SANTA ROSA, Calif. — William Straus, a pioneer in land conservation and co-founder of one of the country's first organic dairy farms, has died. He was 88.
Straus died Sunday at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital of complications related
to coronary heart disease, according to family members.
Born in Hamburg,
Germany, he studied agriculture in Czechoslovakia and then the Netherlands.
In 1936, Straus and his mother fled to British-controlled Palestine to escape
the Nazi invasion.
They later moved to California after relatives
wrote them about potential oil wealth here. Even though they never discovered
oil, they decided to settle in Northern California. In 1941, Straus bought
a small dairy farm near Marshall, a town on Tomales Bay in western Marin
County. He started the business with 23 cows named after his friends and
In 1949, Straus married Ellen Prins, a Dutch-born refugee living in Manhattan. She died of a brain tumor in November.
Straus and his wife expanded the business, making the Straus Family Creamery
one of the country's first certified organic dairies in 1994.
1980, Straus and his wife co-founded the Marin Agricultural Trust, which
has since acquired development rights to 47 ranches and dairies, preserving
32,000 acres of privately owned farmland in western Marin County.
Straus was an early champion of environmentally friendly farming practices.
He helped form the Tomales Bay Assn., a forum for environmentalists and farmers.
Straus Is survived by four children and four grandchildren.