What motivates farmers to give up development rights and convey permanent conservation easements on their land? This report, the first in a series of three, examines the views and experiences of 46 landowners with conservation easements on their properties in three northern California counties. Thirty-seven had sold such easements in recent years; the other nine owners had recently purchased parcels with easements already in place. These farmland parcels are located in two North Bay coastal counties, Marin and Sonoma, and in Yolo County in the Central Valley. Collectively, these three counties contain a large share of the California farmland protected by conservation easements expressly for the purpose of allowing continued farming. The three programs are the Marin Agricultural Land Trust (MALT), the Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District (SCAPOSD), and the Yolo Land Trust (YLT). In large part, the three programs acquire easements to preserve commercial farmland in the path of urbanization, as compared to the more traditional use of the technique to protect habitat, wetlands, forests, and other natural resource areas for their environmental qualities. We surveyed the 46 landowners in phone and personal interviews in February-August, 1999, asking questions about motivations, negotiations with land trusts, perceptions about program success and other experiences related to their conservation easement.