HALF MOON BAY -- The Lea family has worked the fertile soil of the San Mateo County coast for nearly a century, but the farming clan had never owned any land -- until now.

Peninsula Open Space Trust announced this week that it has sold the 295-acre Cabrillo Farms across from Half Moon Bay Airport to the Leas for $1.2 million. The trust will maintain a conservation easement over the property as part of the deal, which was finalized last month.

For the Leas, the purchase brings security and autonomy, while the trust sees the arrangement as a way to preserve the Coastside's agricultural heritage.

"The Leas will continue to be able to supply Bay Area farmers markets and restaurants with locally grown, healthy foods," said POST President Walter Moore. "That's a real contrast with what had been proposed for this property several times: luxury homes and a golf course."

David Lea, 61, grows Brussels sprouts, artichokes, peas, fava beans and pumpkins on the plot, which his 89-year-old father, Ed, has farmed since the 1960s. David Lea's grandfather began the family's farming tradition after emigrating from Italy in the 1920s.

The Leas had upward of eight landlords at Cabrillo Farms before POST acquired the property in 2001. Several owners wanted to get rid of them but were thwarted by coastal development restrictions. To finally own the property, David Lea said, has brought relief and satisfaction.

"It was a little different coming out that next day," he said. "It was pretty cool."

POST came into possession of Cabrillo Farms 12 years ago when it spent $29.75 million to purchase Rancho Corral de Tierra, a swath of coastal hills and meadows several miles north of Half Moon Bay. The trust transferred 3,858 acres of the tract to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in 2011, but kept 322 acres, including Cabrillo Farms, to preserve for agricultural use.

The conservation group, which has preserved more than 70,000 acres for open space and parks since its founding in 1977, has made similar deals with farmers in the past. In 1998 it sold a 534-acre farm south of Half Moon Bay to John Giusti and in 2007 it sold 500 acres near Pescadero to Joe Muzzi. The trust retains easements on both properties.

"People interact with the land in many different ways," said Moore. "We're going to lose support for conserving land for parks and open space if we don't protect the other values that people bring to their use and enjoyment of the land. One key value is where their food comes from."

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357 or akinney@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.