Dan Horan has built his entire career post SOM on food and farming, culminating in his current position as Founder and CEO of Five Acre Farms, a company dedicated to providing local food products to the supermarket. All of Five Acre’s products are prepared within 275 miles of where they’re sold, and Dan’s main focus is on growing the region’s economy and being a part of the community. Below Dan explains how he went from student to farmer to “king.”
“From the beginning, I was attracted to SOM because of its mission to develop leaders in society. I strongly believe that business and society are firmly intertwined, and at Five Acre Farms, our mission and how we run the company reflect that view.”
What have you been up to since Graduation (career, volunteer work, personally)?
Since graduating from SOM in 1995, I’ve built on the career in food and farming I began in 1990, when I founded Waldingfield Farm, an organic vegetable farm in Washington, Connecticut. My first job out of SOM was as a general manager at Gourmet Garage, an independent supermarket in New York City. I worked there for three years while working at the farm on my days off. (I’ve since turned over Waldingfield’s day-to-day operations to my brothers Patrick and Quincy.) In 1999, I got a call out of the blue and was hired as CEO of Papaya King, the New York-based restaurant company, and was “the king” for eleven years.
In 2010, I launched Five Acre Farms, a new brand that brings the best local food to the supermarket. We're starting in the Northeast. All of our products are grown and prepared within 275 miles of where they're sold. Our first products are whole, reduced fat and skim milk, heavy cream and half & half, eggs, apple juice, apple cider and apple sauce. We find great farmers using sustainable practices, pay them fairly and tell their stories to consumers. We’re priced so as many people as possible can buy local. (The core business idea that ultimately led to the founding of the company was the subject of my SOM admissions essay back in 1992.)
My wife Julie and I live in Brooklyn with our three great kids. I make time to visit New York City schools to talk with kids – from grade school to high school – about where our food comes from, the importance of supporting farms and farmers and the benefits of eating local. I also play squash as much as I can.
What impact has Yale SOM and being a member of the SOM community had on your life and career?
SOM has had a tremendous impact on my life and remains an important touchstone for me. My friends from SOM have remained among my closest friends. SOM fostered my interests in food, farming, leadership and organizational development, all of which are still central to my personal and professional lives. It was at SOM that I learned the approaches to analyzing business questions and thinking through farm and food policies that provide me with useful frameworks for making decisions about how to build the Five Acre Farms organization and grow the business. Not a day goes by when some aspect of my SOM experience doesn’t appear in my life.
What drives you to do the type of work that you do?
I’ve always had the entrepreneurial bug and love the thrill of building something new. Happily, my work at Five Acre Farms allows me to merge all of my interests and build a business at the same time. I’m deeply concerned about the collapse of farming in our society and the disconnect that exists today between people and their food sources. Our company’s primary goals include restoring the connection between farmer and consumer and keeping farmers farming.
Why do you stay engaged with SOM as an alumnus?
What has kept me connected to SOM through the years is the demonstrated commitment to giving back that’s in the SOM DNA. I’ve come to appreciate how rare that is.
What excites you the most (if anything) about the changes happening around SOM?
The new building looks killer.