The Valley Land Alliance began in the early 2000s, inspired by retired planner Rudy Platzek and concerned citizens, Charlie Magneson, Glenn Anderson, Rochelle Koch and Jean Okuye. They formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit to educate and build coalitions in response to unplanned Central Valley developments on prime farmland.
Over the years the VLA has created and implemented a number of fun projects focusing on education and awareness. Palyliving hosted about 100 urban Palo Alto HS students in rural Livingston annually. This ten year project at the Magneson Dairy Farm educated youth about farming sustainably - being good water and land stewards. Palyliving also taught students about the social injustice suffered by the Japanese-American farmers of the area, most of whom were American citizens, when they were forcibly relocated to internment camps during World War II.
The VLA connected many Japanese farmers and college students by hosting them on local farms while promoting agritourism. Local farmer, Nathan Mininger, gave high school students an opportunity to glean sweet potatoes left in his fields; 6,000 pounds were donated annually to the Food Bank for several years.
The VLA started Country Ventures, which met for three years and developed a colorful map and playful postcards promoting education and encouraging ag tourism in Merced County. Country Ventures also created an audio tour highlighting the area and marketed it though signs along Hwy 140 and 165. The audio tour links can be found at the bottom of the Resource Page.
Our education extended to people of all ages and walks of life as thousands attended the Merced County Fair, visiting our large display booth, which often won first place in the Ag Building competition.
Many comment letters were sent to the county and cities when general plans were updated. Letters were also sent to the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) when farmland was requested to be changed to residential zoning. Lobbying to protect farmland was also done at the State Capitol in Sacramento, where the VLA joined with California Climate and Ag Network partnership.
An annual scholarship awarded to a UC Merced student began in 2015 in In honor of Rochelle Koch and her husband, Peter Koch for all their support, the VLA.
For many years the VLA promoted a Green Tour to educate about energy, water and economical ways to save and conserve. Partners included Master Gardeners, Sierra Club, Extreme Solar Solutions, East Merced Resource Conservation District, UC Merced and individuals who had built and developed their gardens to save water and energy.
Other partners in education have been California Climate and Ag Network and
Merced County Farm Bureau which worked with VLA to prepare A Study of the Agricultural Resources and Potential Cumulative Impacts of Minor Subdivisions in Merced County 1998-2008.
A children's coloring book was developed to teach about watershed and healthy soil and is handed out at our booths set up at various fairs and public events. Covid has stopped all of that for the time being, but The VLA plans to continue our public education mission once it is safe to do so.
We are grateful for all of our supporters who have made this outreach and advocacy possible. Thank you. And a special thank you to John and Nancy Cassidy, and all of our generous donors for your financial support.