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Despite Success, Marin County Farmer Set To Sell Ranch

MARIN COUNTY (KPIX 5) -- The owner of a well-known ranch in Marin County is getting ready to sell his farm despite its success, saying the land is so valuable it simply doesn't make any sense not to sell.

A hundred years ago, the value of most land in Marin County was based on how much food could be produced on it.  And at the farmers market at the Civic Center, people still understand the importance of that.

"To be able to meet the people who are raising the animals and growing the produce that we grow is really important," said chef and culinary school director Tony Adams. "It puts a face and a name to the food we're eating."

One of those names is Mark Pasternak. He has sold specialty meat products for local shoppers and some of the toniest restaurants in the Bay Area.   

Pasternak bought his 75-acre Devil's Gulch Ranch in western Marin County back in 1971 for $550 per acre and has been raising pigs, sheep, rabbits and poultry ever since. He loves his life and has become a bit of a celebrity to local foodies thanks to his wares.  

But despite the ranch's success, he has given public notice that his land is up for sale.

"We've announced that the ranch is for sale," said Pastenrak

He is selling not because he wants to, but because it simply doesn't make sense not to put the ranch on the market. The land around his has already been snapped up by wealthy people for private ranches with large homes.  

The property Mark paid less than $40,000 for is now worth about $5 million.

"Things did change. Things you just couldn't expect, you couldn't plan for, you know?" said Pasternak.

While he says he doesn't want to stop ranching, he says he would like to afford retirement some day. So he is hoping to find someone who will purchase the land but still allow him to work part of it.  

The honest truth is, for all the talk about the value of locally grown food, buying land in Marin County with the purpose of farming simply doesn't work in the modern day.

"It is unlikely any of these properties will ever generate enough money to compete with somebody with a lot of money who just wants to buy it to have a big piece of property," said Pasternak.

While he doesn't know if he'll be able to stay on his beloved ranch or not, he understands what it signals about the future of agriculture in the area.

When asked if he felt farming was something that is dying out, Pasternak replied, "In the Bay Area, probably. In areas with really high property values and a high cost of living, probably."

Marin and other rural counties in the Bay Area are trying to help by establishing land trusts that allow only agriculture on its properties. But landowners must agree to it and be willing to forego the increased value that development would bring.


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