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Walnut orchard in Lockeford protected from development

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Posted: Wednesday, August 1, 2012 12:00 am | Updated: 6:42 am, Wed Aug 1, 2012.

John Galeazzi of Modesto comes from a line of Italian immigrants who began farming in California in 1894. Thanks to an agricultural conservation easement protecting a 250-acre walnut orchard in Lockeford, that family line can continue indefinitely.

Galeazzi and his son-in-law grow three varieties of walnuts on the orchard he purchased in 2004. The orchard acts as a mile-long natural buffer against development in the area. The city of Lockeford is on one side, and the Mokelumne River runs along the other. The rich river soil has lent itself to a consistent walnut crop, said Galeazzi, but land near the river is often bought up to build riverfront ranchettes.

Development rights have been permanently extinguished. The land will remain in agricultural use forever.

Galeazzi was proud to have his orchard protected from development.

"I've got grandkids, and this land is something I can pass on to my heirs," he said, showing off a cellphone photo of 6-month-old Johnny Galeazzi, the newest member of the family.

The Central Valley Farmland Trust will hold the easement. It obtained the bulk of funding to create the easement from the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service's Farm and Ranchland Protection Program. Other contributions came from the state Department of Conservation's California Farmland Conservancy Program and city of Stockton farmland mitigation funds.

"Conserving California's farmland is a prudent investment, helping to ensure food security and economic opportunity," said Department of Conservation Director Mark Nechodom. "The CFCP is designed to protect important farmland in the path of development, and there's a fair amount of ranchette development here. Protecting this property will benefit the agricultural economy and stability of this region, so we are very happy to be a part of this project."

Galeazzi, a farmer for 50 years, has experience growing grapes, alfalfa and other crops, but has narrowed his focus to walnuts because he says they are easier to monitor.

"I can manage walnuts without stress. I can manage my crop more peacefully," he said.

The nuts are growing in popularity as a health food.

"I eat them on my cereal at the start of every day," said Galeazzi. Most of his nuts are exported overseas.

Galeazzi donned a wide-brimmed straw hat to tour his orchard and check on the crop. At this time of year, he's looking for branches weighed down with walnuts.

Broken branches on the ground are a good sign, as long as there aren't too many. Galeazzi says it means there's so many nuts on the branch it couldn't hold up the weight.

Pulling a green orb from a tree near the front of the property, Galeazzi dug a small pocketknife into the unripened walnut and split it open to reveal a thin brown shell and white center. This is a Chandler walnut, the second variety to mature in September of each year. Vinas come first, and Hartley walnuts take another week or so to mature. All three are English walnut varieties.

At harvest, the hulls are splitting naturally. Galeazzi and his two full-time employees gather the windfall nuts before shaking each tree to knock the rest loose. It can take up to four rounds of shaking and gathering to get all the nuts off of trees that grow up to 65 feet tall.

Temperatures can drop up to 12 degrees underneath the thick canopy in the heart of the orchard. The trees store so much moisture it cools the air, even on a hot July morning.

"It's good if you can't see any walnuts with just a glance. It means they're covered in leaves, camouflaged. They're being taken care of by the tree," he said.

The biggest problem for Galeazzi is when neighbors have walnut trees for decoration in a backyard, but don't take care of them. Mites, aphids and huskflies can easily move into his orchard.

"It's hard to be a good steward of the land if your land is adjacent to those who are not," he said.

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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4 comments:

  • Ted Lauchland posted at 2:37 pm on Thu, Aug 2, 2012.

    Ted Lauchland Posts: 229

    A few years back I was part of the "Land Use" committee of the Farm Bureau . The depth of this subject was huge. To answer to what has come up on this blog could start with yes , rights are rights and should be protected. This man has not given up his. His land was sold in the way of an easement out of concern for preservation of the endangered species called " man ". It changed the value of the land to remain at ag level instead of the forced progress that eventually eats up prime farmland. You can't grow food on cement.

    God owns it , the government owns it , we own it and we should all be good stewards. What ?- I'm an enviromentalist? - Of the most practical kind thank you.

    There are several types of easements that are available. Habitat and Ag easements are sometimes combined and separated to their requirements to preserve them as such. For instance river front property that have row crops. The river area is habitat while the ag land is restricted to just that.
    I fought a neighbor that put his into an easement as it affected what I was to do up wind of him. He eventually got it which was actually a good and bad thing at the same time. I believe a man should be able to do what he wants with a piece of property so long as it doesn't affect anyone else's. - Right. The purchase was not made for some time as the county could not do it until funds were available. - Yes , our pockets.

