Total Acres: 1,093
Total Expenditures: $2,550,000
The South County Agriculture study area is located on the flat lands of Santa Clara Valley southwest of Henry Coe State Park. It is bounded in the east by the foothills of the Diablo Range. The Pajaro River forms the area’s southern boundary as well as the southern edge of Santa Clara County.
The defining characteristic of this agricultural region is the soil. The majority of the area is classified by the California Department of Conservation as prime farmland, meaning it has the best combination of physical and chemical features for the production of agricultural crops. Much of the remaining land is categorized as farmland of statewide importance, which has a good combination of the required features.
Encouraging agricultural activities was established in the Open Space Authority’s enabling legislation as one of its primary missions. Agriculture’s importance in the county’s economy is significant. In 2006, total gross agricultural income was more than $244 million. Nonetheless, land producing crops declined by 48,000 acres in the decade from 1996 to 2006. To insure the continuation of farming in the county the preservation of good crop land is vital.
A number of streams, including Llagas Creek and Carnadero Creek, flow through the South County agricultural region to the Pajaro River. These waterways provide areas of riparian habitat and support important native fisheries. Steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), a species federally listed as threatened, use these streams and rivers to spawn and grow and as a path to and from the ocean.
Easements held by the Authority and the Silicon Valley Land Conservancy protect 1,170 acres of actively farmed property in the South County Agriculture study area.
In 2003 The Open Space Authority purchased an agricultural easement on 301 acres of farmland in a low-lying wetland area. The land is used for irrigated pasture and has also supported row crops in the past. The property consists of prime farmland and farm land of statewide importance.
The Authority also secured a trail easement along a corridor that can accommodate the proposed alignment of the Bay Area Ridge Trail. Another portion of the property forms a small wetland where cattails, bulrushes and saltgrass grow. This area can be protected for the benefit of riparian species moving through the Upper Pajaro River Floodplain.
The following year OSA was a partner in protecting the 480-acre Wang farm. Prime agricultural land used mainly for specialty crops like baby lettuce and organic broccoli, this property also includes important riparian resources where it abuts Carnadero Creek. Santa Clara Valley Water District bought the portion of the property closest to the creek, while the Authority contributed to the purchase of the remaining acreage by Silicon Valley Land Conservancy.
The adjacent Taylor Ranch property was added to south county’s protected agricultural land in 2006 with the purchase of a conservation easement. Funds were contributed by the Open Space Authority, California Department of Conservation and the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service to preserve the 520-acre parcel. The easement is held by Silicon Valley Land Conservancy and will enable the land to remain in agricultural production in perpetuity.