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A key cornerstone now in place

The exhibit Historical Photographs of Marin’s Agrarian Roots will soon be on display for the third show at the Marin Civic Center from December 10 through April 26. If you didn’t see it at Toby’s in Point Reyes Station through October, here’s your opportunity. 

Boissevain forage crop trials
Captured by Marriet Burridge Boissevain, Marin’s first UC Extension Service Farm Advisor, these photographs document the agricultural heritage of Marin.  A heritage that is alive today in the fifth generation, and more, of Marin’s farm families.  This continuity of family farming is a jewel and a cornerstone of our community.  People from across the country and around the world, travel to Marin to learn from its innovative farmers and ranchers and the community that supports them.  

Just like Boissevain’s negatives were almost lost to file cleaning, Marin’s farms and ranches were almost tossed out for houses and development.  The working landscape of Marin today is a critical source of visual pleasure, wildlife habitat, and community vitality.  The green pastures and the people that manage them provide the highest quality dairy and animal agricultural products, contributing to a $70 million a year farm gate industry.  Along with local parks, these farms constitute over 250 square miles of connected oak woodlands and grasslands.  It is often easy to look past these contributions.  However, they are found in author John Hart’s “Sense of Place,” the light and shadows across Laura Culver’s canvasses, and the flavors of health at many farmer’s markets.  

red barn
Marin has a higher percentage of organically certified pastures, dairies, and produce farms than at the state or national level.  Marin is also part of the highest concentration of farmstead and specialty cheese making in California.  One instrumental tool for Marin farm families to continue innovating through traditions and successive generations is securing a conservation easement from MALT.  Time and again, individual families have capitalized on this opportunity to pass on family farming traditions, simultaneously making a commitment to conservation in perpetuity.  These easements do require an investment, like that proposed in Measure A.  

Without such investment, the impact is the loss of this important farm, family, and community planning tool, an erosion of Marin’s farms and ranches, and a break in continuity of Marin’s agricultural cornerstone.

By Dave Lewis, from Marin Voice editorial in Marin IJ 10/29/12

This past election day, Marin County residents voted overwhelmingly to continue its legacy of protecting open space, parks and farmland by passing Measure A with 73.6 percent of the vote.  Measure A helps fill a critical public funding gap left by declining state and federal funding for farmland preservation, which historically accounts for about 50 percent of MALT's farmland preservation program.  
- Ellie Rilla