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Cow Heaven: Saving Agricultural Land


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The Marin Agricultural Land Trust permanently protects 35,000 acres of farmland from being developed.  Source:

The Marin Agricultural Land Trust permanently protects 35,000 acres of farmland from being developed. Source:

Real estate prices in San Francisco are topping the charts. So, one would expect West Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge, to be populated by malls and big box stores. Instead, it remains an agricultural greenbelt of family farmers. How did this happen?

Back in the days of horse-drawn wagons and hand milking, this area was nicknamed “Cow Heaven” by one early rancher. Remarkably, it has held on to this distinction to this day. In this edition of Making Contact, we learn how West Marin was permanently preserved as farms and agricultural open space.


Lanny Pinola, Native American storyteller; Jules Evens, naturalist; Boyd Stewart, Merv McDonald and Al Poncia, beef ranchers; Bill Jensen, sheep rancher; Bob Giacomini, dairyman; Roberto Vallejo, dairy foreman; Ellen Straus, dairywoman; Dr. Martin Griffin, founder, Audubon Canyon Ranch wildlife preserve; Phyllis Faber, wetland biologist and teacher; Peter Douglas, executive director, California Coastal Commission; Terry Sawyer and John Finger, oyster farmers and marine biologists; Jerry Lunsford, oyster farmer; Christine and Jim Jensen, Bill Jensen’s children.

Host/senior producer: Tena Rubio.
Produced and directed by Claire Schoen.
Written by Elizabeth Ptak and Claire Schoen.
Music by Banana.
Sound effects by Chris Boyes of Skywalker Sound and Ann Kroeber of Sound Mountain.
Special thanks to the Marin Agricultural Land Trust.

In memory of Ellen Straus, Boyd Stewart and Lanny Pinola, who have passed away since their interviews were originally recorded.

For more information:

The Marin Agricultural Land Trust – Point Reyes Station, CA

Audubon Canyon Ranch wildlife preserve

California Coastal Commission

Review of this program on PRX (Public Radio Exchange):

Posted: 4-19-2006
Reviewer: Michael Johnson, Producer, Trainer, San Francisco, CA

Two hooves up for this jaunty look at the bovine history of Marin County just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. Producer Claire Schoen delivers an udderly captivating 1/2 hour of facts, stories, music and voices of the dairy industry in an area usually thought of as a repository of hot tubs and BMWs.

Despite a few odd sound effects in the beginning, the use of audio is quite effective.

Air this one on a saturday afternoon… a sunny saturday afternoon, and enjoy.Your listeners will find it informative, inspiring, and quite moooving.

Rating: 5/5
Adjectives: Engaging, Informational, Upbeat

Author: Radio Project

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