Another Win for Agriculture in Santa Clara County

79 acres of important farmland permanently protected in San Martin 

The Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority has purchased an Agricultural Conservation Easement (ACE) for 79 acres of important farmland, located in a priority conservation area off Monterey Highway in San Martin. The farmland, initially anticipated to become a residential subdivision, has been in agricultural production for over 55 years, and is now permanently protected for agricultural use. 

These lands are identified in the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan as within an Agricultural Resource Area due to the prime farmland soils in the region and numerous small parcel farmlands. A key goal of this plan is to slow the conversion of productive agricultural land through collaboration with local, regional and state agencies to promote and incentivize climate-smart agriculture. “This area is at high risk for development,” says Isabella Kressman, Real Property Coordinator at the Open Space Authority. “Zoning for this area would have allowed for the property to be subdivided into 15 residential lots – this occurred just north of the property where a nine-unit subdivision was developed.”  

But south of the property is a very different picture. Frantoio Grove, a thriving farm, is protected by the Open Space Authority through an ACE purchased in November 2020 through the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation (SALC) Program, a component of the Strategic Growth Council’s Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC) Program, and the County’s Agricultural Reserve Fund. It was the owner of Frantoio Grove, the Martin family, that inspired the owner of the neighboring 79-acre property to follow this same path for funding and permanent protection of the property.


Funds for the Yiu ACE were made available through the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC) in collaboration with the Department of Conservation. SALC is part of 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.


As called for in the Santa Clara Valley Agricultural Plan, the purchase of this easement will build upon our work in San Martin and help protect our remaining precious farmland, as a climate-smart action,says Andrea Mackenzie, General Manager of the Open Space Authority. "We are avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions that would have come from converting this productive farmland into residential development. By supporting farmers and local food production we promote and sustain a higher quality of life for everyone who lives in the Santa Clara Valley.

Yiu ACE Property_N and E sides of barnPhoto: North and East sides of the barn on the property. Courtesy of the Open Space Authority.


The property is currently leased by a local farmer who has farmed these lands since 2018 and provides housing for agricultural workers. Over the years, these lands have produced a variety of row crops including tomatoes, pumpkins, peppers, broccoli, corn, cucumbers as well as grain and hay.

According to the State’s Farmland, Mapping and Monitoring Program, the property contains 35 acres of prime farmland, and 42 acres of farmland of statewide significance, meaning the soil has ideal physical and chemical properties and characteristics for continued crop production. The land is also in the 100-year floodplain and intersected by the western branch of Llagas Creek, making it a crucial source of flood protection, groundwater recharge, and a habitat for a variety of native wildlife species. 

"The acquisition also shines a light on the Authority's Healthy Lands & Healthy Economies initiative, highlighting the economic benefits of land conservation," says Marc Landgraf, Assistant General Manager of the Open Space Authority. “To keep Silicon Valley at the forefront of innovation in the rapidly expanding region, we must invest in both cutting-edge technologies and our irreplaceable natural resources. This easement is a win-win situation for everyone and demonstrates our commitment to the balanced coexistence of business, agriculture and the environment." 

The Open Space Authority received 50% of the funding to purchase these farmlands through the SALC Program, and the other 50% from funding set aside for agricultural land protection at the County of Santa Clara for a total purchase price of $2,359,000, which is based on the appraised value of the conservation easement.  

“This is great news for the future of local agriculture,” Supervisor Sylvia Arenas of Santa Clara County affirms. “Preserving our productive agricultural lands not only benefits our local agricultural economy, but also protects San Martin’s unique, rural character while fostering secure & abundant food sources from our dedicated farmers and agricultural workers. This commitment to protecting farms and ranches, and those who supply the labor for those operations, plays a crucial role in promoting sustainability & resilience in our South County community.”


This is the third ACE funded in partnership with Santa Clara County, and the sixth project awarded to the Open Space Authority with SALC funding. Click here to learn more about preserving our heritage across the Santa Clara Valley.

March 19, 2024
For media inquiries contact:

Charlotte Graham

Public Information Officer