About Us

Brightseed Strategies provides information and resources for people and organizations working to build healthy food systems. This includes public institutions and governmental agencies, non-profits, private foundations, community development financial institutions, food industry enterprises and organizations, and food policy councils.

Principal and Founder

Nessa Richman, Brightseed Strategies Principal and Founder, has been working as a food systems consultant since 2002. From 2008-2011 she worked as a development adviser for Wholesome Wave, which grew its innovative farmers market-based food access programs exponentially during her tenure. From 2010-2012 she worked for the Treasury Department’s Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) Fund “Healthy Food Options” Capacity Building Task Order, which was being administered by the Opportunity Finance Network. She conducted multiple training sessions related to the Healthy Foods Financing Initiative, developed training materials, and provided one-on-one technical assistance to CDFIs in developing lending programs for this emerging and rapidly evolving sector of the economy. She currently acts as Course Advisor for the Council of Development Finance Agencies “Intro to Food Systems” course, which will explore how bonds, tax credits, loan programs, foundation grants, and other financing tools can be used to support a local food system and encourage follow-on investment, small business development, and sustainable growth. Nessa also serves on the Rhode Island Local Agriculture and Seafood Grant Program Advisory Committee. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Political Economy of Natural Resources from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a Master in Public Policy from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Nessa lives in South County, Rhode Island with her husband and two children.

In addition to our Principal and Founder, Brightseed Strategies collaborates with a number of regular subcontractors for certain projects. Current subcontractors are listed below:

Collaborator Biographies:

Shayna Cohen

Shayna Cohen is a food and agriculture consultant with more than 15 years of experience developing solutions for sustainable local food distribution and market development. For more than 10 years, she has worked as a Senior Consultant with the New York-based  consultancy Karp Resources, leading food system planning and regional value chain development projects for clients (locally, regionally and nationally) in the government, nonprofit, education and private sectors. These projects are varied, and have focused on shaping, planning, growing, guiding, researching, implementing and evaluating innovative food projects, initiatives, and businesses. In addition, Shayna worked for several years with NYC’s Greenmarket (the largest coordinated network of urban farmers markets in the US) to develop business plan/projections for and to coordinate and lead the launch of Greenmarket Co., a wholesale local food distribution service and food hub for NYC.  Shayna was a 2008-9 Fulbright Scholar, studying the preservation, banking, cultivation and marketing of rare and local seed varieties in Greece. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in History from Brown University and lives in Rhode Island’s South County.

Lydia Oberholtzer

Lydia Oberholtzer is a senior researcher with Penn State’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education. She is also the Assistant Editor-in-Chief of  the Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems Journal. Before that she worked with USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) on organic marketing and was a program manager at the Wallace Center for Agricultural and Environmental Policy at Winrock International. She holds a master’s in environmental resources from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Lydia has over 15 years of experience with sustainable agriculture and local food systems research, evaluation, and program management. She particularly enjoys focusing research and evaluation for program areas where little work has been done before, developing indicators and protocols that provide baseline data.

Jeffrey Oakman

Jeffrey Oakman has worked in economic development finance and policy for nine years. He has worked as a consultant in Washington, DC, and Boston, MA, managing historic rehab development projects and advising non-profit and private-sector clients on tax credit financing for community development and affordable housing projects. From 2003 to 2006 Jeffrey was a Senior Project Manager with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, where he managed community-based planning and revitalization efforts in all five boroughs. He first became interested in healthy food access issues while working to help increase investment and commercial opportunities in some of the City’s neediest food desert neighborhoods in the South Bronx. Jeffrey has a B.A. from Rice University and a Masters in Public Affairs and Urban/Regional Planning from Princeton University. He lives in Princeton, NJ, with his wife Tara and two children, Miles and Haley.


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