County of Marin - News Releases - Farmland Preservation Grants

For Immediate Release
December 05, 2023

County Grants Help Preserve West Marin Ranches

Allocations from sales tax revenue tied to environmental and economic good

San Rafael, CA – Aided by local voter-supported tax revenue, Marin County Parks and the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) have collaborated for years to preserve working ranches in West Marin and solidify the county’s historic and often fragile farming economy. On December 5, the Marin County Board of Supervisors allocated $3.33 million to MALT from the countywide sales tax known as Measure A to preserve more than 700 acres of farmland of local importance.

A hilltop view looking down on Bivista Ranch with Tomales Bay in the distance.The 592-acre Bivista Ridge Ranch, on the east shore of Tomales Bay, includes 473 acres of farmland of local importance. It was one of two ranches that received grants from Measure A tax revenue on December 5, 2023.

With a unanimous vote, the five Supervisors approved separate grants to two ranches: $1.8 million for Spring Valley Ranch and $1.5 million for Bivista Ridge Ranch. The grants will help MALT acquire agricultural conservation easements to ensure the properties continue functioning as family farms and protect existing critical habitat linkages. MALT is adding financial contributions totaling $4.3 million and will be the stewards of the easements, ensuring their values will be upheld in the future.

The 1,179-acre Spring Valley Ranch is located several miles west of Hicks Valley in rural north-central Marin. It is within an area identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as critical habitat for the endangered red-legged frog and is home to 142 species of birds, according to a survey conducted annually on the property. The ranch contains 235 acres of farmland of local importance, as designated by the California Department of Conservation. The land is currently used for cattle grazing, but potential expansion of water resources, cropland, and grazable area could someday allow for a more diverse set of agricultural uses.

The 592-acre Bivista Ridge Ranch, on the east shore of Tomales Bay, includes 473 acres of farmland of local importance. Current operations consist of about 150 acres of organic hayland. The remaining organic rangeland is seasonally grazed by dairy cows. The ranch also features an approximately five‐acre historic dryland fruit and nut orchard. Bivista Ridge Ranch is integral to the landowner's organic dairy operation at their 705‐acre Bivalve Dairy Farm, located 5.4 miles south and protected by a MALT agricultural conservation easement.  The property owners are using innovative technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to meet the state's goals for greenhouse gas reduction.  

“These grants are examples of how community support preserves local agricultural lands and protects our food system,” said Craig Richardson, senior planner with Marin County Parks. “Continuing small, family-owned farms have real environmental and economic benefits and align with our sustainability goals. When Measure A was renewed in 2022, it gave us confidence to know that Marin voters are on board with this mission."

Measure A is the shortened name of the Marin Parks, Open Space, and Farmland Preservation Transactions and Use Tax Ordinance of 2022. In June 2022, County voters approved re-implementation of the original Measure A from 2012 with some updates and edits, and the December 5 allocations are the first for this purpose since the measure’s renewal. The quarter-cent sales tax supports parks and open space, sustainable agriculture, and recreation in cities and towns. Twenty percent of the tax revenue is set devoted to sustainable agriculture, and a portion of that is set aside for long-term farmland preservation.

The first nine-year Measure A resulted in approximately $16.5 million in distributed funding, matched by roughly $18 million in private and public funds from other sources. To date, about 8,000 acres of Marin ranches and farms have been preserved with assistance from Measure A revenues.

MALT was founded in 1980 and is the oldest farmland trust in the nation. To date, MALT has protected more than 55,721 acres of Marin farmland from potential development.

“Since its initial passage in 2012, our team at MALT has utilized Measure A funding to protect more than 13 farms and ranches totaling more than 7,953 acres,” said Lily Verdone, MALT’s executive director. "Matching public funding with private dollars has proved to be an effective model at advancing land preservation. We are tremendously grateful for this ongoing support—today's historic milestone was made possible through the ongoing commitment of our generous donors, partner organizations, and Marin County voters.”

Seven members of the Measure A Oversight Committee monitor the tax revenue expenditures, oversee an annual financial audit, and approve an annual report. Proposed project expenditures are also routinely brought before the Parks and Open Space Commission and the Open Space District Board.


Craig Richardson
Senior Open Space Planner
Marin County Parks

Marin Civic Center
Suite 260
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7057
Email: Craig Richardson
Marin County Parks website