By Laura Davis, NOFA/Mass Board President

It had been several years since Julie Rawson first mentioned that she might retire from NOFA/Mass at some time in the future.  She had mentioned that she would give us a year’s notice, so planning for succession, did not seem to be an imminent reality.    We had the good fortune to have access to a succession plan that NOFA/VT had used when Enid Wonnacott became ill and had to step down from the Executive Director position in 2018. That plan helped us put together a general outline of what steps the Board needed to take in order to cover all the bases of an Executive Director transition.  36 years at NOFA/Mass, 31 as ED was a lot of knowledge and experiences to transition to someone new.

In February 2020, when Julie gave us her notice that she was ready to retire on August 31, I felt as though it was going to be a huge challenge and we did not have a minute to waste. The Board Hiring Committee was formed with 5 NOFA/Mass Board Members: Jen Salinetti, Richard Robinson, Paul Bertler, Noah Curser-Kellerman and myself Laura Davis.  Julie updated her job description that listed all the facets of her role. The job description read like an encyclopedia.  How could one person do so much work and run a farm at the same time?  How would we be able to find a person that fit the culture of our organization and had all the characteristics and experience that we needed to take NOFA/Mass into the future?

We posted the Executive Director job description on numerous hiring boards and on the NOFA/Mass website.  We received just under 40 resumes and applications.  We started to survey our staff and board about the Executive Director role and what skills, experiences, knowledge we needed to ensure our new ED possessed.  The hiring committee screened the cover letters and resumes to identify which candidates had the required skills.  We invited 6 people to interview with the Board Hiring Committee.  Jen Salinetti helped us with our assessment tools, interviewing rules and norms and got us organized to start interviewing our six candidates via Zoom.  Two candidates were invited back for a second interview with the Board Hiring Committee.  These same two candidates were then interviewed by our six Directors.  The final hurdle was to interview with Julie Rawson.  We met with the entire board on June 11 to introduce our final candidate. The Board approved the Board Hiring Committee’s recommendation to hire Jocelyn Langer as our new Executive Director.  Jocelyn will bring her financial and operational skills, fundraising acumen and experience in program development and strategic planning to NOFA/Mass. Jocelyn’s leadership and communication skills, ability to build consensus, her interest in public health and education and her strong passion for social justice will enable her to build upon the success that this organization has seen over the last three decades.

Jocelyn helping out at the farmer’s market

We originally had planned to have our new ED start on August 1.  We were happy that Jocelyn was able to start working with Julie right away.  They will have a great deal more time to transition the organization before Julie leaves us at the end of August.  We are very grateful to our donors who have given to the Julie Rawson Healthy Future Fund. This fund has enabled us to have a longer overlap of Executive Director pay to insure a successful transition.   After this process was complete, I asked Julie how long she had known Jocelyn. “Since she was 2 years old”.  I want to thank Julie for her patience and support as we navigated this process. Now onto the transition. Who better to introduce Jocelyn to our membership, than Julie Rawson?

“Jocelyn is no stranger to NOFA- she is what I would call a second-generation person, who grew up with NOFA homesteading parents. She has held various jobs with us over the years, including that of Teen Coordinator of the NOFA Summer Conference, and illustrator for NOFA’s Summer Conference logos, and the Interstate Council’s education booklet series that we did about 20 years ago.  She’s also done some writing for the Natural Farmer,  was on the board for the Good Life Center in Maine, which honors the legacy of Helen and Scott Nearing, has served as Executive Director and is still on the board for the Listening Wellness Center in Barre, which has been a hub for holistic health. Most recently, after getting a master’s degree in Spanish translation, Jocelyn has been working closely with the Pioneer Valley Workers Center and has been a Spanish teacher for the Northampton School System for a number of years. I have known Jocelyn for most of her life, and I feel very comfortable passing my life’s work to her capable hands. I encourage you to give her a hearty welcome to the organization.”