cows in field

Get to Know Jean Richardson

New NOSB Member from Vermont

By Cheryl Cesario, Certification Staff at Vermont Organic Farmers

Added January 30, 2012. In December, five new members were named to the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB), the 15 member advisory board that helps set standards for the National Organic Program. Jean Richardson is one of the newly appointed members and will assume the consumer/public interest slot. It is a five-year term, set to begin this January. Having a board member from Vermont is exciting news for producers in the Northeast. Jean has such a diverse and extensive background, it is hard to summarize her accomplishments on just one page.

NODPA readers will be pleased to know that Jean has a hands-on and practical understanding of organic agriculture. Her experiences over the years include working on a dairy farm in New Zealand and later raising broilers, ducks, rabbits and sheep. Currently, with her daughters and son-in-law, Jean produces certified organic maple syrup, operating under the name Buck Mountain Maple. Additionally, Jean is an independent contractor for the Vermont Organic Farmers certification program, conducting inspections of both farm and food processing operations. She has witnessed many types of production models, inspecting over 100 operations a year. If this were not enough to keep her busy, she also provides consulting services on rural land use planning and zoning.

What makes Jean such a strong NOSB board member is her background in science, policy, and law. Jean is a Professor Emerita at the University of Vermont (UVM), where she taught Environmental Studies and Environmental Law. In 1990, a ten year grant she obtained funded the pasture program at UVM and gave rise to the Vermont Grass Farmers Association. Jean has an in-depth understanding of pasture management and through her organic certification work is knowledgeable of the NOP pasture rule and its affects on organic dairy and beef producers.

In the mid-90's, she was a Founding Director and President of the New England Environmental Policy Center (NEEPC). Grants through this organization funded her research on the impact of long distance transportation of air pollution on dioxin uptake in dairy feeds and milk. That is, how air pollutants produced from a copper smelter in Quebec, for example, were affecting production on Vermont farms. The NEEPC is now the Agricultural Mediation Center for New England, which provides mediation services between farmers and state or federal environmental agencies.

Jean's appointment to the NAFTA Commission on Environmental Cooperation by President Clinton gave her valuable experience listening to diverse perspectives, which should serve her well on the NOSB. Her interests in serving on the board include topics such as the clarity of labels from the consumer perspective, as well as how proposed regulations can be verified on the ground and how these impact both big and small farms. Jean has not yet been selected for specific committees, but is hoping to be part of the livestock, environment, and/or public policy committees.

Jean says she is looking forward to representing a broad range of interests from the New England region and is very interested in hearing from farmers.

Her email is:

Cheryl Cesario is part of the certification staff at Vermont Organic Farmers. She and her husband Marc operate Meeting Place Pastures in Cornwall, VT and produce grass-fed beef, humanely-raised veal, and pastured pork.