Cattle dotted hills and valleys in South County. Photo provided by SBALT.
Cattle dotted hills and valleys in South County. Photo provided by SBALT.

Information provided by San Benito Agricultural Land Trust


The San Benito Agricultural Land Trust (SBALT) announced it has achieved national recognition, joining a network of over 450 accredited land trusts across the nation that have “demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.”

“Accreditation demonstrates SBALT’s commitment to local agriculture and open space through permanent conservation of land in partnership with volunteer landowners.” said Paul Hain, vice president and founder.

“We are a stronger organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program. The four-year process resulted in a highly educated board of directors and our first paid staff.” said Emily Renzel, board president. “We are grateful to the Community Foundation for San Benito County for the community impact grants that allowed us to do this important work.”

SBALT said it provided extensive documentation and was subject to a comprehensive third-party evaluation prior to achieving this distinction. It added that the Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarding accreditation signifyies its confidence that SBALT’s lands will be protected forever.

The release also noted that accredited land trusts throughout the United States steward almost 20 million acres of land – an amount of land equivalent to the size of South Carolina, or 1/5 of the size of California.

“National accreditation gives our landowners, partner organizations, public agencies, and our donors confidence in SBALT’s ability to conduct land conservation in San Benito County successfully,” said Secretary Cathy Summa-Wolfe. “We are excited to be able to display the seal that let’s everyone know we have met these high standards.”

The release said SBALT’s recent accomplishments include accepting the management and eventual fee ownership of the 540-acre Nyland Property south of Highway 156 in San Juan Bautista, and the permanent protection of 27 acres of the Phil Foster Ranch, also known as Pinnacle Organically Grown, with another 24 acres of this farm to be protected in 2022.

It goes on to state that SBALT is working with the County of San Benito and the cities of Hollister and San Juan Bautista to ensure that SBALT is the go-to organization for permanent protection of agricultural lands as a result of development mitigation. Additionally, SBALT said it seeks to increase public access to conservation lands in San Benito County for outdoor recreation, and will offer regular hikes on its two fee properties in the coming months.

“It is exciting to recognize San Benito Agricultural Land Trust with this national mark of distinction,” said Melissa Kalvestrand, executive director of the Commission. “Donors and partners can trust the more than 450 accredited land trusts across the country are united behind strong standards and have demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

The release said SBALT is San Benito County’s only local land trust and that it has been working since 1993 to protect the agricultural land that supports a vibrant industry and the rural character of San Benito County.

San Benito Agricultural Land Trust is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States, according to the Land Trust Alliance’s most recent National Land Trust Census. A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits can be found at