Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST) is saving 903.5 acres in Pescadero that include critical row-crop and grazing land as part of its expanding farmland protection program. POST purchased the land, known as Butano Farms, for $9.966 million on Dec. 12 from members of the Dias family, who inherited the property from their uncle, the late Pescadero farmer Noel Dias.
“We feel privileged that the Dias family, which has owned this land since the late 1800s, chose to work with POST to make sure the property remains in agriculture and is protected from subdivision and development forever,” said POST president Walter T. Moore. “We’re saving not only at-risk farmland but also vital wildlife habitat, watershed land, world-class recreation potential, and the rural agricultural character of historic Pescadero. It’s a huge win for regional land conservation.”
Born in Pescadero in 1913, farmer Noel Dias spent his entire life at Butano Farms. His father, John Dias, Sr., was a native of the Azores Islands who moved to the United States in 1885 at the age of nine. John, Sr. grew flax, hay, peas, fava beans and pumpkins on the land. In 1945, he established the John Dias & Sons Straw Flower Company, which became one of the largest straw flower producers in the world. The company remained in business for the next 45 years, employing many Pescadero residents to pick, dry and sort decorative straw flower arrangements for shipping worldwide.
Noel and his brother, John, Jr., inherited Butano Farms in 1979. Seven years later, when John, Jr. died, Noel became sole owner, actively farming the land until 2005. The following year, he was named San Mateo County Farmer of the Year. He died in 2010 at the age of 96. With no children of his own, he left the property to his nephew and nieces, who made the ultimate decision to sell the land to POST for permanent protection.
Highly visible from downtown Pescadero, Butano Farms frames the southern end of town. It connects thousands of acres of already protected lands and is adjacent to California State Parks Pescadero Marsh Natural Preserve and POST’s Cloverdale Coastal Ranches. Its convenient and scenic location close to town and the coast made it an especially attractive property for private luxury estate development. Without POST protection, it could have been subdivided with up to eight or 10 luxury estate homes built on the land.
“Because of its large expanse of hillsides for cattle grazing, its well-cared-for farm fields, and its location in the heart of Pescadero, Butano Farms is an essential property to protect through POST’s farmland protection program,” said Moore. “Preserving Butano Farms has been a long-desired outcome for more than 20 years at POST. This property is critical to maintaining local food production. Now this and other conservation goals can finally be realized here, as POST continues its decades-long protection of local agriculture in our region.”
Butano Farms includes 53 acres of agricultural soils evenly split between two fields: one in the southeast corner of the property off Cloverdale Road, and one along Pescadero Creek Road once used by the Dias family to grow flowers and now planted with a cover crop. Another 500 acres of northern uplands and rolling hills near Bean Hollow Road are leased for cattle grazing. There are no residential structures.
According to POST vice president for Land Stewardship Paul Ringgold, under POST ownership Butano Farms will be integrated into the nonprofit land trust’s adjacent Cloverdale Coastal Ranches property. This will expand Cloverdale from its current acreage of about 5,800 acres to approximately 6,700 acres. POST will continue to lease the Pescadero Creek Road field to the current tenant and plans to start leasing the Cloverdale Road field in January 2013.
Through its farmland protection efforts, POST is working to preserve the area’s agricultural legacy and access to locally grown food.
“Farmland along the San Mateo Coast continues to face development threats and suffers from disappearing agricultural infrastructure and lack of affordable land for farmers,” explained Ringgold. “Long term, POST intends to hold onto Butano Farms until a permanent conservation solution can be identified. This might include transfer to a public agency or sale to a private conservation buyer such as a farmer. POST would hold back an easement to ensure that farm fields and natural resources on the land are protected forever.”
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