    I also farmed a piece that I did not own but was owned by AT&T - for forty years. We had an agreement to maintain the property as ag but when it came to the point of reinvestment I could not continue. The city had been built out to it's borders and the tidal wave of the public made it impossible to farm. If I had owned it I would have sold it. Buffer land now was the conversation at the FB. Also, - ag land conversion to housing subdivision - fees were a joke and is now a more real equation to help slow down the "general plan" county/city progression.
    School districts and churches are still a problem and are chopping up ag properties.

    The future had been looking alot like "Welcome to the state of Los Angeles Thank You"

    All that was better done with local control than a vision from someone else a world away. Yes - our money. Harney Lane owners are now in the middle of all that. "Government" is supposed to solve big issues involving all of us but we still have a voice as we are all part of it.
    My retirement is in my land. Should I sell it at a premium and eat cement or should I do better than that .- My rights - my decision.

     
  • Kim Parigoris posted at 4:40 pm on Wed, Aug 1, 2012.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 469

    A private individual has every right to do what he wants with his land, and that is none of my business...When public monies are being used to acquire these easements, it becomes ALL of our businesses....And there is usually some "endangered species" connected with these easements, and in many California instances it is the Swainson's Hawk, "It should be noted that the Swainson's Hawk was removed from the active Federal list because it was found to be more abundant than previously thought; it is not considered a threatened species by the IUCN due to its wide overall range.[12] It remains listed as a threatened species by the California Department of Fish and Game as it has been since 1983." These conservations easements are nothing but a land grab....in the name of ecology, using the good intentions of people's trust and naivety...

     
  • Karen Bracken posted at 1:18 pm on Wed, Aug 1, 2012.

    Kendra Tilley Posts: 1

    This poor guy just got taken for the ride of his life. He thinks he did a good thing for his land and his heirs but he just got taken but good. And left his heirs to suffer the consequences. Conservation Easements are a way for the government to get your land. These companies that approach unsuspecting citizens are nothing more than used car salesmen. They will flip this easement in time and the rules of engagement change and there will be NOTHING the owner or the heirs can do about it. His once rich farm will someday be worthless to him and to his heirs. There is a golden rule that we should all take the time to remember. IF IT SOUNDS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE IT IS! Why does the government or anyone else care about your land………..oh I forgot to protect it from the bad guys. LIE LIE LIE. Read the book HOW TO KILL 1 MILLION PEOPLE. The same principle is being used on the American people to steal their land. UN Agenda 21 is behind it all. The UN wants total control of the NWO and they must destroy the US to do it. Taking our land and abolishing property rights is part of the plan. DO YOU REALLY OWN YOUR LAND? Think about it. More and more each year you are loosing the ability to manage your own private property. WAKE UP PEOPLE. DO NOT GIVE THE RIGHTS TO YOUR LAND TO ANYONE!!!! It is a scam and you are being taken!!

     
  • Kim Parigoris posted at 12:50 pm on Wed, Aug 1, 2012.

    Kim Parigoris Posts: 469

    So part of this money came from mitigation funds from Stockton..hhmm- I wonder how the retirees of city employees, who are losing their medical benefits due to a lack of funds, feel about that. These easements are perpetual and go with the land. The land holder is no longer in control of their land and if they do decide to ever sell, there are buyers who won't touch conservation easement properties with a 10 foot pole. Who knows what will happen in 50 years when your heirs may inherit this property...maybe walnuts will be passe and your ability to farm what you want will be gone.. Some facts about land easements, even though they vary greatly between properties: Land trusts frequently flip conservation easements to make money quickly..The Nature Conservancy paid 1.2million for an easement and promptly sold it to the Bureau of Land Management for 1.4. This enabled the government to control the private property with no publicity and place the landowner under the scrutiny of a federal bureaucracy. Through "mitigation banking" your property can become part of a databank, condemned and used to offset envrionmental damage to another conservation eased property hundreds of miles away. The trust can then use your land for purposes you never intended. Third party trusts, non-profits or public agencies can attack or enforce the agreement you made with your land trust thereby changing the original agreement.
    Moral of the story? If it sounds too good to be true-it probably isn't!!

     

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