stay in farming, because both Dayton Ranch and the Tan Oak Canyon Ranch are tremendous pieces of farmland,” said MCAHLC spokesman Sherwood Darington. “While we recognize that development will continue to occur in the Salinas Valley, our goal is to keep prime farmland in agricultural use as much as possible.”

McEnroe doesn’t farm on Dayton Ranch herself, but visits the area where she grew up several times a year. She and her husband, Paul, reside on their cattle ranch in Santa Barbara County, where Tina teaches in the public school system.

She integrates agriculture into her curriculum. In fact, she recently won the state’s 2003 Teacher of Excellence Award for a Special Project from the California Foundation for Agriculture in the Classroom.

“I regard the easement as a very important legacy for my own three children,” she said. “I have tried to instill in them, and in my students, a love of agriculture and the land.”

California's agricultural production totaled more than $29.8 billion in 2001; Monterey County's total was $2.85 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.

“While it’s important to accommodate our growing population, we must remember that farmland is a vital and irreplaceable natural resource,” Department of Conservation Director Darryl Young said.

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 easements.

The CFCP has issued 11 grants totaling more than $8 million in Monterey County to preserve nearly 4,000 acres of farmland. An additional $4.3 million has been committed to four more projects in the Salinas Valley. CFCP funds remain for new grant proposals. Landowners and trusts are encouraged to visit the Division of Land Resource Protection for details.

The NRCS Farm and Ranchland Protection Program provides matching funds to help purchase development rights to keep productive farm and ranchland in agricultural uses. Working through existing programs, NRCS partners with state, tribal, or local governments and non-governmental organizations to acquire conservation easements or other interests in land from landowners. NRCS provides up to 50 percent of the fair market easement value. NRCS has provided $3.25 million cumulatively for Monterey County projects and has just committed $600,000 of additional funding.

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