Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District

Supporting local agriculture

Keeping agriculture thriving in Sonoma County has myriad benefits, including providing local food security, protecting groundwater basins, avoiding urban sprawl, retaining scenic beauty and the county’s rural character, and protecting biological diversity and wildlife habitat. Agriculture in our region is supported by strong markets, thoughtful policies, and the hard work of farmers, ranchers, and agricultural organizations.

The District has a key – albeit very focused – role in supporting local agriculture by purchasing development rights from willing sellers and placing conservation easements over agricultural lands. To date, the District has preserved nearly 32,500 acres of agricultural land via conservation easement – over 30% of its total land protection portfolio. The benefits of easements as a tool for agricultural conservation include:

  • Ensuring permanent protection of important farmland, while keeping the land in private ownership and on local tax rolls;
  • Maintaining local food security and the rural, agricultural character of Sonoma County;
  • Retaining flexibility since easements can be tailored to meet the needs of individual farmers and ranchers, as well as the unique natural resource features of a property;
  • Saving family farms by helping farmers and ranchers transfer their land to the next generation.

In addition to its core function of protecting agricultural lands via conservation easements, the District also supports agriculture in other ways – including partnering with agricultural organizations, and providing information and educational resources about the multiple benefits and values of agriculture in Sonoma County. The District provides outings and educational opportunities on its easement lands to create connections between farmers and the urban community, and to educate school children about the importance of protecting farmland.