Nick Papadopoulos of Bloomfield used to spend summers as a young boy fly-fishing with his family in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana.
Since moving to Sonoma County in his early 20s, though, he has focused on helping businesses and communities come up with innovative ways to restructure themselves.
"Now, I'm fishing for solutions," said the 38-year-old consultant and entrepreneur. "I love to look at systems and see how to rewire them. I love to brainstorm new ideas."
Since last summer, Papadopoulos has been working as the general manager of Bloomfield Farms, a 50-acre vegetable farm owned by his wife's parents, Mike and Karen Collins.
That's where he hatched the idea for CropMobster, an online platform that crowdsources excess produce. It came to him one day when he was standing in the farm's cooler, looking at the broccoli that had come back from the market, unsold.
The gears in his mind began to whir, connecting the dots between the food waste and struggling farmers on one side, and hungry folks with a lack of access to healthy food on the other.
"It's fine and dandy to have a local food movement," he said. "But a lot of people get priced out of it."
Papadopoulos decided to post the produce online at a discount, and it was quickly snapped up in a win-win transaction.
In March, the CropMobster website was born with the help of co-founders Gary and Joanna Cedar of Sebastopol, who develop social media sites.
"Quickly, we realized there was an opportunity to create a platform for any farm, grocer, distributor or anyone with excess," he said. "So we built a tool that anyone can use to post a deal or a donation."
Since then, the site has been riding a wave of success, catching the attention of NPR's "California Report" in May and winning first place in the Sierra Nevada Innovation Challenge in June.
Meanwhile, Papadopoulos has put together a "dream team" of advisers, including former USDA Assistant Chief James Gore and William Silver, dean of Sonoma State's School of Business and Economics.
During the past three months, the website has expanded its reach from Sonoma County to include a total of eight Bay Area counties. But Papadopoulos' sights are set much higher, as farms from every state in the nation continue to reach out to him.
"We have an opportunity to create a national, game-changing model," he said. "It's evolving every day."
Born and raised on the Oregon coast, Papadopoulos traces his social activism back to his parents, who are both teachers.
"The values they shared was to look for communities where they could get involved and make changes," he said.
As a student, Papadopoulos was drawn to a wide range of studies, from creative writing to genetics.
"I don't have a linear path, and reading my resume is like trying to find Waldo," he said. "When I came here, the pieces started to connect. Sonoma County is a hotbed of creativity and innovation, and I was inspired by the openness of the community."
In 1999, Papadopoulos honed his big-picture skills while working with John Garn of ViewCraft, a local consulting firm that helps people visualize systems holistically in order to find solutions to problems.
He also served as a facilitator for the Graton Day Labor Center — the first hiring center for day laborers in the county — and worked on the North Bay Regional Water Policy Summit, which published a report on the water supply in 2000.