Meet the Board
MEET OUR CONTRACTORS
Meet Our Board of Directors
Meet our ADVISORY COMMITTEE & organizations
The Family Farm Alliance Board of Directors is a distinguished group of farmers and irrigators who are dedicated to serving family farmers in 17 Western states.
Patrick O’Toole, a member of the Alliance’s Board of Directors since 1998 and a former member of Wyoming’s House of Representatives, was named as the organization’s fifth President in March 2005. He is a cattle and sheep rancher and hay grower with strong backgrounds in irrigated agriculture and Wyoming politics. Mr. O’Toole and his wife, Sharon, live on a ranch that has been in her family since 1881. Pat O’Toole’s interest in water intersected with the Alliance while he was serving on the Clinton administration’s Western Water Policy Review Advisory Commission. Mr. O’Toole was the only commissioner representing Western irrigated agriculture and, in the end, refused to sign the report, opting instead to prepare a dissenting alternative report. The O’Toole family and Ladder Ranch were the recipients of the distinguished 2014 Wyoming Leopold Environmental Stewardship Award. Pat and Sharon met while students at Colorado State University, where Pat graduated with a philosophy degree. They have three children and six grandchildren.
Paul was a long-time member of the Alliance’s Advisory Committee before joining the board. His law practice focuses on representing special districts in water, electric power, and utility law matters. He serves as Counsel to five special districts in Pinal County, Arizona. Plus – Paul lives on and serves as President of his family’s 4th Generation cattle ranch in central Arizona. In this capacity he also serves on the board of directors of the Arizona Farm and Ranch Group and is a member of the Arizona Cattle Growers Association and the Arizona Agribusiness and Water Council.
William Bourdeau – who comes from a fourth generation California Central Valley family – was born and raised in Coalinga where he served as a local city council member. Currently he is the Executive Vice President of Harris Farms Inc., one of the largest integrated farming operations in the Central San Joaquin Valley. Prior to Harris Farms, Mr. Bourdeau had a rich career in finance and also taught economics as a professor at West Hills College.
He served honorably in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 to 2001. William has served on the boards and committees of numerous community organizations. Amongst many other leadership positions, he currently serves as the Chair for the California Water Alliance, the Vice Chair for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and is on the board of directors for the Westlands Water District. Mr. Bourdeau earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Fresno State and his MBA from University of Nevada-Reno. He is also a CPA and Chartered Global Management Accountant.
Nadine and her husband Walter have two children and one grandchild and have lived for most of their lives near Hayford, California, just west of Redding. An outspoken advocate for rural communities and workers, she is credited with putting a face on the job loss associated with the northern spotted owl-driven shutdown of the Pacific Northwest timber industry. She received national recognition as the 1993 American Pulpwood Activist of the Year.
Nadine has served on The Trinity County School Board, and the Rhinelander, Wisconsin City Council. She was appointed by Governor Wilson to serve on the “RAC” during the implementation of the Northwest Forest Plan. Nadine served as the President of California Women in Timber, and as the Chair of the Forest Industry Association Council.
She has served as the Chief Operations Officer for Family Water Alliance (FWA) since 2014. During her years at FWA, Nadine has led efforts to implement fish screens throughout the Central Valley. Prior to joining FWA, Nadine served for 6 years as an Executive for the Timber Producers of Michigan and Wisconsin and thirteen years as legislative staff for three California state legislators. She has a bachelor’s degree in organizational leadership from Simpson University.
Steve Benson is a fourth generation farmer of winter vegetables and hay/seed crops in Brawley, California. He is currently President of Planters Hay, Inc. and managing partner of Benson Farms, LLC since 2007. He currently serves as Treasurer of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association, Advisory Board Member of the Imperial County Farm Bureau, and board member of Imperial Valley H20, a local water rights advocacy group. He is the past president of the board of directors of Imperial Irrigation District, the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation, and Imperial Valley Boys and Girls Clubs. Mr. Benson has a BS Civil Engineering from Bucknell University and his MBA from the Marshall School of Business at the University of Southern California. He is married and the father of four children.
