Meet MDAR’s Assistant Commissioner: Ashley Sears Randle

Massachusetts Department of Agriculture (MDAR) on Oct. 9, filled its assistant commissioner position with Ashley Sears Randle, a Massachusetts native who grow up on a farm in South Deerfield. In her position, she will be the legislative liaison; senior manager of MDAR’s Food Safety program; and oversee policy analysis and development, federal ag issues and constituent services.

Randle grew up on her family’s fourth generation dairy farm, Indian Acres, where her family breeds, raises and shows registered Guernsey and Holstein cattle. She was also actively involved in the local 4-H dairy club, Franklin County 4-H.

“Through that I participated in 4-H judging, dairy quiz bowl, and competed on the local, state and national level with my cattle,” Randle said. “That’s really what sparked my interest in pursuing a career in agriculture – both growing up on a farm and my 4-H involvement.”

Following high school Randle attended Cornell University, where she doubled majored in agribusiness and animal science. Her interest was sparked in policy and law, so she attended Western New England College School of Law and focused on sustainability law.
After passing the Bar Exam in Massachusetts, Randle was offered a unique opportunity to work for the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. In this role she worked on a sustainable recognition program. She also managed the Maine Building at the Big E and oversaw the Maine Ag Trade Show.

She stayed in that role for 2.5 years, until she followed her husband to New York state and started working as the member services director for the Northeast Dairy Producers Association. Finally, in October she started her new position as assistant commissioner at MDAR.

“I am excited to connect with Massachusetts farmers and get to know them on a more personal level,” Randle said. “I think Massachusetts is very unique in our direct to consumers sales and also the diversity of agriculture and products that we have. With more than 7,000 farms in the state, there are a lot of unique things taking place and I’m really excited to work with the farms to continue to promote them and find new areas of opportunity.”

According to MDAR Commissioner John Lebeaux in his column in the October/November Farm and Market Report, “Ashley brings tremendous real on-farm experience along with an equally strong agricultural public policy background to the position which I expect shall benefit MDAR, but much more importantly, all of you.”

Randle is aware that the agricultural economy in Massachusetts has been strained recently but thinks there’s opportunities there.

“It’s really an opportunity to look forward and how we (MDAR) can best assist our farmers to be successful in this changing environment,” Randle said. “There’s a changing regulatory framework, changing consumer demands and changing marketing conditions. And I don’t think that those should be looked at as challenges, they should be looked at as opportunities. And I think between the Department, Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation (MFBF) and other state agencies and organizations, we have an opportunity to help our farmers be successful.”

For these reasons, Randle believes the future of agriculture in the Commonwealth is very bright.

“We have a lot of young individuals that are interested in joining the agricultural movement,” Randle said. “Maybe they’re not sure what the opportunities are yet but I think whether it’s a vegetable farm or a dairy farm, or the value-added side of production, there’s an opportunity for our youth. And whether they are a recently 4-H or FFA alumni or someone that’s had a career for 20 years and wants to transition into agriculture, I think we have a lot of those opportunities. And it’s just finding the right niche for them.”

And in order to reach more farmers, Randle is looking forward to partnering with MFBF.

“I think going forward it presents a new opportunity for the Department and MFBF to strengthen our relations with our membership and collaborate more – whether it is on the legislative front or member services and needs,” she said. “I think through collaboration we will be able to reach more people and that’s something I’m really looking forward to.”

Outside of work, Randle enjoys long distance running and one days hopes to complete the Boston Marathon. She also enjoys cooking and baking with an emphasis on specialty deserts.

MFBF congratulates Ashley on her new position and is looking forward to working with her, John and the rest of the Department!