As part of its core mission, the Open Space Authority has taken a lead role in identifying and preserving the important agricultural lands in the Santa Clara Valley. With National Ag Week (March 10-16) and National Ag Day (March 14), we are taking the opportunity to celebrate the great efforts and partnerships that are helping the Authority identify ways to support the environmental and economic viability of the Valley’s agriculture.
Agriculture plays a vital role in supporting our local communities and economy. Along with providing access to fresh food, our local farms create more than 5,000 jobs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, allow native species to thrive, and provide essential flood control. The total economic value of agriculture in Santa Clara County is estimated to be close to half a billion dollars! (Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies, 2014)
In the effort to support our region's agriculture, the Authority has focused on partnerships that help protect essential farmland from development. In January, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved the recommendations of the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan, an innovative regional planning approach that recognizes the role agricultural preservation can play in economic development and climate change mitigation. The aim is to support the agricultural economy, maintain ecosystem services provided by working lands, and meet the State’s climate reduction targets by reducing sprawl and associated greenhouse gas emissions. By bringing local agencies, farmers, and communities together, the Plan will help protect our environment and economy in the future.
These shared efforts to protect agricultural land are becoming a reality, one property at a time. Last November, the California Department of Conservation and Strategic Growth Council awarded $15 million from the State’s Cap and Trade Program to the Authority and County of Santa Clara through the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALCP) for the purchase of three Agricultural Conservation Easements. The properties, totaling 252 acres, are almost entirely prime farmland or farmland of statewide importance.