After helping farmers and protecting ag land, Richardson steps down

She headed up the land trust and was executive director of the
county farm bureau
Gilroy – After devoting nearly 20 years of her life to agriculture in South Valley, Nancy Richardson has stepped down as executive director of the Santa Clara County Land Trust.

Later this summer, Richardson and her husband, Rich, will move to Louisiana, where they will devote themselves to their cattle and a custom linens business.

Richardson headed up the land trust for five years. Before that she was executive director of the county farm bureau, where she worked for 13 years.

“What gave me the greatest pleasure was having an opportunity to assist farmers,” Richardson said. “Giving them additional options for keeping their land in agricultural productivity because many people feel the only option they had was to sell for development.”

As industry and technology have taken over the valley, the land trust has worked to preserve open space, often through the form of conservation easements, which compensate land owners for agreeing to not develop their land.

“One of the most important things the land trust can do is offer solutions to some of the really complex public policy issues that face landowners,” Richardson said recently. “Providing alternatives to the agriculture community and giving them economic incentives is the most valuable part of what we do.”

Richardson is most proud of 1,200 irrigated acres south of Gilroy that she said is the largest patch of farmland protected by the California Department of Conservation. Her only regret, she said, is that the land trust can not offer aid to every farmer who wants to preserve his family’s legacy.

“You just wish you could move faster,” she said. There are more people than there are moneys. I think that all of us in conservation see that as the biggest impediment.”

Land Trust President Don Gralnek said Wednesday that finding Richardson’s successor will be a challenge.

“Nancy has a broad range of contacts and experience in South County and you can’t replace that kind of experience,” Gralnek said. “Nancy did a great job and we will miss her.”

Richardson’s move to the south promises to be anything but a retirement. In addition to raising cattle, Richardson plans to expand her linens business that is geared toward western and equestrian interests. She specializes in dressing high-end linens with brands and creative images.

“After 20 years in non-profits, I’m going back into business,” she said. “But these are all things that I’m already doing.”