Harvard spends $60m on vineyards

Harvard University has spent $60m on 4,050 hectares in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo since 2012, making it one of the top growers in Paso Robles.

As reported by Reuters, the university secured water well drilling permits for its vineyards days before new pumping was banned in the drought-stricken region.

“It remains to be seen what commitment they have to the business of agriculture,” Susan Harvey of environmental advocacy group North County Watch told Reuters.

“Is Harvard going to keep pumping ground water, or cut back on returns to protect water quality and quantity?” she added.

Irrigable land in Paso Robles costs in the region of $15,000- $20,000 per acre, compared to US$3,000 for an acre of dry land.

Since it began its buying spree, Harvard’s investment fund, Brodiaea, has acquired rights to drill 16 water wells of between 700 and 900 feet deep.

“The area they bought in has some of the best groundwater in the region, and having working wells puts their investment in a strong position,” local real-estate appraiser David Hamel told Reuters.

Paso Robles’ irrigable land prices are expected rise further due to increased interest from investors from Napa and Sonoma, where an acre now costs between $75,000-$100,000.

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