The Cook Ranch in Tres Pinos is one of six agricultural conservation easements held by SBALT. Photo provided.
The Cook Ranch in Tres Pinos is one of six agricultural conservation easements held by SBALT. Photo provided.

This article was provided by the San Benito Agricultural Land Trust. 

Founded in 1993, San Benito Agricultural Land Trust (SBALT) has protected over 6,700 acres of productive grazing land and farmland from development, with six agricultural conservation easements and one open space property. It takes lots of time, effort, and funding to make those protections possible, and much of the work is done by SBALT’s dedicated, all-volunteer Board of Directors.

Board President Dan Dungy was recently hard at work putting the final touches on a new agricultural conservation easement for 27 acres of Phil Foster Ranch, also known as Pinnacle Organically Grown, in San Juan Bautista.

“This agricultural easement doesn’t just conserve natural resources—it also supports a local business that provides year-round employment to 50 people and access to fresh, organic produce for people of all income levels,” he said.

Board member Emily Renzel is a fourth-generation Californian with a passion for protecting California’s farms, ranches and open space. She has resided in San Juan Bautista for 11 years and joined SBALT two years ago.

“It is so refreshing to come to San Benito County where farms and ranches provide jobs and open space, while producing food for our table,” Renzel said. “We’re blessed with beautiful scenery and a productive landscape.”

The focus of SBALT is local. Board Treasurer and former San Benito County Agricultural Commissioner Ron Ross said, “This group is knowledgeable about San Benito’s agricultural heritage and committed to assisting farmers and ranchers with tools to keep their lands economically viable.” 

Today there is an increased need for SBALT to partner with willing landowners and public agencies to offset the loss of farming and grazing lands that comes with new housing, transportation, and other development. With only two part-time contract staff funded partially by grants, SBALT relies heavily on volunteers and individual donors to move new projects forward.  

Residents who want to see San Benito County’s rural heritage and open space beauty preserved will find SBALT is a great way to make a real impact.  Give to SBALT now through September 10 to have your donation matched:

To learn more about conservation easements, and other ways to support SBALT with your time, talent, or treasure, visit