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Know the West

Social media startup cuts food waste


Last spring, following a Sunday farmers market, Nick Papadopoulos, general manager of Bloomfield Farms in Sonoma County, Calif., surveyed his unsold produce: 40 pounds of soon-to-wilt organic broccoli. Normally, it would end up in the compost pile. Instead, he snapped a picture and posted it to the farm’s Facebook page: “We’d love to get this produce to you at a bargain price – who’s in? Text me.” Within an hour, he had a taker.

Six months later, Papadopoulos’ idea has grown into CropMobster – an online exchange for food and other resources. That’s how Jennifer Harris acquired 500 pounds of excess cabbage, which she and 15 volunteers transformed into 40 gallons of sauerkraut for Sonoma County’s Farm to Fermentation Festival. And the Twisted Horn Ranch offered to trade Longhorn beef, tractor work, a stay at its guest cabin or a donation to a local nonprofit for help planting trees along a ranch creek.

The project’s tech hub is one end of a converted turkey barn on Bloomfield Farms. As farm dogs wander around the bare wood floors, Papadopoulos and five other part-time volunteers at standing workstations update, post and tweet from their laptops about upcoming gleaning parties or newborn Araucana chicks needing a good home.

CropMobster now reaches 12 counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. About 100 farms, retailers and caterers have published alerts so far, saving roughly 110,000 pounds of produce, and generating at least $50,000 in revenue. The ultimate goal, Papadopoulos says, is to expand across the nation, and perhaps the world. What better way, he says, to reduce food waste, assist farmers and bring people closer to their food – and to their community?