Much of the rolling Sierra foothills in Placer County appears certain to be transformed into subdivisions and shopping centers in the latest urbanization of rural California.
Developers have purchased or hold an option to purchase almost 10,000 acres of farmland directly south of Lincoln. Several farms west and southeast of that community also have been sold, and others are for sale.
Still other farmers and ranchers in the area have begun the 10-year process of having land withdrawn from the state Williamson Act, which restricts use of their properties to farming in return for property tax breaks.
“It’s the logical path to grow, and the farmers are basically realizing that and getting out,” said Marshall Drack, vice president of CSY Investments. “The soil predominantly is not very good for farming. In fact, it’s pretty poor ranchland.”
Bob Moore, a rancher and county planning commissioner, is selling 3,000 acres of pasture and rice paddies near Placer County’s western border to a development company.
“Agriculture, in a large sense, has been going out in western Placer on account of the economy,” Moore said.
He explained that area farmers are trying to sell out because the quality of their land is marginal for agriculture, water is scarce and labor costs are increasing. On the other hand, demand is heavy for home sites in the foothills east of Sacramento, particularly because access has improved.
Robert Coker, a real estate broker who holds an option on 710 acres south of Lincoln, said new and expanded plants have increased employment and the need for homes in a triangle bounded by Roseville, Rocklin and Lincoln.
“It was just a matter of time,” said William Pharaoh, a cattle rancher for two decades south of Lincoln until he sold to CSY. “We had it in mind when we started here because we lived between the town and an industrial development. We didn’t think it would happen quite so fast.”
Alice and Paul Ferrari have sold Coker-Ewing an option to buy a ranch where the Ferrari family has raised Hereford cattle for six decades. She said the family “always knew the time would come when they would have to move on.”