In Loving Memory of Phyllis Faber

January 16, 2023

It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of Phyllis Faber, one of the two visionary founders of the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

“Phyllis was a powerhouse with an eye to the future. Without her energy and dedication, Marin’s landscape would be vastly different today,” says Lily Verdone, MALT’s executive director. “As a fierce conservationist and advocate for agriculture, she was able to turn the divides between environmentalism and agriculture into strong bonds and shared goals. Phyllis has been an inspiration to me and I am proud to be leading the organization she helped found.”

“Phyllis was a force who fell deeply in love with California’s vibrant ecosystem and dedicated her career to protect it through her environmental advocacy,” says Tamara Hicks, MALT board chair and owner of Toluma Farms, Tomales Farmstead Creamery and Daily Driver. “Her legacy is the preservation of Marin’s natural beauty and will be appreciated in perpetuity.”

MALT co-founders Phyllis Faber and Ellen Straus. Photo by Art Rogers.

In 1980, two visionary women, Phyllis Faber and Ellen Straus—a botanist and a rancher—brought together local ranchers and conservationists to protect family farms from mounting development pressure. As a result, the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT) was born—the first land trust in the nation focused on protecting farmland.

Today, we have safeguarded more than 55,000 acres in Marin County and invested more than $1.8 million in projects that improve soil health, protect water quality, and increase grassland vigor. This protected land is a legacy to the vision of Phyllis and Ellen.

Watch the video below and hear from Phyllis about the early days of our organization’s history:

Born in New York City, Phyllis earned a B.S. in zoology from Mount Holyoke College and an M.S. in microbiology from Yale University, before eventually settling in California in the 1970s where she became active in conservation issues in the state.

Beyond her MALT legacy, Phyllis campaigned for the California Coastal Commission in 1972. She also chaired the board of the Buck Institute for Age Research and was a founding member of Marin Discoveries and the Environmental Forum of Marin and taught in the program for its 37-year-history. As a wetlands biologist, she monitored restoration projects in San Francisco Bay for more than 20 years. She wrote articles and served as an editor for scientific journals including Fremontia, the journal of the California Native Plant Society. 

To honor Phyllis, this spring we renamed our legacy giving circle in her honor: the Phyllis Faber Legacy Giving Circle. As one of the group’s original co-chairs, Phyllis helped create a way for members of our community to make planned gifts via their wills, trusts or other estate instruments—one of the most profound ways to help protect Marin County farm and ranchland forever. To honor Phyllis, we will also be accepting gifts to support her vision to protect the land.

Read more about Phyllis’ legacy:

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Two women stand at the entrance to a barn with their arms around each other's shoulders.

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