The USDA provides a database of croplands in the United sites created by Satellite imagery. This is the USDA NASS Cropscape imagery. This data layer attempts to describe the current extent of land used for agriculture. The above map shows this layer combined with the Farmland Monitoring Projects own analysis of ownership categories. If you look at the Layer Selector in the upper right corner, you can see how ownership of cropland varies by different ownership categories. The categories we created are somewhat arbitrary, but meaningful. We have broken the ownership categories into corporate, individual, trust, and public. Clicking on a parcel reveals basic ownership information and the number of cropland acres each parcel maintains.
Land owners can be classified into different ownership classes. One class is "corporate" which is defined by being a Limited Partnership (LP), company, corporation, or Limited Liability Company (LLC). This map shows the top 20 owners of cropland that are classified as being "corporate". According to the USDA, the three Central Coast counties have 240,707 cropland acres. Of these acres, we estimate corporate ownership of 101,316 acres or 42.1 % of all cropland. In Monterey County corporate ownership accounts for 85,519.97 acres or 44% of the counties cropland acreage and 84% of all corporate cropland. In San Benito County corporate ownership was calculated at 14779.4 acres or 32% of the counties cropland. Corporate owners of cropland own 1017.4 acres or 27% of the counties cropland. In Monterey the top 20 corporate owners of farmland own 33,630 acres or 18% of farmland in the county. In San Benito the top twenty owners own 10,552 acres (23% of the counties cropland). For Santa Cruz County the top twenty corporate owners of cropland own 1118.9 acres of cropland representing 30% of the counties cropland. The 60 corporations (1% of corporate owners) or companies together own 45300 acres of farmland which is 45% of all corporate croplands and 19% of all croplands.
By combining ownership data with USDA cropland data, we can find out who owns the most cropland by each county. This map ranks the total acreage by private owners. Other ownership types can be found elsewhere.
Pesticides used over the period of 2012 -2014. Pesticide reporting comes from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Pesticide Application is recorded in quantity of product applied and quantity of active chemical used. However, location of pesticide application is reported by township, so showing exact location is not possible in this map. Instead, the CPDR represents townships as a 6 x 6 miles square. In this map you can toggle the years of pesticide application.
This map represents the top 20 private owners of land in three counties: Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito. In this map the top 20 landowners are ranked by the total acres owned. The layer selector can show one county at a time. The top 5 biggest owners are shown in red yellow and orange.
Which corporate landowners have the most total acreage of land ? This map shows the top 20 corporate landowners based on the total acreage across all ownership parcels. The average total land holdings among the top 20 owners is 11432 while the average parcel size among the top 20 land owners is 218.
Information from the county assessor's office shows how land in the Central Coast is divided by its ownership status.
Conservation easements are one tool for farmland preservation. By essentially selling the development rights to a conservation organization like the state or non-profit, the land owner gets a tax incentive and the peace of mind that the land can not be used for development. But these tools are relatively new and while their legal construction promises conservation in perpetuity, it is unclear how agricultural use fits in with this strategy. Jessica Beckett and Ryan Galt, researchers from UC Davis, explored how land trusts and conservation easements interact with the land access issues for beginning farmers in the central coast. They argue that the values of conservation in some of these organizations may create a tension between the values and needs of small scale agriculture. Nonetheless, without some form of mechanism to combat the potential development value of agricultural land, it is unclear how lease rates may be reigned in to allow access to beginning farmers. Zoom in to see the actual parcel boundaries of these properties and click the points to get details on the easement owners.
A dominant form of land ownership in the Central coast is individual or group trusts. What is their distribution? This map shows the locations of the top 20 trusts in each central coast county.
The History of agrcultural Land in California is characterized by very large parcels. Large ranches and estates have slowly broken up over time, but the large agricultural parcel is the norm. For a beginning farmer looking to rent land, the prospect of renting a large parcel doesn't fit their budget, vision of agriculture, or experience. In addition, land owners prefer to lease out a large parcel to a single renter, rather than deal with multiple tenants leasing smaller portions. Thus, many beginning farmers seek out parcels associated with residential areas on non traditional agricultural areas, because these land owners can rent out smaller acreage. Zoning also plays a big role into land access. Different counties and municipalities can regulate the type of land use in their jursidiction, making easier or more difficult to operate a small farm operation.
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