Sara (Hessenflow) Harper, Founder & CEO
Sara is a passionate advocate for regenerative agriculture, triple bottom line sustainability (growth that balances people, the planet and profitability) and small, independent food companies challenging the status quo. Sara is committed to helping these elements come together to contribute to a regenerative, traceable food system for consumers.
Over the past 20 years, Sara has developed deep expertise in the intersecting areas of agriculture and climate change — and of business and sustainability. While serving as the Director of Sustainability & Supply-Chain Solutions at the top 100 agricultural accounting and consulting firm, K·Coe Isom, she helped food businesses and farmers develop triple bottom line sustainability programs that aligned with emerging market trends.
Earlier in her career, Sara worked as a top legislative staffer on agricultural and environmental issues in the U.S. Senate, building alliances between farmers, environmentalists and Republicans for the non-profit organization Environmental Defense Fund. Sara has two degrees from Kansas State University and is the granddaughter of farmers on both sides of her family.
In 2017, Sara launched the Noble Growth Network — a business development network that brings regenerative food to market.
Powered by a team of talented, small-business owners dedicated to helping other small businesses grow, the company’s goal is to increase the market share of NobleFood and NobleFarm businesses. To do this, Noble Growth Network becomes the brain trust and support system for our members to overcome their current growth obstacles while adding unique value to their brands by facilitating traceable, regenerative supply chains for our members.
Nicole Bradley Kastning, Director of Marketing & Engagement
Nicole has an incredible background as an Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, and Sports Marketing Professional. Since graduating from Gonzaga University, she has worked with a number of teams, leagues, organizations, corporations, athletes, events and foundations.
Nicole excels at creating strategic engagement plans that use events to bring the brand forward. She has extensive experience securing corporate sponsorships and running charity tournaments sponsored by various athletic organizations. She also serves as the Tournament Director for the NFL Alumni Chicago Chapter. Nicole is also the co-founder and President of her own marketing firm, 8nine agency.
Nicole provides engagement and marketing strategy for network members and is the guiding light for Noble Growth’s consumer engagement and activation strategies.
Jennifer Kocher, Director of Finance & Business Analyst
Jennifer is a serial entrepreneur in both the food company and financial advising sectors. She provides expertise in helping small businesses grow their companies to the next level by optimizing their operations and cutting costs.
After graduating from The Ohio State University where she majored in Finance, Jennifer held accounting and financial analysis positions for not-for-profit and for-profit organizations. She is currently the President & CEO of Kocher Foods International, Inc., a gluten-free manufacturing company in Ohio providing Around the World Gourmet brand products.
As Noble Growth Network’s Director of Finance and Business Analyst, Jennifer will manage the network’s finances as well as provide business analysis for network members. She is passionate about organic growing, sustainable agriculture and business practices and helping small businesses grow.
Justin Knopf, Director of Agriculture
Justin is a fifth-generation farmer who grows sorghum, alfalfa, wheat, corn and soybeans in Central Kansas. His family’s farm roots stretch back 160 years. He is an avid conservationist who is devoted to increasing soil health. Justin has served as a farm advisory council member to Environmental Defense Fund and was recently featured in a book and documentary, “Rancher, Farmer, Fisherman” that spotlights conservation heroes.
Justin will serve as our lead farmer advisor and will help Noble Growth define our standards around regenerative agriculture.
Justin has a degree in agronomy from Kansas State University.
Anne Lieberman, Director of Organizational Leadership
Building on 20 years of experience successfully managing teams and significantly increasing the revenue of non-profit organizations, Anne provides guidance to Noble Growth Network and its members on how to grow and lead their businesses.
Anne spent ten years as a television producer and writer before becoming a nonprofit fundraiser. Anne brings a wealth of experience in managing teams and individuals for results; working with boards; representing organizations to external stakeholders and multi-national businesses and assessing and improving communications, staffing, systems and operations. She has a deep commitment to conservation and addressing climate change. After graduating from UC Berkeley, Anne moved to New York City where she raised two sons and where she currently lives with her dog.
Tricia Dunlap, General Counsel & Director of Legal Strategy
Tricia Dunlap’s business law and corporate sustainability practice serves emerging and established privately-held companies, Fortune 500-1000 companies, municipalities, and non-profits on business law, intellectual property (IP), licensing, regulatory compliance, sustainability / Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) issues, and general counsel matters.
Prior to founding Dunlap Law, Tricia practiced at McGuireWoods after beginning her career in sustainability as General Counsel for Christensen Global Strategies. She is a board member of the Noble Growth Network and has served on a number of non-profit boards.
Davida Mitchell, Director of Supply Chain & Operational Analysis
Davida has more than a decade of experience managing small businesses and building entrepreneurial enterprises. Most recently, she formed and operated a mission-based, vertically integrated food company, Blue Evolution; One of the first “farm-to-finished-good” seaweed businesses globally. Operations begin with seaweed farms in Mexico and carry the ingredient to a line of inspired consumer packaged goods (CPGs). Before that, she co-founded, developed and sold a sustainable, whole systems off-shore aquaculture business, Earth Oceans Farms.
Davida’s areas of expertise include: operations, brand-building, all aspects of CPG business from package design to commercial manufacture and distribution, R&D and prototyping; and FDA compliance and Quality Assurance programs.
Davida’s passion for regenerative food systems comes from her deep roots in wholistic health. She has a Masters and a Clinical Specialty Doctorate in Acupuncture and Traditional Oriental Medicine. Her wholistic approach to health extends way beyond the individual to include the food we eat and the soil — and water — we depend on to grow it.
Her inspiration: Wholistic approaches to health and sustainable food systems.
Akara Regimand, Engagement Manager
“Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire”- this quote encompasses the very essence of Akara’s journey with Noble Growth Network. She has a true passion and drive to engage organizations and communities on behalf of the farmers and brands in our network.
Akara is a recent graduate of Kansas State University. Her experience and strengths lie in communication, social media and bringing university engagement events to life. An excellent organizer, she excels at event planning and project management. She has a passion for the natural food sector and the farmers that supply it.