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What Would Marin Be Like Without Any of Its Farms?

Pozzi Ranch Sheep

Pozzi Ranch Sheep, Photo courtesy Debbie Wilson

What do you know about MALT? No, not the grain that’s used to make whiskey and beer.

MALT stands for Marin Agricultural Land Trust. The private, member-supported non-profit organization was created in 1980 by a coalition of ranchers and environmentalists to permanently preserve Marin County farmland.

You might not be a farmer, so you must be wondering what it has to do with you.

Imagine a population of 125,000 living on the shores of Tomales Bay. Just wouldn’t be the same, would it? Thanks to the work at MALT the rolling hills of West Marin will stay just the way they are – green and covered with grass. Since its founding, MALT has worked with more than 70 farming families to preserve more than 45,000 acres.

Achadinha Cheese Company

Achadinha Cheese Company in Petaluma, Photo by Dana Rebmann

We're talking places like Barinaga Ranch, located on the east shore of Tomales Bay and home to a small flock of dairy sheep, that makes award winning, Basque-style cheese. And then there’s the family-run Achadinha (Osh-a-deen-a) Cheese Company in Petaluma using both dairy goats and jersey cows to create their own award winning artisan cheese. Marin County farmers can’t make cheese without land for their animals. So if their land disappears, all that good cheese would as well.

How MALT Works

Essentially, MALT buys the development rights to farmland. Farmers receive payment that is often reinvested in their farm, and the land is guaranteed to stay farmland forever. Even if the land is sold, it can never be developed. Their map really puts the layout of Marin County farmland into perspective. But MALT doesn’t just work with farmers. It also promotes public awareness of local agriculture, using a variety of fun events to get the word out. With spring in full swing and summer right around the corner, it’s worth reserving space on the calendar for some of the activities they’ve got planned.

Ranches & Rolling Hills Art Show

Ranches & Rolling Hills Landscape Art Show and Sale, Photo courtesy Drew Altizer Photography

Ranches & Rolling Hills Landscape Art Show and Sale

Saturday, May 18th & Sunday, May 19th

Artists who have been painting on MALT-protected ranches and farms get to show off their hard work at the Ranches & Rolling Hills Landscape Art Show and Sale. Celebrating its 16th year, this weekend-long art celebration has raised more than $1 million. The first opportunity to view and purchase the art is at Saturday’s preview lunch, featuring food grown on MALT farms. Pre-registration is required. $150, Druid’s Hall on the Village Square, Nicasio, 11 am–2 pm.

Admission is free from 2 – 5 pm on Saturday and Sunday 10 am–4 pm. You can preview a sampling of this year’s art on the MALT website.

Field to Fork Supper at Pozzi Ranch

Saturday, June 29th, 4pm

Put on your layers and good walking shoes, Rancher Joe Pozzi will be giving guests a tour of his MALT-protected sheep ranch. Learn about his ranching practices while taking in some amazing views. Guest Chefs Nick Balla and Courtney Burns of San Francisco’s Bar Tartine, and Sean Baker of Berkeley’s Gather will cook a barn supper paired with local wines. $225 for members and nonmembers.

Tour de Malt

Tour de Malt, Photo courtesy M. Woolsey

Tour de MALT 

Saturday, July 27th, 8 am-3 pm

West Marin countryside makes for fabulous cycling. Tour de MALT winds barn-to-barn along a choice of 40 miles or 60 miles of country and coastal roads. It starts and ends at Nicasio Valley Farms, but in between, you’ll roll by more than two dozen MALT-protected family farms. If you need a little inspiration, a good lunch will be waiting for you when you finish. Locally-sourced grass-fed beef sliders, salads and Three Twins Ice Cream, along with beer from Lagunitas Brewery are on the menu. It’s limited to 150 riders, so register sooner as opposed to later. $85 MALT members, $125 nonmembers

Dana can be found on Twitter @drebmann