The Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County has announced a deal to conserve a 227-acre organic farm in the Los Osos Valley.
Using federal grant money, the group obtained an agricultural conservation easement on Vintage Organics, which produces flowers, vegetables, seed and a variety of livestock, including cattle, sheep and hogs. The easement prevents development on the Los Osos Valley Road property and ensures it will stay a productive farm in perpetuity.
“The easement ensures that the farm can never be subdivided,” said Kaila Dettman, Land Conservancy executive director.
The farm is near the Highland Ranch, where the conservancy secured a similar conservation easement in 2012. This means that about 760 acres of fertile farmland in the Los Osos Valley is protected.
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Vintage Organics owner Lisen Bonnier said she was motivated to conserve the property because she has seen farmland in the valley subdivided into housing. She wanted to make sure that never happens to her farm, which she has owned since 1991.
“I see that agricultural land is constantly under siege for housing and development,” she said. “It saddens me.”
Bonnier retains ownership of the farm, and the easement allows her to manage it as she sees fit as long as it stays productive farmland. She donated the value of the easement to the Land Conservancy.
Such charitable donations can be used as tax write-offs. She declined to state the value of the donation.
Creating a permanent greenbelt between San Luis Obispo and Los Osos is a top goal of the Land Conservancy, said Daniel Bohlman, the group’s conservation director. Such deals not only protect prime farmland, but they also make sure the two communities maintain their separate identities and protect the bucolic beauty of the valley.
Like the Highland Ranch, Vintage Organics contains a variety of natural habitats in addition to farmland that makes it worthy of conservation. These include coast live oak woodlands and serpentine soils that provide habitat for a variety of rare plant and animal species endemic to the San Luis Obispo area.
The conservation deal was partially funded by the Department of Defense’s Army Compatible Use Buffer program that funds land conservation deals near Army bases, said Capt. David Ruiz, director of training and security at Camp San Luis Obispo.
The buffer program paid $135,000 to the Land Conservancy to cover the cost of negotiating and finalizing the deal. Camp San Luis Obispo is just north of Los Osos Valley.
The goal of the buffer program is to discourage housing developments and other activities near bases nationwide that may hinder military activities, such as small-arms live-fire training. To date, more than 1,100 acres surrounding Camp San Luis Obispo have been protected under the program.
It also offers a source of environmental mitigation if that training harms wildlife or other sensitive resources on the base, said Nathan Parks, environmental planner at Camp Roberts.
“Military training and frogs don’t go well together at all,” he said.