Wednesday, October 23, 2019
Young people with big ideas
Local students listen to Leo Pollock discuss his plans to convert discarded lettuce leaves and banana peels into compost.
Tuesday, February 24, 2015


                Deborah Knapp calls Leo Pollock “the face of waste.”

                Since April, Pollock has rescued 300 tons of food waste from the land fill, channeling it into good soil to grow healthier food.

“All the vitamins and minerals we consume in food is in food waste,” said Pollock. “We have this growing agricultural movement but not enough soil to sustain it. Healthy plants grow healthy people. Healthy food resides in soil. We need to be producing healthy soil if we want healthy food.”

Pollock is one of four young entrepreneurs who was chosen to work with the locally based Wild Gift program this year to bring to fruition ideas that can change the world.

His light bulb turned on while he was teaching on a Pacific Island that had been denuded by nuclear testing.

The islanders were told that nothing could grow there, Pollock said, but they brought in experts who helped them begin growing things with composted soil.

Pollock remembered that lesson when he returned to the States. Now a self-proclaimed “soil nerd,” he turning organic food waste from restaurants, food processors and businesses in Rhode Island into compost.

On Monday evening Pollock and his fellow Wild Gifters presented their projects to the public during a two-hour meeting at the Ketchum Innovation Center. They also shared their ideas with a dozen students—students like environmental activist enthusiast Spenser Pfau and Sofia Drougas, a Sage School student who has her own ideas about using horses for therapy.

Wild Gift provides 16 months of unconventional support to young entrepreneurs between the ages of 21 and 35 who have a project they think can make the world a better place, Wild Gift Board President Barbara Anderson told the students.

The entrepreneurs are connected with mentors who can help them do their taxes and set up Kickstarter campaigns. And they unplug themselves from cell phones and other technology for three weeks during backcountry ski trips and Salmon River raft trips where they find safe settings in which to  poke holes in their projects and brainstorm better solutions.

Wild Gift recipient Michael Long shared how he and his cohorts are confident that the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice will help fund their floating classroom designed to turn around young males ages 14 through 18 who are in jail for armed robbery and other violent offenses.

Already, a benefactor has given them a 65-foot boat valued at $2 million which they will use to sail to places like Haiti and the Dominican Republic. The youth will be charged with setting and maintaining the budget and ordering the food. They will receive counseling on deck. And they will conduct service projects in the communities they stop at along the way. For instance, Long said, they might help a school principal brainstorm ways to whittle class sizes from 60 to 30.

Currently, Long said, half of the type of young men he is targeting return to jail within a year of release, even though the state pays $75,000 to $225,000 a year for their incarceration. He figures he can do what he wants to do for $23,000 per person per year with a recidivism rate under 20 percent.

 “These young men have always been on the receiving end of the social system. We want to put them on the serving end and instill some self-worth in them,” he said. “And we will pay their cell phone bill two years after they leave the program so we can stay in touch—we’ll be like a big A.A. family.”

Tinia Pina said she became interested in finding a more sustainable way to grow food after living in New York City for six years where the local supermarket offered virtually no organic produce.

She found what she was looking for in hydroponics, which grows food in soilless environment. Hydroponics uses 90 percent less water than conventional agricultural—good when we’re facing water shortages, she noted. You can grow things year round and you don’t need pesticides.

“It provides a predictable, reliable harvest,” she added.

The final fellow—Jon Duval—got the idea for a voting APP during the many city council meetings he attend as a newspaper reporter and director of the Ketchum Community Development Corporation. Duval said he became frustrated because he was not seeing much representation at the council meetings.

In response, he developed an APP that city governments can subscribe to and have their constituents download free of charge. Constituents can then post “Yes,” “No” or “Indifferent” on issues that the city is considering.

“Hopefully, it will create a means of participation we don’t have now,” said Duval, who plans to test the APP with the city of Ketchum. “That way the city government gets feedback it’s not getting now.”


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