WATSONVILLE — Several hundred acres of prime agricultural land in Watsonville and Monterey County is up for sale, but anyone who buys it will be prohibited from developing it.
That’s thanks to conservation rules put in place by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County in 2009, when it worked with the Borina Foundation to assure the land will always be used for farming.
The ranches include the Home Ranch and North and South Wiley ranches near Lakeview and Riverside drives, and Kane Ranch near Murphy Crossing and San Juan Road in Monterey County, said Reuben Helick, Senior Vice President of Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services.
“All of this is absolutely prime farm land,” Helick said. “It has been described as some of the best berry farming in the world.”
In addition to being protected from non-agricultural use, the land will likely be sold as one large parcel, as opposed to breaking it up into smaller pieces, Helick said.
“We don’t want to sell them off one by one,” he said. “The farms are valuable and even more so in larger pieces.”
In 2009, Borina Foundation’s president and other organization officials agreed to place eight of the nine ranches it owned under a conservation easement with the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, a series of rules that limits the amount of development and eliminates the ability to subdivide the properties.
“The trustees believed that the previous owners were deeply invested in Pajaro Valley Agriculture, and in that spirit entered into an agreement,” Helick said.
The Land Trust will conduct annual inspections of the property to assure the new owners are following the rules.
Helick said the foundation wanted to sell the land to allow it to move away from logistically challenging land management, and to liquidate the equity from its land holdings.
“It is time for them to sell,” he said. “The Borina Foundation was not designed to operate in perpetuity.”
Helick said there has been “keen interest” from prospective buyers, but said only “qualified” ones would be considered.
These could be investors who would lease the land to farmers, or farming operations.
Land Trust of Santa Cruz County Executive Director Teresa Corwin said she hopes the land will be purchased by someone local, or by someone concerned with local issues such as groundwater overdraft. She explained that local farmers have agreed voluntarily to restrict their water use to help ameliorate the problem, at their own expense.
“It would be our hope that the ultimate buyers would have local interest in mind,” she said.
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