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.
Mr. Bailey resides in the eastern San Joaquin Valley of California, where he is a third-generation farmer in the Orange Cove area. He and his wife, Judy, have two daughters and two grandchildren. He farms 1,100 acres of citrus in partnership with his brother. The Baileys have a land management company that farms 900 acres for absentee growers. Harvey Bailey has been involved in the federal water arena for many years. He currently serves as chairman of the Orange Cove Irrigation District, serves on the board of directors of the Friant Water Authority, and is president of the Central Valley Project Water Association. He has served on the board of the Family Farm Alliance since the organization’s inception.
Tom Schwarz is a life-long resident of Bertrand, Mr. Schwarz received a certificate in agriculture from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln. He has 35 years of farming experience and has owned a hay-grinding business for 28 of those years. He has served as a board member of the Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District, Nebraska Water Users, Inc., Central Water Users, and Phelps-Gosper Livestock Growers. He is a senior fellow in the Nebraska LEAD program. He and his wife Linda have been married over 25 years, and they have two children – Alex and Becky. Alex helps on the farm, and Becky works there in the summer between sessions at the University of Nebraska.
Welcome to our newest board member – Paul Orme from Arizona! Most of you know Paul – he’s been a long-time member of the Alliance’s Advisory Committee. Paul’s 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 is from a fourth generation California Central Valley family. He 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, William had a rich career in finance and also served as an economics professor at West Hills College. William also served honorably in the United States Marine Corps from 1993 to 2001.
William has served on the boards and committees of numerous community organizations. Currently he serves as the Chair for the Valley Future Foundation, the Chair for the California Water Alliance, the Chair for the Central Valley Business Federation, the Vice Chair for the San Luis & Delta-Mendota Water Authority and is on the board of directors for the Westlands Water District, the Jack Harris Memorial Scholarship Foundation and Harris Woolf California Almonds.
William earned his bachelor’s degree in Accounting from Fresno State and his master’s in Business Administration from University of Nevada-Reno. William is also a Certified Public Accountant and Chartered Global Management Accountant.
Steve Benson is president of Planters Hay, Inc. and has been a managing partner of Benson Farms, LLC in Brawley, California since 2007. He is the past president of the board of directors of Imperial Irrigation District. He currently serves on the Imperial Valley Economic Development Corporation and is the Chairman of the board of the Imperial Valley Vegetable Growers Association. He is a former board member of the Imperial County Farm Bureau and the Imperial Valley Boys and Girls Clubs. Mr. Benson has a BS 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, including their two children and five growing grandchildren.
Mrs. Denn is a third-generation farmer. Born in Willows, she farms rice at Snow Goose Farms with her husband, Wallace Denn. The Denns believe that agriculture and the environment can coexist in harmony if common sense and sensitivity are applied to agricultural practices and environmental reforms. Snow Goose Farms, situated near the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, is a winter haven to migratory waterfowl. Mrs. Denn has been politically active in local, state and federal arenas for many years. From 1993-2015 she served on the Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District board. She is past president of the Central Valley Project Water Association. In 1994 she initiated a movement in Glenn County to unite opposing entities in the matter of groundwater management to gain local control. She helped put in motion the Northern Sacramento Valley Water Forum to promote interface and exchange of education on water issues between water agencies and local governments. Mrs. Denn also served on the California Department of Water Resources’ Water Advisory Panel which oversaw grant applications for groundwater projects. She has served in many other water related and civic positions and earned a law degree.
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.
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. Marc serves on the boards of the Oregon Water Resources Congress and the Family Farm Alliance. Over the last 18 years Marc has completed over 30 piping projects resulting in the piping of over 55 of the 64 miles of open canals in TSID. Currently TSID just finished building a 700kW hydro plant located at the end of 4 miles of 54” HDPE pipe serving as its penstock. Marc is currently working on a 200kW Micro-Hydro Demonstration Project which will go live in spring 2018. TSID this year will pipe the last phase of the District’s Main Canal system which will serve as a penstock to a third small conduit 300kW hydro which will also go live in 2018.
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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