What is the Ag Preserve?

The Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve is a groundbreaking piece of legislation that has wide-reaching effects. It came about during the tumultuous 1960s. This was the era of the national development of social consciousness. Many towns and suburban cities like those in Napa County dealt not only with national issues like the Civil Rights Movement, Watergate, and the Vietnam War, but also with the rampant destruction of local historic landmarks.

Redevelopment modernized residential and commercial neighborhoods in many positive ways, but often at the expense of historic buildings. Population projections speculated that by 2020 nearly half a million people would live in the county, nearly 40 percent of them in Napa City alone. Locals feared we would end up like Santa Clara, another heavily rural and agricultural region that was lost to suburban sprawl and over-development. To combat flooding issues, the Army Corps of Engineers recommended modeling the Napa River after the Los Angeles River by converting it into a concrete channel. Even more shocking, regional planners were mulling over the idea of constructing an international airport in Carneros that would rival SFO.

After much heated debate, Napa County passed the Ag Preserve in 1968. It affects everything from how close to the road vines can be planted to where on a hillside a house can be built. The crafters of the legislation had the foresight to recognize that we needed not to prevent development but monitor it to make sure we were protecting the natural landscape and utilizing the environment in a way that was beneficial to residents, farmers, and developers alike.

In his 2008 article “How 40 Years of Agricultural Preservation Transformed Napa Valley,” Paul Franson wrote: “[The Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve] originally protected 26,000 acres of the valley floor and foothills, and has since grown to more than 38,000 acres. No land has ever been taken from the preserve. Beyond the protection of the valley floor, the county also designated a huge area as Agriculture, Watershed, and Open Space…which is also protected, and in some ways, even more so. Together, the two total 482,000 acres and represent 91 percent of the county’s 505,859 acres.”

Join us September 19 at 5:30pm for a fascinating look at this landmark legislation. Dr. Rue Ziegler will present “The First 45 Years of the Napa Valley Agricultural Preserve,” with Q&A opportunity and reception. Click here to RSVP.

Stop by early or stick around after the program for a chance to see our current exhibit “Farming: From Planting to Picking.”

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Effective July 1, Tues-Sat 10-3pm, Fri to 7pm.