Mark Hansen raises irrigated forage crops (primarily timothy hay and alfalfa) and cattle in the Kittitas Valley near Ellensburg, Washington. He grew up in Patterson, California, and helped on the family apricot and walnut farm. After graduating from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, with a degree in Crop Science, Mr. Hansen worked for more than 15 years as a crop consultant on the west side of Fresno County for a vertically integrated family farm. In 1995, he bought the Ellensburg hay ranch and the family moved to Washington.
He is currently a board member of the Kittitas Reclamation District and the Kittitas Farm Bureau and a past board member of the Kittitas Valley Hay Growers Association and Kittitas School District. Mr. Hansen and his wife, Melissa, have two children.
Charles Lyall is a third-generation farmer in the lower Yakima Valley and Columbia Basin. In 1978, he joined his family farm, Lyall and Sons. They continue to grow cherries, apples, concord grapes for Welches Juice Corporation and a small amount of produce for farmer’s markets in Washington State. He has served as a Director on the Board of South Columbia Irrigation District, since 2000. He is a alternate on the Board of Columbia Basin Hydropower. A past board member of the Colombia Basin Development League. A graduate from the Washington Agforestry Leadership Program, class of XXl. He has been married to Thea for over 33 years and has three children.
Clinton Pline was raised on a family operated dairy farm near Nampa in the 1960s and 70s. After obtaining degrees in Agri-Business and Agricultural Mechanics from the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls, Id., he returned to the family farm and expanded the scope of the farm operation to include a number of vegetable seed crops, wheat and sugar beets. Mr. Pline’s leadership experiences extend from his 4-H and Future Farmer of America days, college student senate, County Farm Bureau Board, ten years as a farm supply co-op board director and chairman, and, Leadership Idaho Agriculture (Class IV, 1990). He was recently elected to his 5th term as Director, Nampa & Meridian Irrigation District and also serves as Chairman of Treasure Valley Water User’s Association. Clinton Pline joined the Family Farm Alliance Board in February of 2019 and previously served as an Advisory Board member for five years.
Don Schwindt and his wife Jody started farming in their home community in Southwest Colorado in 1975 producing irrigated hay. As they explored initiating their desire to make their living farming, Don was told it was close to an impossible dream. He is now proud to tell people that he is a first-generation agricultural producer. He graduated from Stanford University in 1971 with a degree in anthropology. Don has been active in the water business since 1980, serving locally on the boards of both Montezuma Valley Irrigation Company and the Dolores Water Conservancy District. He is still on the DWCD board. He has been a Colorado board member of the Family Farm Alliance since 1993. He served on the Colorado Water Conservation Board representing the San Juan, San Miguel and Dolores Basins from 1999 through 2008. Don serves on the boards of Southwestern Water Conservation District and the Colorado Water Congress. The water board business gives a focus to Don’s passion for understanding his community’s history. Don and Jody enjoy spending time with extended family.
Nate Eckloff owns a farm in Nebraska and is also a managing director in the public finance investment banking group in the Denver office of Piper Sandler Companies.
Nate has assisted with the issuance of over $25 billion in municipal bonds since entering the public finance industry in 1982. His experience covers a wide range of tax-exempt and taxable municipal finance, with his public finance practice focused primarily on Colorado, Nebraska, Wyoming and Florida. Prior to joining Piper Sandler, Nate worked for 30 years combined with the Denver offices of RBC Capital Markets and Hanifen Imhoff/Stifel.
He has served numerous state and local government entities throughout his career. Mr. Eckloff is currently the vice president and past president of the Colorado Municipal Bond Dealers Association. He is also a past chairman of the board for both the Colorado Sports Hall of Fame and the University of Nebraska Alumni Association.
Mr. Eckloff received his J.D. degree and his MBA degree from the University of Denver and his bachelor’s degree in agricultural honors from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. He is the proud owner of the family farm in Nebraska, which has been in the family since the 1870s.
Chris Hurd is a managing partner of Circle G Farms in California’s San Joaquin Valley. His 1,500-acre family farm operation produces almonds, pistachios and row crops. Mr. Hurd graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1972 with a degree in mechanized agriculture. He is past president of the San Luis Water District and a long-time board member of the Family Farm Alliance. Chris Hurd and his late wife Anne have three sons and eight grandchildren as farming partners.
