The Napa Valley Unified School District has reached agreements with three property owners to purchase land for a new location for Vintage High School’s farm.
Two years ago, the district decided it would sell the land housing the existing school farm — located in a residential neighborhood off Sierra Avenue — to help pay for NVUSD’s multimillion-dollar facilities master plan.
But before selling the 10.5-acre farm, officials promised to find a new home for the animals and structures used by students at Vintage High.
The proposed new farm will be slightly smaller — 9 acres in size — and located just east of the Vintage High campus and the terminus of Trower Avenue, putting the farm within walking distance of the school.
It took negotiating with three property owners for the district to cobble together enough land for the farm.
The largest portion will come from the Van Winden family, which has agreed to swap 6.49 acres of their property for the same amount of land from NVUSD’s “Pine Ridge Property,” located just south of the Van Winden parcel.
Although the district’s Pine Ridge parcel is close to the school and 9 acres in size, its narrow, rectangular configuration made it “not suitable as a relocation site for the Vintage Farm,” according to an agreement drawn up for the Van Winden family.
NVUSD is also purchasing land from two property owners on El Centro Avenue to complete the 9 acres needed for the farm.
The district will pay Eric and Sarah Chen $272,687 for 1.06 acres, and $680,000 to Alan Feinstein for 2.74 acres, according to agreements with the families.
Negotiating with multiple property owners was “lengthy and complicated, but the outcome is one we can all be proud of,” said NVUSD Trustee Robb Felder, who helped approve the purchases and land exchange.
The school board voted 6-0 in favor of the deal, with Trustee Jose Hurtado absent from the meeting, on Nov. 2.
Funding for the land purchases will be provided by the sale of the current farm’s property, according to NVUSD spokeswoman Elizabeth Emmett.
“All the money to do this will come from the sale of the existing property,” said Emmett.
The district expects to get between $8 million and $10 million for the land located at 1185 Sierra Ave, she said.
District consultant Dutra Cerro Graden said two years ago that the 10.5-acre parcel could accommodate the building of 67 single-family homes.
Emmett also said moving the farm would not interfere with its operations because the district intends to keep using the current site until the new one is built out and ready for Vintage High to use.
“There will never be a time when the farm isn’t working,” said Emmett on Wednesday at Vintage High.
“We’re going to have a farm until the new farm is ready, and then we’re going to switch over. There will continually be a working farm for the kids,” she added.
Emmett said the new farm will not be ready until 2020 at the earliest. Its new location will put the farm in the agricultural preserve.
Planning and design for it should begin in January. Students along with faculty and other stakeholders, including possibly the Napa Valley Vintners, will be invited to participate in the process to determine what the new farm will look like.
Sale of the existing farm was recommended in 2015 by the 711 Committee, composed of 14 local residents and organized by the district to examine the sale of NVUSD properties to help finance new school-related construction.
The district initially proposed moving the farm to another, smaller parcel of only five acres.
But that plan prompted students from the agricultural class at Vintage High and members of Future Farmers of America who use the farm to appeal to the committee and ask for something larger.
The students insisted five acres would not be sufficient to support the farm’s learning opportunities.
In response to the concerns, the committee amended its recommendation, urging that the NVUSD move the farm to a nine-acre parcel near the high school.