Executive Director Gary Oppenheimer, a CNN Hero, TEDx speaker, Master Gardener, Rutgers Environmental Steward, Huffington Post's "Greatest Person of the Day", Huffington Post's 2011 Game Changer, winner of the Russell Berrie Foundation's "Making A Difference" award, winner of the Glynwood 2011 "Wave of the Future" award, winner of the "In Harmony With Hope" award, an Echoing Green semifinalist and founder of the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign now makes his home in the mountains of northern New Jersey after having lived on a boat on the Hudson River in Manhattan since 1978.
After graduating from college with a degree in psychology, he promptly lost all interest in the field and instead became one of the early geeks in the personal computing arena (he soldered a computer together in 1976 - he still has it but is now afraid to now power it up) and designed a prototype email program for a mini-computer in 1977 while working for a New York bank. Although it never went any further, he was "hooked" on computers. In 1985, MCI asked Gary to help them sell and support the then fledging MCI Mail electronic mail service. Within a few years, he became their largest global sales agent (including producing what is believe to be the first "ezine" - published from 1985 to 1996) - while working from a home office located on the boat. In the early 2000's after buying a home deep in the woods in a rural northern New Jersey and planting an orchard and garden, Gary realized he actually needed to learn how to grow things and became a Master Gardener. A year later, he completed the Rutgers Environmental Stewards program.
Over the next several years, he expanded his home gardens, became a lecturer, an environmental commissioner in his town, advocated for region wide watershed preservation laws and became the director of a community garden. Aware of the increasing hunger problem in America and, in 2009, after seeing the amount of wasted food in the community garden as well as other gardens around the country, he created the AmpleHarvest.org Campaign - a nationwide effort to enable America's 40+ million home gardeners who grow food to be able to easily find a local food pantry eager for their excess garden bounty. Backed by the USDA, Google Inc. the National Gardening Association, the National Council of Churches and many faith and service organizations, AmpleHarvest.org is now helping nearly 5,500 food pantries be accessible to local gardeners and other donors.
Gary has presented AmpleHarvest.org to USDA People's Garden Initiative Conference in Washington DC, was interviewed live by CNN anchor Ali Velshi after being introduced on Larry King Live as a CNN Hero, has spoken at Wharton's Social Impact Conference and at food bank conferences, did a webinar for 100,000 invited USDA employees on gardening and hunger, has twice lectured at the Bergen LEADS program and has been interviewed numerous time by both print and electronic (local and network) media outlets nationwide. AmpleHarvest.org, working closely with First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative to improve fresh food access at thousands of food pantries nationwide, was noted by Michelle Obama in a speech and her recent book "American Grown" and had the opportunity to meet the President and First Lady at the White House. He enjoys long distance cycling, boating, hiking, farming (chickens for eggs and vegetables), attacking challenges of all sorts, pondering unusual questions and discussing political/social issues at a neighborhood tavern with people who generally don't agree with him.
Gary is a firm believer in the notion that to do the impossible, you must first believe it isn't.