Jean Okuye has been an almond farmer with 73 acres near Livingston, Merced County since 1980. Her interests have focused around church, family, farming and protecting our natural resources. Since retirement from teaching she has kept busy volunteering in the community: on several boards; past president of Merced County Farm Bureau, charter member of Valley Land Alliance, president of East Merced Resource Conservation District and president of the Funeral Consumers Alliance of California/secretary of the local affiliate Funeral Consumers Alliance of Stanislaus and Merced Counties. She feels blessed to have good health to be actively able to give back to her community.
Luis Flores was born in beautiful Mexicali, Baja California, México and, at an early age, moved to Livingston. After attending universities in the bay area and on the east coast, he *boomeranged* to Livingston. He has had the opportunity to participate in several leadership programs, including the Great Valley Center’s Institute for the Development of Emerging Area Leaders (IDEAL), the Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations (LDIR), and Leadership Merced, Class 26 programs. He sat on the Livingston Planning Commission from April 2010 to January 2015, serving as Chair for a handful of years. As a proud product of the Livingston public schools, he is currently serves as the vice president of the Livingston Union School District (LUSD), representing District 1. Advocating for the Central Valley, his interests include smart and innovative community development, including protecting open spaces and ag land, and education, and social justice issues. He enjoys international travel, slow food, and yoga.
Sally Magneson is originally from Philadelphia. She has seven children and has worked with the VLA since it began in 2006 and became a board member after my husband, Charlie, a charter member of VLA, became ill. Sally has been apart of many other organizations. She was a charter member of the League of Women voters in Merced. She continues to be involved in the community. We are farmers concerned about farmland being paved over. We have some of the most valuable agricultural land in the world and it is disappearing fast.
Sarah Toews was born and raised in Ballico along the Merced River. She first started volunteering for VLA 5 years ago. After volunteering with the organization she became a board member 3 years ago. When she started volunteering with VLA her grandpa Charles Magneson was on the board of VLA. She was inspired by his passion to preserve our beautiful farmland and be an advocate for sustainable growth. His dedication inspired her to become apart of the organization.
Matthew Qualls is a Nurse Practitioner in the Emergency Department at Mercy Medical Center, Merced. He is a new Central Valley transplant all the way from West Virginia. He has been involved with the VLA only for a few months. He decided to join the VLA because he believes we must protect our farm lands and water sources. In his words ,"As the population increases in the coming generations, land and water will become scarce resources. We must responsibly develop land while consciously remembering the importance of land conservation. We were given this beautiful planet with its many resources. We are only stewards and must do everything we can to protect those resources for future generations and to ensure the survival of our species".