Innovative Family Dairy to be Protected for Farming
January 23, 2018
Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. – Marin Agricultural Land Trust will protect the Bianchini Ranch in Point Reyes Station, a 705-acre ranch overlooking Tomales Bay that is home to Bivalve Dairy®. Today the Marin County Board of Supervisors approved $1,817,950 in public funding toward MALT’s purchase of an agricultural conservation easement on the ranch, which will protect it as farmland forever. The easement agreement is expected to be final in March.
Owners John and Karen (Bianchini) Taylor have run the dairy since 2006. Karen, a sixth-generation dairywoman, was raised on the Bianchini Ranch, established in 1973, and learned dairying from her parents, William J. and Sharon M. Bianchini. John and Karen had the dairy certified organic and started selling their milk locally, to Clover Stornetta, later partnering with Cowgirl Creamery on Red Hawk cheese.
Though the Taylors owned the dairy business, Karen only owned a percentage of the ranch, so when Sharon died in 2014, they faced a critical decision point.
“Selling the ranch would have been easier, but we’re not known to ever take the easy path,” said Karen. “We wanted to preserve a deep-rooted family tradition and the land that the generations before us worked so hard to acquire.”
A MALT easement fits well with the Taylors’ plans for the future. “When Sharon passed away, we chose to purchase the remaining share of the ranch,” said John. “In thinking of our children’s future, if something happens to us, they would be faced with tough decisions, too. By selling the easement to MALT, future generations have the choice to be in agriculture for perpetuity.”
They plan to reinvest in the ranch with capital from the easement sale, with a focus on sustainability. A hay dryer will allow them to cut and dry hay at optimal nutrition level and also decrease feed costs. A manure management project for reducing methane emissions by separating and composting manure will also allow the Taylors to use the composted manure as fertilizer on the pastures. Such practices are proven to improve soil fertility, forage quality, and carbon sequestration. A line of Bivalve Dairy®-branded dairy products is also in the works and coming soon.
Through Farm Field Studies and private tours, the Taylors will continue to focus on education for the benefit of the broader community. “Many people think that water comes from a spout, gas from a pump, electricity from a plug and food from a store. What we’ve always tried to introduce is that food comes from a farm,” said John. “People want to know where their food comes from and they pass it along to their friends. That does wonders for the local economy. On a tour of our dairy ranch, people get to experience where their food comes from at Bivalve Pasture to Palate®.”
“John and Karen are forward-thinking farmers who work tirelessly for the benefit of the land, the community, West Marin’s agricultural heritage and the future of local food,” said Jamison Watts, Marin Agricultural Land Trust Executive Director. “Under their stewardship, the Bianchini Ranch has become a model of sustainable agriculture: community-based farming that is economically and environmentally viable over the long term.”
As with many of the ranches along the east shore of Tomales Bay, the Bianchini Ranch is part of a critical wildlife corridor connecting habitat in Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties. When the easement closes the ranch will extend the block of contiguous MALT-protected land between Point Reyes Station and Marshall to more than 9,000 acres.
Half of the money for purchase of this easement will come from the Marin County Farmland Preservation Program, a sales tax-funded program created when Marin voters passed Measure A in 2012. The other half will come from private contributions to MALT.
“We are excited to have yet another opportunity to leverage Measure A dollars through the Farmland Preservation Program. By partnering with MALT on the Bianchini Ranch easement acquisition, Measure A dollars are being put to their intended use by simultaneously preserving a family farm and protecting the natural resources of this ranch,” said Craig Richardson, Senior Open Space Planner for Marin County Parks.
About MALT: Marin Agricultural Land Trust is a member-supported nonprofit organization created in 1980 to permanently preserve Marin County farmland. Some of the Bay Area’s most highly acclaimed dairy and meat products and organic crops are produced on farmland protected by MALT, which totals 49,700 acres on 82 family farms and ranches. To learn more about MALT, visit malt.org.
About the Marin County Measure A (Ordinance 3586) Farmland Preservation Program: Marin County voters widely approved Measure A, a quarter-cent sales tax, in 2012. Roughly $2 million per year is set aside through Measure A to support the Marin County Farmland Preservation Program, a grant program to preserve agricultural land in Marin. Thus far, program funds have supported the purchase of MALT conservation easements on eight ranches, totaling 4,263 acres of farmland. For more information, visit http://www.marincountyparks.org/depts/pk/about-us/main/measurea.
High-resolution photos available upon request.