2021 Landowner Story Series Part 1

Investing in Innate Farmland

The story of Machado family farms

Nestled in the small town of Linden, the Machado Family first began farming in 1906 when Gregorio and Angelina Machado, immigrants of the Azores Islands, arrived in California. Initially started as a grade-B dairy farm, the Machado home ranch has evolved with the times into a diversified row crop and orchard operation consisting of beans, cherries, walnuts, and almonds.                                                                                                   
Mike Machado, a third-generation farmer, did not always have the desire to enter a farming profession. After going to college, marrying his wife, Diana Machado, serving in Vietnam, and attending graduate school, Mike’s parents asked the couple to return to the family business temporarily to help during harvest and aid in the farm’s transition after the death of Mike’s uncle.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             “We were going to give it three years of helping out on the farm, and that was 50 years ago,” he jokingly said.                                                             

Since that time, Mike and Diana have grown the legacy first started by Gregorio and Angelina. They’ve raised their three children on the farm, watched their grandchildren make memories on the land, and added two additional properties under their ownership, which were recently protected by agricultural conservation easements (ACE) with California Farmland Trust (CFT). Combined with their home ranch, the Machados have permanently protected over 400 acres of farmland.

The idea of an ACE was first introduced to Mike while attending a CFT easement celebration during his time as a California State Senator, representing the 5th District. Around that time, Mike’s father was in the process of estate planning and figuring out the future of the properties that made up their Home Ranch.
“My father didn’t want to see the farmland split up or be used for something other than agriculture,” Mike said. “Putting an easement on the farm would keep the parcels together and ensured it would remain farmland.” 
In 2015, the decision was made by Mike’s father to put their Home Ranch under an ACE with CFT. In fact, signing the easement paperwork was the last signature Mike’s father made before passing away, Mike recalled. Now six years later, Mike and Diana appreciate the value of conservation easements, which ultimately led them to place these additional properties under ACEs, both of which closed in the summer and fall of 2021.                                

A portion of the funds needed to complete these projects were made available by the California Department of Conservation (DOC) in collaboration with the California Strategic Growth Council’s (SGC) Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation Program (SALC). SALC is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment.

The remaining funds were provided through a landowner bargain-sale, where the Machados donated the remainder of the appraised fair market value, because of their strong belief in the importance of farmland protection and deep understanding in the long-term impact it will have as our prime California farmland diminishes.
“They aren’t creating more farmland and California farmland is some of the best farmland there is,” Mike added. “If we don’t preserve it, we are going to become dependent on other food sources.” 
One of the properties has special significance to Diana’s family. While Diana did not come from a direct production agriculture background, she was familiar with the lifestyle, as her father grew up working on his family’s truck farm before World War II. He always had hopes of being a farmer, Diana recalled. 
“My dad always had a dream to own a cherry orchard,” Diana said. “We purchased a cherry orchard in honor of my parents and labeled it FDR Farms: Fred, Diana, and Rose Farms. I knew he would enjoy that.”       
The love of the farming lifestyle has also influenced their daughter, Melissa, son-in-law, Drew, and grandchildren. As Mike looks to retire, Drew is working towards managing the farm. Their grandchildren are also active in 4-H and can often be seen in the field with Mike and Diana, their Avô and Nonna.                                                                                                                                                              
“We are fortunate to have family interested in farming, but it is increasingly difficult for family farms to continue because of increased regulations, production costs, and foreign competition,” Mike and Diana said.   
Securing easements on each of their properties has ensured that even if farming cannot provide a lifelong career for future generations, the land is not lost to development.                  
As stewards of the land, one of the areas the Machados have chosen to focus on is their sustainability efforts. The Machados participate in California Department of Food and Agriculture’s (CDFA) Healthy Soils program, which provides financial assistance for the implementation of agricultural management practices that improve soil health, sequester carbon, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.                                                                                                                                                   
Mike and Diana also set aside a few acres for a pollinator habitat, use fewer pesticides, and utilize cover crops across their entire operation. As active believers in whole orchard recycling, they abstain from burning and instead, mulch their excess material, which has resulted in a positive environmental impact. Using irrigation technology techniques like evapotranspiration timing has also helped enhance water retention on their farms.
“I try to look at things that will free up some time and give us a sustainable return, maybe not this year, but within future years,” Mike said.
Where Mike and Diana have truly exerted their passions is within their community. Putting an easement on their properties has ensured that their community and other surrounding working landscapes can be self-sufficient for years to come.
Mike, although retired from the state legislature, still finds ways to be active on various boards and committees. Similarly, the local school board is where Diana found her passion and she served several terms before recently retiring.
Whether it is in their leadership roles or their stewardship actions of protecting farmland through ACEs, Mike and Diana have emphasized the importance of serving in their community.
“My grandmother always said, ‘Never forget to give back, because you got to where you are at because someone helped you,’” Mike said. “Diana and I have always tried to live that.” 

We hope you enjoyed part one of our 2021 Landowner Series and learning more about Machado Family Farms. Join us next week as we share about a different landowner who has had a meaningful impact with CFT in 2021.  If you’re interested in learning more about our efforts, visit the links below.

Farmland Protection

Learn more about what an Agriculture Conservation Easement (ACE) is and how it can help farmers.


Did you know CFT has curriculum available in English and Spanish to educate students about farmland?

Our Impact

Interested in learning more about our education, agriculture and environmental efforts and impact?