The San Benito Agricultural Land Trust recently completed steps to permanently protect another portion of Phil Foster Ranch in San Benito County’s fertile San Juan Valley.
With assistance from two public funding programs, SBALT has acquired an agricultural easement that brings the total protected acreage of the ranch—also known as Pinnacle Organically Grown—to 51 acres that will be preserved for agricultural purposes forever, says an announcement from the land trust. The Foster family previously protected a 27-acre portion of their ranch in 2019.
“Phil and Katherine Foster, in their ongoing farming operation, represent the best of what farming can be in San Benito County,” SBALT President Michael Reeves said this week. “We are honored to have played a part in preserving their legacy on the land.”
Funding for the recent 24-acre agricultural easement came from the California Strategic Growth Council’s Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation Program (SALC) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Conservation Easement Program.
SALC is part of the California Climate Investments, a statewide initiative that puts billions of cap-and-trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving public health and the environment—particularly in disadvantaged communities, says SBALT’s announcement.
The U.S. Agricultural Conservation Easement Program helps landowners, land trusts and other organizations protect, restore and enhance wetlands, working farms and ranches through conservation easements, says SBALT announcement.
Phil Foster farms 295 acres of certified organic vegetables, nuts and fruit, on two ranches near San Juan Bautista and Hollister. The farms produce about 60 different crops that are sold at the San Juan Bautista farm on Duncan Avenue on Saturdays, farmers markets throughout the Central Coast and Bay Area and at local retail stores.
Phil and Katherine Foster strive to maintain the Pinnacle label’s high quality of produce by building the soil with cover crops and compost, practicing environmentally sensitive pest control, decreasing water consumption and protecting water quality with the use of alternative fuels, according to SBALT.
“The funds we receive for the ag conservation easement with SBALT on part of our farmland will be beneficial to the economic viability of our farm, and will aid in future transition of our farmland to employee or younger farmer ownership with the development value of the land removed,” Phil Foster said.
The easement ensures that the land will remain available for agricultural purposes, even as development pressures increase in the surrounding area. This milestone marks a collaborative effort between the Fosters and SBALT to ensure the longevity of agricultural traditions and support local food production. SBALT remains dedicated to promoting responsible land use practices and encouraging other landowners to explore the benefits of conservation easements, according to SBALT.