Silicon Valley's last big farm owner dies at 88

February 2, 2014 3:17:58 PM PST
A third-generation California farmer who stubbornly refused to sell his family's 237-acre ranch to developers even as Silicon Valley rose up around it and made the land worth hundreds of millions of dollars has died at age 88.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that Walter Cottle Lester died of natural causes on Friday, one day before a trail that represents the first piece of the future park and agricultural preserve that will occupy his family homestead opened to the public.

Lester deeded the land where fruit and grains still are grown to Santa Clara County and the state starting a decade ago on the condition that it remain as open space forever.

The Mercury News says he was Silicon Valley's last big farm owner and could have gotten $500 million for the property.