Silva Ranch protected by the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust conservation easement. Photo courtesy SBALT website.

The San Benito Agricultural Land Trust is celebrating its 25th anniversary as a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving agricultural land by acquiring conservation easements on strategic parcels of ag land.

Paul Hain, president of the 501(c)3 nonprofit group, said the land trust was created in 1993 because of the pressure of losing rangeland to development in San Juan Bautista and Paicines.

“The first conservation easement preserved 68 acres in the San Juan Valley near San Juan Oaks Golf and Country Club,” Hain said.

To date, the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust has acquired seven conservation easements with 6,632 acres of protected land via partnerships with landowners on conservation easements, which are permanent conservation agreements that help protect the natural and agricultural resources of a particular property.

Hain said the group is currently partnering with The Trust for Public Land and Nyland Family for an opportunity to purchase a 540-acre section of the Nyland property. They will begin applying for public grants through the State of California to help raise the necessary funds to acquire the ranch.

“The Land Trust is truly excited about this opportunity and we are hopeful our current fundraising efforts will succeed within the timeframe agreed to with the landowner,” said Board Member Emily Renzel.

The land trust credits volunteers, donations, and their board of directors for preserving agriculture land in the county.

The nonprofit organization’s board of directors is comprised of community leaders involved in San Benito County farming, business, and government. Current directors are Paul Hain, Sara Steiner, Ron Ross, Dan Dungy, Michael Brigantino, Dave Brigantino, Emily Renzel, and Zooey Diggory.

“People live in the county because of the rural area,” Hain said, “Ways people can support the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust are by joining the organization or donate to preserve farms and ranches.”

Currently, the nonprofit organization depends on donated conservation easements to operate.

“We want to be able to have enough money on hand to purchase easements in the future,” said Hain.

More information on The San Benito Agricultural Land Trust can be found on the organization’s website.