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Oran B. Hesterman, PhD
Founder & Chief Executive Officer
Oran B. Hesterman, PhD—Founder & Chief Executive Officer of Fair Food Network—is a national leader in sustainable agriculture and food systems, a respected partner for policymakers, philanthropic leaders, and advocates, and a pioneer in building the good food movement as we know it today.
For the past 13 years, Oran has led Fair Food Network, a national nonprofit and investor, in its shared mission to grow community health and wealth through food.
Oran found his life’s purpose early: As a college student, he helped found the country’s first student-led organic farm. His unique journey—encompassing nearly 40 years of experience as a scientist, farmer, philanthropist, businessman, educator, and passionate advocate—led him to create Fair Food Network in 2009. His entrepreneurial spirit and motto (“one sure way to fail is not to try”) established Fair Food Network as a leading voice in the movement to harness the potential of food to create a more fair and resilient future.
Under his leadership, Fair Food Network built and scaled food-based solutions that improve healthy food access for communities and economic equity for farmers and food businesses. The organization’s Double Up Food Bucks program introduced an innovative new model for nutrition incentives. Today, Double Up is available in nearly every county in Fair Food Network’s home state of Michigan and has been adopted by partners from coast to coast. Following his passion for exploring the connections between food, health, and economic justice, Oran also ushered Fair Food Network into impact investing—including the formation of Fair Food Fund, a direct investment vehicle. The organization now fuels the success of food entrepreneurs through catalytic capital, wrap-around business services, and a commitment to place-based impact investing collectives.
Before launching Fair Food Network, Oran led the W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Integrated Farming Systems and Food & Society programs, which seeded the local food systems movement with more than $200 million in investments. Prior to his work in the nonprofit sector, Oran researched and taught forage and cropping systems management and sustainable agriculture at Michigan State University.
A former fellow in the Kellogg National Fellowship Program and the National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy in Washington, D.C., Oran has published more than 400 reports and articles on subjects that include crop rotation, the impact of philanthropy on food systems practice and policy, and trends in the good food movement, among others. He currently serves on the board or in an advisory role for a number of national and Michigan-based organizations, including Fair Food Fund, Five Acre Farms, Groundwork Center, NextCycle Michigan, and Pardes Hannah Jewish Renewal Community. Oran also participates in the Editorial Board of the Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development.
Oran is a native of Berkeley, California. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of California, Davis. He completed his PhD in agronomy, plant genetics, and business administration at the University of Minnesota. He lives with his wife, Lucinda Kurtz, and he still gets his hands dirty in his garden and at the potter’s wheel.
Oran’s 2011 groundbreaking book, Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All, provides an inspiring guide to changing not only what we eat, but also how food is grown, packaged, delivered, and sold. It was heralded by The New York Times as “an important, accessible book on a crucial subject” and remains an important text at dozens of colleges and universities across the country.
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