A Yolo County Land Trust Event
By Judith Redmond, courtesy of Capay Valley Farm Shop
Top chefs and food purveyors, representing 27 of northern California’s most innovative and creative restaurants, 13 wineries and 8 farms with tastings of their summer produce gathered in Winters on September 11th, each to showcase their best, created from products grown in Yolo County. A walk around the event and you got to taste (for example): crostone of braised lamb on whole grain flat bread with cranberry bean purée; sautéed pardon peppers with grilled chicken, eggplant and heirloom tomato pasta; goat tacos with white sweet corn and New Mexico chilies; vegetarian ceviche; melon agua fresca; golden tomato gazpacho; or hand shucked snow cones.
The tastes were wonderful and everyone tried to pick their favorite, but in addition to the great food and fraternity there was an underlying message about the bounty of Yolo County. FarmShares customers are already well aware of the year-round diversity that puts Yolo County on the map in terms of agricultural production. The County contains priceless deep and fertile soils, rangeland, wetlands, oak woodlands, streams and habitat for wildlife. But wedged between the Bay Area and Sacramento, there is constant pressure to build more houses and roads.
That’s why a small group of dedicated volunteers, working around a kitchen table, started the Yolo Land Trust in 1988. Now, 23 years later, the Trust is one of the most successful in the Central Valley. Paul Muller, one of the four Full Belly Farm owners, was a leader of the original team that founded the Trust and for 20 years afterwards he worked diligently on the Board of Directors bringing a strategic focus that led to conservation easements on almost 9,000 acres of Yolo County prime farmland and an emphasis that is unique among Land Trusts, that working agricultural lands should be part of the conservation agenda.
The Land Trust now uses many tools, including conservation easements to prevent future development. Conservation easements are legal agreements in which the landowner continues to own the land and the Land Trust monitors the property to ensure that the resource values are protected over time. Generally the landowners give up their development rights and the property remains on County tax rolls.
Paul, who grew up on a farm in Yolo County, is no longer on the Board, but he still spends countless hours organizing the annual Land Trust event, talking to chefs all over northern California and pairing them up with farms across Yolo County to develop the afternoon’s menu. It is a true feat of organizational and logistical genius when it all comes together.
Paul was honored at the event with the Thomson Rominger Award, given yearly to a community leader dedicated to conservation. State Senator Lois Wolk also presented Paul with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community. California Governor Brown joined the large group as well, commenting that “Sacramento is very divided, and that’s why it’s good when people can do more in their own communities, in their own families, and at a local level where agreement is perhaps easier to attain. When we send everything over there to the State Capitol we have such differences… I’m glad to come to Yolo County where there’s more consensus I hope, and even when there isn’t, it doesn’t make too much difference because people are pretty self-reliant and they can get it done!”
The Capay Valley Community is proud of Paul’s contributions to protecting working agricultural land and critical wildlife habitat. FarmShares customers are part of the economic engine that helps to shine a bright light on that conservation work. Without markets for all the great products that grow in Yolo County, there would be no farmers and no farm land to protect — our story would be more difficult to tell. Thank you to all the customers and CSA members who support delicious and sustainable Yolo County agriculture!