MALT Purchases Former Borello Ranch From Developer
November 4, 2014
Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. – Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) has purchased an 864-acre ranch on Tomales Bay from a real estate developer. MALT will lease the ranch to local producers Mike Giammona (grass-fed beef) and Andrew Zlot (Double 8 Dairy water buffalo gelato), who will purchase it from MALT, subject to an agricultural conservation easement, within four years. The former Borello Ranch will be known as Millerton Creek Ranch in reference to Millerton Gulch Creek, which runs through it.
Previously owned and operated as a sheep ranch and rock quarry, the ranch has fallen into disrepair since former owner Bob Borello’s death in 1992. MALT has tried to protect the ranch multiple times since 1992, but it eventually was sold to developer Virtu Real Estate Investments in 2009.
“MALT is extraordinarily proud to have saved Millerton Creek Ranch from development,” said MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts. “Protecting this ranch, with its rich agricultural potential and diverse natural resources, has long been a priority for the organization.”
Bordered on three sides by protected land – Millerton Point (part of Tomales Bay State Park) and MALT-protected Giacomini Dairy and Panfiglio Ranch – MALT’s purchase of Millerton Creek Ranch brings the connected block of protected farmland on the east shore of Tomales Bay south of Marshall to 8,454 acres.
Millerton Creek Ranch is both a productive agricultural asset and dramatic natural landscape. Its rolling upper pastures offer spectacular views of Tomales Bay and Point Reyes National Seashore beyond. Trees line the creek corridor that runs through the center of the ranch before draining into Tomales Bay. Abundant water sources, including numerous natural springs and two large reservoirs, make this ranch particularly valuable agricultural land.
The ranch’s accessible location along Highway 1 near Point Reyes Station and its division into three separate legal parcels also made it desirable for estate development – and made it difficult to protect.
Mike Giammona, who grew up in West Marin and has been raising cattle locally since 1993, has dreamed of owning this ranch since he was 12 years old. He currently leases land in Point Reyes National Seashore for his grass-fed beef cattle operation, and will expand his herd on Millerton Creek Ranch. With a long history of sustainable land management, Giammona is dedicated to bringing the ranch back to its former health. “We’re focused on rehabbing the land, so we’re looking at rotational grazing, thistle control and restoring Millerton Creek,” said Giammona. “My goal is to have coho and steelhead back in that creek.” Giammona also hopes his two sons, now 17 and 19, will join him on the ranch after college.
Andrew Zlot is a newcomer to ranching, but has found a niche raising water buffalo and turning their rich milk into gelato marketed to Bay Area restaurants and retailers under the Double 8 Dairy brand (recently named best new ice cream in America by Esquire magazine). His dairy and gelato-making facilities are in Valley Ford, but with little available pastureland in that area for his animals. Zlot’s interest was piqued by the for-sale sign along Highway 1, and he reached out to Giammona. With the purchase complete, Zlot will move his expanding herd to Millerton Creek Ranch in spring, once the pastures have recovered from recent overgrazing.
“We’re really excited to be partnering with MALT on this,” said Zlot. “We’re looking forward to bringing the ranch back to a healthy, productive existence.”
MALT’s purchase of Millerton Creek Ranch not only saves threatened farmland, it also revives the use of the ranch’s permitted septic ponds, which began serving the West Marin community in 1971 but have been out of use since 2011. Mike Giammona, who is owner and operator of City Sewer Pumping in Point Reyes Station in addition to being a rancher, will upgrade and operate the treatment ponds.
“I’m thrilled that MALT worked proactively to preserve this ranch,” said MALT board member and Marin County Supervisor Steve Kinsey, whose district includes West Marin. “Of special interest to me is the opportunity to showcase sustainable waste management through improved operation of the existing sewage ponds on the property. Not only will the ponds help West Marin serve vulnerable septic systems locally, they have provided a business opportunity that can strengthen the agricultural operation.”
MALT’s purchase of Millerton Creek Ranch was made possible in part by a Program-Related Investment loan from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. MALT will repay the loan when the sale to Giammona and Zlot is complete.
Because MALT cannot hold a conservation easement on a property it owns, Millerton Creek Ranch will be under interim protection until MALT sells it. At sale, MALT will place an agricultural conservation easement on the ranch, permanently protecting it. Over the next four years, MALT will raise funds from private donors and public agencies to purchase the easement.
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