The New York Times The New York Times National July 11, 2003


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William Straus, Dairy Owner and a Leading Land Preservationist, Dies at 88


illiam Straus, a pioneer in land conservation and the co-founder of one of the country's first organic dairy farms, died on Sunday in Santa Rosa, Calif.. He was 88.

Born on Oct. 7, 1914, in Hamburg, Germany, Mr. Straus studied agriculture in what is now the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. In 1936, he and his mother emigrated to British-controlled Palestine to escape the Nazis.


The two moved to California after relatives wrote to them about potential oil wealth in the state. The Strauses never discovered oil, but they decided to settle in California nonetheless.

In 1941, Mr. Straus bought a small dairy farm near Marshall, in western Marin County. He started the business with 23 cows, which he named after his friends and relatives.

In 1949, he married Ellen Tirza Lotte Prins, a Dutch refugee living in Manhattan. They were married for 52 years, until she died of a brain tumor last November.

Mr. Straus and his wife expanded the family business, making the Straus Family Creamery one of the country's first certified organic dairies, in 1994.

In 1980, they founded the Marin Agricultural Land Trust, which has since acquired development rights to 47 ranches and dairies, preserving 32,000 acres of privately owned farmland in Marin County.

Mr. Straus also helped form the Tomales Bay Association, a forum for environmentalists and farmers.

Mr. Straus is survived by his sons, Albert and Michael; his daughters, Vivien and Miriam; and four grandsons.

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