Largest U.S. Stone Fruit Grower Preserves Farmland
Creating a landmark legacy, Gerawan Farming has forever protected over 9,200 acres — more than 14 square miles — of fertile farmland in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Family owned and operated since 1938, Gerawan Farming is the nation’s largest grower of peaches, plums, and nectarines, and among the leaders in table grapes. It packs under the Prima label.
The Gerawan Family, farmers for nearly three-quarters of a century, has voluntarily placed the actively farmed land into a permanent agricultural conservation easement. The easement will be administered by the Wildlife Heritage Foundation, a non-profit, public-benefit land trust located in Lincoln, CA, and accredited by the Land Trust Alliance.
“Completing an agricultural conservation easement of this magnitude for actively farmed high-quality ag land, as opposed to grazing lands, is monumental,” stated Patrick J. Shea, executive director of the Wildlife Heritage Foundation. “Our organization was very fortunate to be selected to be part of this historic easement as this is the largest known agricultural easement of its kind in the state. Agricultural easements, such as this one, are very important to an overall conservation program. Furthermore, an easement of this size will make a historic difference for the agricultural landscape of the area known as the nation’s food basket.”
The California Department of Conservation defines an agricultural conservation easement as “a voluntary, legally recorded deed restriction that is placed on a specific property used for agricultural production.” Traditionally, landowners place agricultural conservation easements on their property to ensure that agricultural lands remain in active production. This removes development pressures from the land and prohibits practices that could damage or interfere with the agricultural use of the land. The easement, a restriction on the deed of the property, remains in effect even when the land changes ownership.
Of the more than 9,200 acres selected and placed into the conservation easement by the Gerawan Family, approximately 7,000 acres are located on the Gerawan’s “West Side” ranches, located west of Fresno and south of the town of Kerman. The remaining 2,200-plus acres, known as the Family’s “River Bottom” ranches, are located east of Sanger and north of Reedley. These ranches are along the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range and adjacent to the Sierra Gateway Scenic Highway 180. Many of the “River Bottom” ranches are contiguous to the renowned Fresno County Blossom Trail which is enjoyed each spring by visitors from throughout the nation.
Throughout its nearly 75-year history, Gerawan Farming has stayed true to its “family farm” roots and has remained passionate about quality and commitment to excellence. Ray Gerawan has continued the farming tradition started by his parents. Ray’s sons, Mike and Dan, grew up working on the farm and now all three proudly operate this successful family business.
“Farming has always tied our family and community together,” said Ray Gerawan. “Since the early years, when we planted our first trees in the river bottom area, my sons Dan and Mike and I, along with our dedicated employees, have all worked hard to ensure that Gerawan Farming is a name we’re proud of. This conservation easement promises that the traditions we started many years ago continues for generations to come.”
Ryan Jacobsen, executive director of the Fresno County Farm Bureau, emphasized the significance of this easement and stated, “Our organization has traditionally worked closely with Gerawan Farming. As a family business, the Gerawans have brought forward innovative agricultural practices and effective advancements to our valley. This unprecedented agricultural conservation easement will help ensure that our world-class ag lands will remain protected from development. We are thankful to the Gerawan Family for helping to promote and protect agriculture in our San Joaquin Valley.”
Manuel Cunha, president of the Nisei Farmers League, agreed and added, “To protect farming on both the east and west sides of our valley ensures that the integrity of our world class agricultural production will be maintained, now and into the future. This historic easement demonstrates a clear appreciation for agriculture and conservation.”