Partner Profile: Valley Land Alliance, Merced

Jean Okuye educating the community about the Valley Land Alliance

With California farmland disappearing at an astonishing rate (an average of 50,000 acres of farmland each year), organizations working to preserve this valuable resource, such as the Valley Land Alliance, are crucial for the future of agriculture. The Valley Land Alliance, a nonprofit focused specifically on Merced County farmland preservation, has a mission “to educate and build alliances to protect our uniquely productive California Central Valley farmland.”

Coupling education and alliance building since their inception in 2006, they have been able to work together with the multitude of stakeholders involved in land use decisions to protect their valley’s farmland. From the onset, they have built relationships with “farmers, ranchers, geologists, political scientists, and citizen groups”. Their alliances extend beyond individuals to a variety of organizations they have found commonalities with, such as the American Farmland Trust, Merced County Farm Bureau, and California Alliance with Family Farms, to name a few.

Local and state policy as tools for farmland preservation

Realizing the influence of policy on land use results, the Valley Land Alliance engaged in the development of Merced County’s updated General Plan. By doing so, they were able to influence the long-term future of agricultural land preservation, while working towards their goal of supporting urban growth within existing city boundaries, believing growth should be “planned and coordinated”.

At the state level, the Valley Land Alliance signed on to support increased funding for California’s now two-year old Sustainable Agricultural Land Conservation (SALC) Program, which invests in farmland preservation for its climate benefits. SALC not only funds agricultural conservation easements, but also local governments projects to develop strategies and policies for long-term agricultural conservation—a valuable approach to farmland conservation the Valley Land Alliance utilized years prior through Merced County’s General Plan update.

Education for the future of farmland viability

The Valley Land Alliance has taken a hands-on approach to teaching children about the values of agriculture –a necessary approach to ensuring future generations continue to understand the inherent value of agriculture. Specifically, Valley Land Alliance leads tours of dairies, organic farms, and surrounding rivers for students in urban and rural settings.

As our farmland disappears, future generations, as well as our climate will suffer. The Valley Land Alliance is crucial to ensure this trend does not continue.

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