South Bay officials approve plan to preserve 12,000 acres of farmland

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- In the South Bay, officials have approved a plan that would stop development of some farmland deemed critical to the region.

Once known as the "Valley of the Heart's Delight," Santa Clara County has drastically changed over the years - much of it due to urban sprawl.

"Santa Clara County was once the leading agriculture economy in the country, and over the last 40-50 years we've lost 45 percent of our most productive soils, our most productive farmland to development," said Andrea Mackenzie with the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority.

In the last 30 years alone, the county has lost 21,000 acres of fertile land.

The region is now primarily known as a tech hub but the Santa Clara Valley Open Space Authority is working to preserve agriculture land.

"There's still people on the urban edge of our cities who are producing food," said Mackenzie.

Farmers like Chris Borello, who grows 120 acres of cherries in Coyote Valley.

"I think that preservation is a great idea, if it's done correctly," said Chris Borello with Borello Family Farms.

The economics of farming has changed in the last decade. Borello says even though his trees didn't yield a single cherry last year due to poor weather conditions, his costs haven't gone down.
Borello would like the area preserved but realizes other needs are at play -- such as housing.

"At the end of the day, we're farmers and we enjoy what we do but it's still a business and there's value in the land, and we just want to protect that value," added Borello.

On Tuesday, the board of supervisors unanimously approved the staff recommendations of the plan.

The preservation task-force hopes to save 12,000 acres by purchasing development rights on certain parcels to keep farmers farming.

This program could cost between $250 million and $500 million.

County officials are looking at funding sources, potential coming from unspent money in the general fund at the end of each fiscal year.

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