Los Banos, California
Cannon Michael is the President/CEO of Bowles Farming Company. He is the 6th generation of his family to work in the family farming business. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, he joined the company in 1998, and became the President and CEO in 2014. He is an advocate for California agriculture and intelligent water policy. Environmental stewardship, ethical treatment of workers and sustainable production are core values for Mr. Michael and the Bowles Farming Company team. Cannon Michael serves as the Chairman of the San Luis & Delta Mendota Water Authority, as a director on the Water Education Foundation Board, as a director on the San Luis Canal Company Board, as a director on the Henry Miller Reclamation District Board, as the president of the San Luis Resource Conservation District Board, as a director of the Cotton Incorporated Board, as director and past chairman of the California Cotton Growers Association.
Ron Rayner is a partner in his family operation, A Tumbling T Ranches, with his two brothers and two nephews. They farm approximately 6,000 acres of alfalfa, Durum wheat, cotton and forage sorghum in Arizona using a unique conservation tillage rotation that incorporates limited tillage and high residue management with double cropping. They also farm in the Central Valley of California growing citrus and wine grapes near Exeter. They also own farm acreage near Five Points. Ron has served on the numerous boards, including the Groundwater Users Advisory Council of the Phoenix Active Management Area, Electrical District No. 8 and Farmers Gin in Buckeye. Ron served four years as Board chairman of Calcot, Ltd and previously served as president of the National Cotton Council. His degree in Agricultural Education from the University of Arizona was awarded in 1964. Ron and his wife, Heather, live in Litchfield Park, AZ.
Marc Thalacker has been the Manager of Three Sisters Irrigation District (TSID) since 1997. He has farmed and ranched in Central Oregon since 1988. Over the last 25 years Mr. Thalacker has completed over 30 projects that have converted open canals to pipes in TSID. TSID recently finished building a 700kW hydro plant located at the end of 4 miles of 54” HDPE pipe serving as its penstock and a 200kW Micro-Hydro Demonstration Project that went live in 2018. TSID recently piped the last phase of the District’s Main Canal system which will serve as a penstock to a third small conduit 300kW hydro. This project will go live in 2022. Mr. Thalacker has been recognized for his work in conservation by various agencies and lauded by TSID patrons for his work in improving irrigation water distribution. His ultimate goal is to make TSID carbon neutral. Marc serves on several boards including Oregon Water Resources Congress and is actively involved in energy and water legislation.
Dave Stix owns and operates Dave Stix Livestock, a livestock feeding operation, feeding its own locally raised cattle as well as cattle purchased throughout central and northern Nevada. Mr. Stix is a co-owner of S&L Trailers, a proud member of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association, and is the official trailer dealership of the organization. He has served as the mayor of Fernley, the president of the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association and a board member for the Truckee Carson Irrigation District.
Jim Yahn is the manager of the North Sterling and Prewitt Reservoirs, a position that he
has held for over 31 years. He is responsible for overseeing the diversion and distribution
of water to over 350 farmers. Together the reservoirs are a source of irrigation water for
approximately 70,000 acres.
Jim is a registered professional engineer, receiving his B.S. in Agricultural Engineering
from Colorado State University. Prior to his employment with the North Sterling and
Prewitt he worked as a private consulting engineer in Fort Collins for 5 years. He is a
native of Colorado growing up on a family ranch, which used water from the North
Sterling Reservoir System.
In June of 2016, Jim was appointed by the Governor to the Colorado Water Conservation
Board to serve as the South Platte Director and served for 5 years, one year as Chair. Jim
has been a member of the South Platte Basin Roundtable since its inception in 2005,
served as chair from 2009 – 2012, and currently serves as the roundtable’s representative
to the Inter-Basin Compact Committee. Jim and his wife Tracy also have a cow calf
ranching operation and are the parents of two grown children, Hannah and Austin.
The Family Farm Alliance is a 501(c)6 tax exempt organization. Our support comes exclusively from those who believe our mission is important enough to contribute. We believe the cause is important enough to ask for your support.
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