A Year of Early Achievements at the Leali Ranch

June 20, 2022

It’s been a busy year at the Leali Ranch, a 250-acre property we protected in June of 2021. When we purchased this agricultural conservation easement from the land’s owner, the Hog Island Oyster Company, we knew that our work as stewards of this farmland was just beginning. This was the first step in our long-term responsibility to tend to the health of this land and ensure the viability of agriculture.

If you’ve ever passed through the area, then you’re likely familiar with the landscape’s rolling grasslands, rocky outcrops and steep wooded hillsides. The property’s fresh water springs, seeps and significant wetland habitat along Tomales Bay make it a tremendously important resource, not just for our local agricultural industry and the surrounding community of Marshall, but for all life moving within, across or past its boundaries.

Watch the video above and hear from Terry Sawyer, one of the owners of Hog Island Oyster Company and the Leali Ranch, about the significance of this first year of ownership and his philosophy of land stewardship.

With the easement in place, Hog Island was eligible this year to apply for funding and technical support through MALT’s Stewardship Assistance Program (SAP). This year’s allocation of SAP funding for this ranch enabled the design and installation of strategically placed cattle fencing to help restore and protect critical creekside habitat. In addition, this fencing enables the implementation of carbon farming practices, giving Hog Island a greater ability to trap and store planet-warming gasses in Marin County soil.

“We have a lot of moving parts, especially in this last year, both for our business as well as for work here on the property” shared Terry Sawyer, co-owner of Hog Island. “But we have a lot of interest and enthusiasm for taking good care of this land and plan to continue to take advantage of any support we can get.”

In addition to support through our SAP initiative, this year Hog Island also utilized funding from MALT’s Drought Resilience and Water Security (DRAWS) initiative, a program we launched in April, 2021 to help all Marin County ranchers and farmers invest in drought-resilient practices.

“With the DRAWS funding we were able to tackle an old spring that had been impacted by cattle grazing on the ranch,” said Terry. “Water quality and performance were poor. We were able to improve production, secure the spring with gravel and a casing, create water storage and install a water trough away from the source. What seems like a small step enhanced this section of the ranch and allowed us to be better stewards of the land.”

This work would not be possible without the generous support of our donors. Historically, MALT’s agricultural conservation easements have been funded by a combination of public grants and private donations. But to accelerate this transaction, we fully funded the $1.1 million purchase of the easement from Hog Island, in part, to help this local business weather the turmoil of the COVID-19 pandemic. Together, we are building a bright future for this essential Marin County landscape.

Stay tuned for more updates and stories from the Leali Ranch.

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