Norman Borlaug (l) and Leon Hesser (r) at Norman’s boyhood
home in Cresco, Iowa
Leon Hesser first met Norman Borlaug in Pakistan in 1966. Pakistan
and India were experiencing widespread hunger. Hesser was in charge
of America’s efforts to help increase food production. Borlaug
briefed him on the high-yielding varieties of wheat that he had
developed as a Rockefeller Foundation scientist in Mexico, where
his technology relieved hunger in that country. Hesser and his
team helped introduce Borlaug’s wheat seeds and production technology
in the Asian subcontinent, which brought the area to self-sufficiency
in foodgrains and averted starvation.
In 1973, Hesser transferred to Washington, DC, where he was
director of the U.S. government’s worldwide programs to increase
food production in developing countries. Following early retirement
from State Department, he served as a consultant to increase food
production in twenty countries of Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe,
and the former Soviet Union.
Hesser grew up on an Indiana farm. He served in the Philippines
as a teenage soldier during World War II and then in Japan with
the army of occupation. He earned a Ph.D. in agricultural economics
at Purdue University before joining the Foreign Service.
In addition to The
Man Who Fed the World, Hesser’s books include an autobiography,
Nurture the Heart, Feed the World, and a historical
The Taming of the Wilderness: Indiana’s Transition from Indian
Hunting Grounds to Hoosier Farmland: 1800 to 1875.