Using Innovative Model, MALT Rescues Land From Hands of Developers, Creating Permanent Home for Two Local Farmers
October 30, 2018
Pt. Reyes Station, Calif. – In the 38 years since its founding, MALT has thrice employed the “Buy-Protect-Sell” model to save at-risk land from subdivision and development, most recently for Millerton Creek Ranch. When this 864-acre ranch, an important agricultural property on the eastern shore of Tomales Bay, sold to developers in 2014, MALT stepped in as a temporary buyer, saving the property from becoming luxury estates. Today, after four years of leasing the ranch to two local farmers, MALT is selling the property to them, returning this land to farming, forever. Andrew Zlot and Mike Giammona now own the land, subject to a MALT conservation easement in perpetuity.
Andrew Zlot of Double 8 Dairy is a buffalo milk dairy farmer who produces buffalo milk mozzarella and gelato in nearby Valley Ford. His partner at this ranch is Mike Giammona who grew up in West Marin and has been farming locally since 1993. Mike and his son Morgan now raise grass-fed beef cattle and pastured laying hens on Millerton Creek Ranch.
“I have always dreamed of owning this ranch,” says Giammona. “Thanks to MALT’s bold move to take this property out of the hands of developers in 2014 and form a partnership with us — a partnership focused on restoring this ranch to its full agriculture potential — our family will be able to remain in agriculture and in Marin County for generations to come. My son Morgan was able to return home after college to work this land too; he raises pastured laying hens to produce eggs for local markets throughout the Bay Area under the name Tomales Bay Pastures. Not only was MALT instrumental in preserving the ranch, they played a key role in securing my family’s future as farmers.”
The permanence that comes with a MALT conservation easement has been transformative for these landowners, as well as for the land. For more than 100 years, this ranch was a working dairy and cattle and sheep pasture, overgrazed and under-loved. Previous owners developed a large quarry and operated a construction company from the property, and its agricultural use gradually diminished. Sometime in the 1970s the company filled in a portion of Millerton Gulch Creek on the property, preventing steelhead from running to the top of this watershed as they once did. In the four years since MALT purchased the property, Giammona and Zlot have partnered with MALT’s conservation team to restore the grasslands through improved grazing practices and invasive plant control, create a carbon farm plan for the ranch and install new fencing and water sources for cattle.
Nestled amid a 10,433-acre block of MALT-protected ranches, Millerton Creek Ranch is also directly adjacent to California State Parks land, completing the protection of the entire Millerton Gulch Creek watershed. MALT has collaborated with Giammona, Zlot and the Northern California chapter of Trout Unlimited to begin designing plans to remove the fish barrier and restore the creek for the benefit of steelhead trout.
“Millerton Creek Ranch’s success illustrates exactly why MALT is fighting to protect farms and ranches,” said MALT Executive Director Jamison Watts. “For these farmers, the journey from not having permanent land for their farming businesses to the security of land ownership has been a long one. I am delighted that MALT’s work made a difference to Andrew and Mike and for the future of local, family farming. I’m also delighted that our partnership with these landowners is resulting in restored rangeland and habitat alike. That’s what this work is all about.”
Half of the funding to protect this ranch comes from private contributions to MALT. These donations have been be matched 1:1 by the sales-tax funded Marin County Farmland Preservation Program, created in 2012 when Marin voters passed Measure A.
“This is a unique and exciting opportunity for the County in several ways,” said Craig Richardson, Parks’ Senior Open Space Planner. “We are leveraging Measure A dollars to not only preserve over 800 acres of agricultural land, we are also preserving essential habitat for steelhead and part of a critical habitat linkage stretching down the Sonoma/Marin coast, and inland to Mount St. Helena.”
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 more than 53,000 acres on 85 family farms and ranches. To learn more about MALT, visit www.malt.org.
Contact: Haven Bourque, firstname.lastname@example.org (415) 505-3473
High-resolution photos available upon request.