The Fruits of Her Labor
Nessa Richman MPP 1997
high school science teacher got me interested in environmental issues,"
she said. "He opened up an area that took hold of me like no other
high school class did."
took her to UMass Amherst, where this Rhode Island native had a self-designed
major that married the environment with policy and politics. Eventually,
she landed in Austin, Texas, as a volunteer with VISTA, the domestic Peace
Corps organization created in 1964.
to what she calls her biggest challenge to date: starting a farmers
market in a low-income neighborhood of Austin.
with farmers and with the local community," she said of her experience
with the Sustainable Food Center. "The farmers market sold only local,
organic and pesticide-reduced fruits and vegetables. The experience clicked
for me. The environment, agriculture, and people were connected through
the farmers market in a very real, tangible way. I knew that this was
the environmental issue for me."
in Texas fueled her interest in going to the Kennedy School, where she
further developed an interest in the food-system side of the natural foods
idea of corporate social responsibility and its relationship with the
food system became my focus because I saw a lot of potential for public
benefit through shaping the growth of the natural foods market."
It was while
she was at the Kennedy School that she met what would become not only
her PAE adviser, but also one of her lifelong mentors Ray Goldberg,
professor emeritus at the Harvard Business School.
Goldberg planted the seeds in my head that have led me to the specific
career path that I am forging," Richman said.
That path includes an 87-page report called "The Natural Foods Market: A National Survey of Strategies for Growth," which came out in April and which Richman spent two years researching and writing for her current employer and former PAE client, the Washington, DC-based Henry A. Wallace Institute for Alternative Agriculture.
is timely. As Richman points out, "Natural foods are fast becoming
big business in this country. Each year from 1990 to 1997, the retail
market for natural foods grew 15 percent to 25 percent," outpacing
the mass market food sales, which rose only 3 percent to 5 percent during
the same time period.
Richman warns, there are drawbacks. "Consumers need to be educated
in order to make the right decisions in the marketplace," she said.
"There are two main obstacles to this happening. On the one hand,
many employees of mass market supermarkets dont really understand
natural foods, and executives dont put enough resources behind them.
On the other hand, natural foods dont always have clear, accurate
labels. Labeling is a whole other issue."
the report is done, Richman said that in addition to focusing on things
she didnt have time to do as a student personal reading,
gardening, poetry, and monotype printing she is trying to figure
out her next career move.
Of course, she adds, "it would have to be a position in which I could make a difference."