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The Land Search Continues…
Written by Rachel Wohlander
July 4, 2017

Hello and welcome back to the Almanac!

We’ve had some developments in the hunt for land that we’d love to share. We recently met with a realtor to view four sites in Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties. We eliminated the first two pretty quickly. One required driving on precarious and often washed out roads, and the land itself was very graded, plus the well needed a lot of work. So that’s out. The second, though pretty and more arable, was only two acres, and that’s a bit small for what we’ve got in mind.

…or is it this?

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Number three was what the realtor kept calling a “sweet property.” It’s five acres near Aromas with dramatic views straight out to Big Sur of green slopes dotted in pines, oaks and grazing horses. Secluded, but near enough to town, the only neighbor in sight was a curious llama. The current owners have put some care into the paved driveway lined with lavender and rosemary. We entered the lot onto a couple acres cleared for an apparently failed turkey farm and followed the property line up a slope of eucalyptus and pines on a well maintained trail. At the top there’s a rainwater tank and the property has both well and city water, as well as two electricity lines dropped in already. The soil was sandy, but we could see where lot’s of water had washed down the slope only to be carried away down the driveway. We were already concocting plans to slow, spread and sink that water to keep it on the site.

The realtor told us it’s a “pocket listing” which means it’s not listed on the market, and the seller would only be motivated under the right circumstances. The next site we really liked is listed by an an eager seller, and the price per acre is dramatically cheaper. Before I tell you about the fourth property, here’s a pretty picture Travis made of our not-as-pretty sticky-note mock up of what we decided we’re looking for in the land we purchase. This was highly influenced by Y.A. Yeomans’ Keyline Scale of Permanence.

So the items listed in the top right corner are our highest priorities that are also the hardest to change and are therefore the most important existing things to be looking for. The rest is relatively easy to add or amend. What do you think? Make sense? Also, in no particular order, here are the essentials as far as we’re concerned: Well on site; 10-20 acres plus/minus; zoning; price; access – roads/freeways; vicinity to urban centers; population; ideally easy hook ups to city water, PG&E hook up, natural gas; enough farmable acreage but also some trees. Now onto the next property.

The future site of Terra Cultura?

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This one’s 24.5 acres very near San Juan Bautista and right off the highway where the 101 and 156 split. Great location. It’s huge and cheap compared to anything else around, though at the outer limit of what we can afford. This one’s a bit more raw. There’s a well and that’s about it, but we can pay to drop in electricity which runs along the adjacent road. We hiked through head-high golden grasses up gentle slopes with clusters of mature oaks and rocky outcroppings. There’s definitely room to grow here, or potentially find a lessee for a portion of it. Plus, the 5 acre zoning means less trouble building the structures we envision. This lot is better situated in the greater watershed, and has more loamy soil from its history as cattle rangeland. 

So that’s exciting. If you have any thoughts about weighing the pros and cons of these two sites, we’d love to hear them! –as well as any ideas or resources ya got for us on the land front in general. The other good news is that we’re back in conversation with California FarmLink. They’re a fabulous resource and a nonprofit to boot, but when we spoke with them back in March, they weren’t able to lend to nonprofit farms. That has changed in just these past couple weeks, so they got back in touch. We had a great meeting with them and they’re excited about Terra Cultura. We came out of the meeting feeling very hopeful about working with them on both the finance side and finding the perfect land. We’ll keep you posted!

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Written by Rachel Wohlander

Rachel Wohlander is a co-founder, and the executive director of culture and education at Terra Cultura. She is an interdisciplinary artist and educator with a background in performing arts and creative writing.

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