In the San Martin region of Santa Clara County sits Frantoio Grove, a family-owned and operated specialty olive oil company that just turned 15 years old. The 30-acre grove is part of a roughly 97-acre property that is now permanently protected for agriculture through an Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE). The land, initially anticipated to become a subdivision development, will now remain productive farmland and protected from development.
The Open Space Authority acquired the ACE with a $2,973,750 grant from the California Strategic Growth Council, California Climate Investments, and California Department of Conservation’s Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation Program (SALC), created to support agricultural practices in the state and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by preventing the conversion of farmland into development.* The transaction also leverages $991,250 of funding allocated to the Authority by a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) recently approved by the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. This MOU provides just under $5M for the purchase of agricultural conservation easements in the San Martin and Coyote Valley areas. This purchase is part of the State’s, County’s, and Authority’s larger goal to protect sustainable agriculture in the Santa Clara Valley. The deal closed in the beginning of November.
Owned by the Martin family since 1980, 30 acres of the property became an olive grove in 2005 when Jeff Martin, owner and operator, saw the potential of the land. “This kind of acreage provided the opportunity for a nice small business,” Jeff Martin said of his award-winning olive oil while taking his dog, Molly, out for a stroll. “My dad acquired the land years back, and my son will soon be taking the reins. This acquisition provides us some security and a lot of opportunity – this gives us the potential to expand or diversify.”
"The Santa Clara Valley was known as the Valley of Heart's Delight before it became the Silicon Valley, said David Shabazian, Director of the Department of Conservation. “The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors determined it was important to preserve that agricultural heritage as much as possible. In 2014 and 2016, the county received planning grants from the SALC program. The conservation strategy the county developed has resulted in the permanent preservation of an important piece of agricultural land. This is exactly the kind of result we’re looking for with our planning grants. We congratulate the Open Space Authority, County and landowner on the completion of this easement and applaud their commitment to the heritage and future of these important natural assets."
This easement is part of the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan, partly funded by the SALC Program, which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by protecting agricultural land. This property provides a variety of environmental benefits and considerable agricultural value. The Frantoio Grove sits on what is classified as prime farmland and farmland soil of statewide importance, making it an ideal site for an agricultural easement. The land also partially sits in the 100-year floodplain and is bisected by the western branch of Llagas Creek, which makes this land a source of flood protection, groundwater recharge, and valuable habitat for species.
“The Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan is just the kind of landmark regional collaboration we were hoping to foster, bringing together various stakeholders to figure out the best ways to fight climate change by protecting farmland at the edge of urban communities. Protection of the Martin Easement implements important steps of the Plan, including avoiding greenhouse gas emissions from what would have been more cars travelling long distances and storing carbon in productive agricultural lands,” said Louise Bedsworth, Executive Director of the California Strategic Growth Council.
The acquisition also reflects the Authority’s Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies initiative, which identifies the economic incentives of land conservation. This deal integrates both business interest and ecological benefits. “This is very exciting,” said Jeff Martin. “I’ve been here for years, and seen efforts like this made in the past, and now it’s finally done in a way that makes sense for the landowner,” he said. “This program feels exactly like what I’ve been waiting for – it opened a door that I could walk into.”
*The Frantoio Grove acquisition is supported by California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program with funds from California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.