Silicon Valley is going back to its roots.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors today will vote on a blueprint for preserving farmland in the region once known as the Valley of the Heart’s Delight.
Developed over the past seven months by a preservation task force chaired by supervisors Dave Cortese and Mike Wasserman, the plan aims to preserve 12,000 acres of ag land and curb conversion of 28,391 acres of viable farmland and rangeland to development.
In the past three decades alone, the county has lost more than 21,000 acres of fertile land to urban development. One of the biggest priorities in the newly unveiled ag plan involves purchasing development rights on certain parcels to allow farmers to keep farming.
The purchasing program has targeted the acquisition of 12,000 acres, which would cost about $250 million to $500 million, according to official estimates, with some funding potentially coming from the county’s year-end funding balance.
“This effort has been close to my heart as a rancher who grew up in the Valley of Heart’s Delight as part of a farming family,” said Cortese, a third-generation apricot and prune farmer. “It’s amazing that we still have this opportunity to save so much acreage. We must not squander it.”
The ag plan—developed with help from the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority, among other agencies—gained some momentum last week when the California Department of Conservation bequeathed a $15 million grant for the county to snap up three farmland easements comprising a total 253 acres.
In addition to the land buys, the ag plan spells out a number of other priorities for protecting the local agricultural economy, such as lowering property taxes in designated “farmland security zones,” upgrading agricultural infrastructure and launching a branding program for the industry in addition to an ag incubator.