Protecting Land and History in the Bay Area with Andreotti Family Farm
Head to Half Moon Bay for a weekend and it would be hard to miss Andreotti Family Farm; just a stone’s throw away from the state beach and coastal trails. A peninsula presence since 1926, the Andreotti’s farm is a favorite among locals and tourists alike, thanks to their picturesque 19th century barn and well-stocked farm stand. Despite the sweet, small town scene, many people are not aware of the fact that Andreotti Family Farm is one of the last vestiges of family-owned farms along the coast, and that the family has been working endlessly to protect their land and legacy against the rising tide of development in the Bay Area.
Walking side by side with Terry Andreotti on a typically misty, but beautiful Half Moon Bay morning, I had the opportunity to hear first-hand the history of their farm. She and her husband Dino, along with their children Frank and Haley, are the second and third generations to work the farm and call it home. Dino’s father (also Dino) emmigrated from Italy in 1921, when he was 17 years old. After five years of hard work along the coast, he saved up enough to purchase 80 acres of land, where he started farming beans, broccoli, artichokes, and other vegetables. The Andreottis were also some of the first farmers to sell their produce at the Alemany Farmers' Market when it opened in 1943, making them no stranger to the farmers' market scene. The market was the first in the state of California, and played an important role in the farmers’ market movement in the San Francisco Bay Area. “We even still use the scale from those days,” laughed Terry, as we walked through their fields picking cranberry beans.
Now farming 50 acres (still a handful according to Terry), the responsibilities at Andreotti Family Farm have shifted. Terry and Dino’s son Frank now does much of the planting and harvesting, alongside a small team of workers that have been with the family since the 1980s. Their daughter Haley helps with sales and often joins Terry at the farmers' markets, while Dino helps run the farm from behind the scenes. In the decades that the family has been in local farmers’ markets, they have made many loyal customers, while their farm stand still provides delights for families and visitors in Half Moon Bay.
As fairy-tale like as it all sounded, Terry was quick to share with me the challenges their farm and family had faced over the years. When Dino’s mother passed away several years ago, Terry and Dino were put under great pressure by relatives to sell the farm. This is not an uncommon fate for farms and ranches passed down in families; the odds are often stacked against their favor when it comes to inheritance tax and other legality issues, on top of the daily struggles of running a farm. Development has also swallowed up the remaining land surrounding the farm, putting their operation in peril. This too is no new concern for farmers and ranchers across the U.S. For the last 40 years, farmland and open space has disappeared at an alarming rate, victim to housing and industrial development. This issue is magnified in the Bay Area, where limited space and a housing crisis create an ever-present threat for remaining rural areas. For Terry and Dino, who had absolutely no interest in leaving their land but were watching single lots sell for upwards of a million dollars, the difficulties started to seem insurmountable.
Struggling with options while still running the farm, Terry and Dino turned to the help of the Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), a local nonprofit that protects open space and farms in the Silicon Valley. The nonprofit not only protects local farms, but also provides them with the continued support and infrastructure to help make the farm sustainable far into the future. With their Farmland Futures Initiative, which aims to protect half of San Mateo County’s remaining coastal farmland by 2030, POST purchased and permanently protected 18 acres of the farm. The situation is a win-win for the Andreottis and for POST. Terry and Dino will lease the land from POST and continue to farm it, and POST ensures that a historic piece of property will continue to be in agricultural use and shared with the community for generations to come.
As Terry led me back from their fields, my arms full of squash, peas, and other dirt-covered goodies, I took a moment to look at the photos posted up in their office space. Images of their parents, children, and the farm through the years filled the walls. One poster in particular caught my eye; it was an old feature of Half Moon Bay farming families. Terry took a look at it and shook her head. “Most of those guys are gone now. We’re one of the only ones left,” she said quietly. It was a bittersweet moment, but I could sense the importance of it. The Andreotti’s fought and succeeded, but the fight continues for many farmers and farmland across the U.S, many of whom do not have the access to resources and support needed to save and care for the remaining undeveloped land. As I was leaving, I stopped to take a picture of Dino and Terry holding a local news article that covered the POST protection plan and their family farm. “It’s not easy work but we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Terry said, “We hope we have inspired others to come forward and support family farmers, to meet the people who work and take care of the land.”
Whether you’re looking for a good story or just a classic Italian recipe for fresh vegetables at dinnertime, make sure to visit with Terry at the College of San Mateo Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, or the Belmont Farmers’ Market on Sundays. For more Digital Dirt stories, head to our page at pcfma.org/digitaldirt!
Remember, dirt first!