“Increased traffic congestion, air pollution, barren land, and a catastrophic loss of agricultural capacity are not inevitable. There is still an opportunity to preserve what is valuable to the land and to its people.”
-The Great Valley Center
Valley Land Alliance
We are Valley Land Alliance. We are a group of Merced County farmers, ranchers, and concerned citizens who want to make a difference for the next generation. We are alarmed by the pace and scale of development which has transformed our Valley. We are not opposed to change. However, we want at ensure that growth in our communities is planned and coordinated.
We have a vision for Merced County and the Central Valley that preserves farmland, grazing lands, and a way of life that has distinguished this region for the past one hundred years.
- Ensure safe, domestic food supplies
- Ensure that farming and ranching remain economically viable and attract jobs that complement a dynamic agricultural economy
- Advocate that future development incorporates and pays for infrastructure, such as: roads, sewage systems, reliable water and schools
- Support growth that is compact and maximizes density within existing city boundaries
Help us make a difference in our Valley. Become a member today.
$15 Student, $25 Individual, $50 Family, $100 Business
Valley Land Alliance is a 501(c)(3) organization. EIN:61-1496419. Donations are tax deductable to the fullest extent of the law.
Our founding members and staff have attended conferences, consulted with farmers, ranchers, geologists, political scientists, and citizen groups to develop a plan to address the lack of a coherent, long term plan for our county and the Central Valley of California. In January, 2006, Valley Land Alliance incorporated as a 501 (c) (3).
Valley Land Alliance has hosted forums, town hall meetings and donated to numerous groups who share the interest of preserving farmland in the Central Valley of California.
We have taken an active part in the formation of a new General Plan for Merced County in order to create a long range plan that ensures agland preservation and agricultural vitality.
For six consecutive years, board member Charlie Magneson has hosted over one-hundred Palo Alto High School students for a one day educational tour of the family dairy and the San Joaquin River. Valley Land Alliance worked in establishing a sister school relationship between Palo Alto High School and Livingston High School. This resulted in the group, 'Palyliving'. The members of this group have spent time studying a local dairy, a calf farm, learned about organic farming practices and studied local rivers and watersheds. They have gleaned sweet potato fields, worked at the county fair, and enjoyed learning about the differences in urban and rural lifestyles from each other.
Education is one of our foremost goals. We publish a newsletter which has timely articles of interest to those interested in farming and the urban footprint in the Central Valley. We also update the news articles on our web site regularly so that our readers can keep track on items that will undoubtedly shape their future.
Our latest venture is to help the residents of Merced County become active in agriculture/art and nature tourism. We believe it is one more step that can broaden agricultural viability in our county.
We have worked side by side with the Merced County Farm Bureau, the Merced Alliance for Responsible Growth, the Merced Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Planada and LeGrand Associations, Farmland Working Group, The Farmer’s Union, The San Joaquin Chapter of the California Alliance of Family Farmers, the American Farmland Trust and the Sierra Nevada Alliance.
Meet Our Members
President: Robby Avilla
Robby Avilla lives in Stevinson. Her children are the fourth generation of the Avilla family to have been raised in Stevinson. Her home sits on thirty acres of land which is currently used as rangeland to support a local rancher. For over thirty years she owned and operated an office supply and gift store and is now retired. She serves as an elder at the First Presbyterian Church in Turlock. Robby is a founding member of the Stevinson Citizen's Group and has worked towards saving farmland within Merced County for the last seven years.
Vice President: Jean Okuye
Jean Okuye has been an almond farmer with 73-acres near Livingston in Merced County since 1980. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Bachelor's in Organizational Behavior. A community leader for many years, Okuye has sat on the boards of the Community Alliance for Family Farmers, the Merced County Academic Decathlon, and has been an officer of the Livingston Farmer's Association, a Farm Cooperative with 125 members. She currently sits on the Boards of the Stanislaus Memorial Society, the Livingston Medical Group, the Livingston Citizen Advisory Committee, the Merced County Farm and Open Space Trust, Yamato Enterprises Senior Services, and the Merced County Farm Bureau. She is a widow with two adult children and two grandchildren. She is the piano player at Livingston United Methodist Church.
Secretary / Treasurer: Sarah Magneson
Sarah Magneson is currently teaching in Merced County. She graduated from California State University, Stanislaus with a Bachelors of Arts in Liberal Studies. She is the granddaughter of Charlie and Sally Magneson.
Board Member/ Newsletter Writer: Nicole Alvernaz
Nicole Alvernaz is the new editor of the VLA newsletter. She graduated from Cal Poly with a Bachelors of Science in Broadcast Journalism and a minor in Agricultural Communications. She is the granddaughter of Sweet Potato Joe of Livingston.
Advisor: Glenn Anderson
Glenn Anderson grew up in Hilmar on his family's dairy and, following two years in the Army, assumed management of it. In 1967 he returned to school getting a BS in Tropical Agriculture from the University of Hawaii. After a stint as a development officer with the Department of Agriculture, he returned to Hilmar, where he has farmed organic almonds since 1980. He has been a Director of the East Merced Resource Conservation District, Board Member of California Certified Organic Farmers, Board member of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, and a member of California State University Stanislaus Agriculture Studies advisory committee. He lives in Hilmar with his companion and wife of 36 years, and has three daughters, one son, and four grandchildren.
Advisor: Charlie Magneson
Charlie Magneson has been a Dairy Farmer in Ballico/Cressey for 54 years. A graduate of UC-Davis and a World War II Veteran, he spent 10 years as an elected official on the Ballico Cressey School Board. He has been President of the Boards of Modesto Milling and Cal-Dari, and currently serves on the Board of the Merced Farmland Open Space Trust. In 2006 he established a Conservation Easement on his farm.
Advisor: Rudy Platzek
Rudy Platzek received a bachelor's degree from the University of California, Berkeley in landscape architecture and a master's degree in regional planning from the University of Michigan. He practiced as an urban and environmental planner for 40 years until his retirement in 1995. Among his professional accomplishments are 11 general plans for cities and counties, more than 100 environmental impact reports and numerous other local planning projects. He has assisted in the preparation of proposed State of California legislation titled "The Central Valley Farmlands Secrurity Act of 2006" to establish mandated regional planning and regional growth management throughout the Central Valley. This proposed State legislation has been submitted to State legislative counsel and is currently under consideration for submission to State legislature.
Advisor / Attorney: Therese Tuttle
Therese Tuttle is a farmer advocate and a founding partner of the law firm of Tuttle & Van Konynenburg, LLP, together with Frank A. Van Konynenburg. The firm is based in Modesto, California with offices in Calistoga and San Francisco. She was a founding member and leader of the Great Valley Slow Food Convivium in 2000, and is a board advisor to the Tuolumne River Trust. She specializes in estate planning and agricultural cooperative law and is currently working to enforce the rights of former Diamond Walnut Cooperative members to a fair price for walnuts delivered to the former cooperative in 2005, 2006 and 2007. She met her husband, Iain A. Macdonald, while defending the members of Tri-Valley Growers cooperative in its bankruptcy in 2000, and has a two year old son, Edward Iain Macdonald.
Web Designer: Ross Avilla
Ross Avilla is a fourth generation resident of Stevinson, CA, and son of Robby Avilla. He currently lectures psychology courses at UC Merced and CSU Stanislaus.